Steve Jobs opened Tuesday's "It's Showtime!" special event in San Francisco, noting that Apple shipped more than 60 million iPods in total by the end of the last quarter, and joking showed an iPod toilet paper holder to demonstrate the widespread adoption of iPod accessories.
Jobs praised advances like iPod connectivity options in automobiles -- 70 percent of 2007 model year cars sold in the United States will have some kind of connectivity, he said. And Apple and Nike have sold 450,000 Nike+iPod Sport Kits in less than 90 days since their introduction. The kits provide connectivity between the iPod nano and Nike running shoes.
Later Jobs remarked that iTunes has a market share of 88 percent of legal US downloads.
The next big thing: iTV
But the big news of the day came at the end. "But there is one last thing," said Jobs, stunning long-time Apple event attendees. "This next thing's a little unusual for us. It's a sneak peek for a product that will be introduced in Q1 2007."
"We usually keep things corralled until we ship them, but we think this completes the story, so we decided to go ahead and show it to you today," Jobs said.
Jobs previewed iTV, which he described as "a product code name. We've got to come up with a final name when we introduce it."
"You can take a movie, download it to a computer, put it on your iPod. But what about that big flat screen TV you just bought?" asked Jobs. "You need a box to drive that big screen TV. How's the box going to talk to the computer? Do I want to string cables throughout my house? So I'm going to talk to it using wireless network, to get the content from the computer to the box, from the box to the TV."
The iTV resembles a short Mac mini. The power supply is built right in to the unit,a nd it features integrated wireless networking, a power plug, USB 2.0, Ethernet, High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) plug, component video, analgo audio and optical audio interfaces.
The box is driven by software that carries a distant resembance to Front Row, the multimedia control application Apple bundles with newer Macs. The software features 3D animated graphics with a menu on the right and graphics on the left. Jobs demonstrated it, going into the Movies menu and scrolling through floating artwork on the left-hand side.
"Pretty cool, huh? These are the same files, same exact files, paying on my iPod, my computer and my flat screen TV," said Jobs.
The iPod video
And also top of the product hopper from Apple is its new and improved video-capable iPod, with a screen that's 60 percent brighter. Battery life has been increased from 2 hours while playing video to 3.5 hours, Jobs says.
A new earphone design that took Apple 18 months to develop was also announced. Superficially, they look similar to the old design -- they're still white.
The new iPod provides gapless playback, according to Jobs, which works with MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless and uncompressed music files. New software features have been added such as instant searching that uses the wheel to input letters and does a live search of iPod content.