Ping! Apple’s Big Reveal: 99¢ TV Rentals, New iPods, iTunes Social Network

Updating: Steve Jobs announces company’s new line of music products and operating systems, all-streaming Apple TV

Apple made its big announcement on Wednesday. The top news: new iPods, iTouch, iTunes logo and interface that includes the social-networking platform Ping and an upgrade to the operating systems for the iPhone and iPad.

Some notes from the streaming press event in San Francisco:

>> First, Steve Jobs announced Game Center, a centralized hub for gamers to compare stats and challenge each other in multi-player games.

>> Next, an updated operating system, iOS 4.1 for the iPhone, which gives users the ability to take HDR (high dynamic range) photos. It takes three exposures and combines them into a single photo for optimum exposure. Available next week for iPhone and iPod Touch.

>> Jobs then gave a sneak peak of iOS 4.2 — coming later this year — specifically for the iPad. That upgrade will give users most of the advantages of the iPhone 4, including multi-tasking and the ability to group apps into folders on the home screen.

>> But those were the appetizers. "Now to the entrée," Jobs said: new iPods, all available for pre-order immediately and shipping next week.

>> A new, smaller $49 iPod shuffle that plays 15 hours of music, keeps the playlists and voiceovers from the current shuffle and brings back the buttons, which Jobs said users missed.

>> A new Nano, with voiceovers, multi-touch screen and a totally new interface. It's significantly smaller, with no physical buttons on the casing.

>> New wrinkles to the iPod Touch, including some features from iPhone 4: FaceTime (its video calling feature) and a rear-facing camera.

>> Big announcement: iTunes 10, with a new logo, new interface and Ping — essentially a built-in social network. “Follow your artists and friends to discover the music they’re talking about, listening to and downloading,” Jobs said. The new iTunes is "open to 160 million iTunes users in 23 countries" and available immediately for download.

>> Jobs said iTunes 10 has over 17,000 concert listings built in already. Users are notified when the bands they "follow" are playing and can share those, too.

>> Ping is available for the iPhone and iPod touch, as well.

>> Also coming to iTunes: TV rentals at 99 cents per episode, a price drop of $1 to $2. So far, just ABC and Fox have committed, Jobs said, adding that he hopes other networks and studios will “see the light” soon.

>>  Big announcement #2: Jobs confirmed what many suspected — that a new, upgraded Apple TV. It's smaller, with no hard drive — all content will stream from external sources like Netflix, iTunes and any iOS device. Available in four weeks.

>> It's $100 cheaper: $99.

>>  It favors rentals over purchasing and storing. 

>>  Netflix subscribers can stream on-demand video via Apple TV, as well.

[Images via Gizmodo]