Apple Releases iTunes 6

Just 35 days after releasing iTunes 5, Apple on Wednesday announced iTunes 6, the new version of its popular music software, with several dramatic new features including downloadable TV shows and music videos, and the ability to send music and videos as gifts. The announcement came at a special media-only event in San Jose, Calif., along with announcements of new iMacs and new iPods with video capabilities.

“We’re doing for video what we’ve done for music — we’re making it easy and affordable to purchase and download, play on your computer, and take with you on your iPod,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Jobs explained to attendees of the media event that videos purchased and downloaded from the iTunes Music Store employ Apple’s FairPlay Digital Rights Management (DRM) scheme, so they can be downloaded and played on multiple computers authorized to listen to and watch protected iTunes content, or transferred to video-capable iPods. There’s one caveat, however — videos you purchase from iTunes can’t be burned to other media such as CD-R or DVD-R discs.

iTunes 6, available for download today, will allow users to purchase TV shows, short films, and music videos online for US$1.99 from the iTunes Music Store (iTMS). Some of ABC’s most popular television shows, “Desperate Housewives,” and “Lost,” and the new drama series “Night Stalker” will be available for $1.99 per episode, as will two titles from the Disney Channel, “That’s so Raven” and “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.”

“For the first time ever, hit primetime shows can be purchased online the day after they air on TV,” said Robert Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Co. “We’re delighted to be working with Apple to offer fans a new and innovative way to experience our wildly popular shows like ‘Desperate Housewives’ ‘Lost’ and ‘That’s So Raven’.”

Over 2,000 music videos from hundreds of artists are also available for $1.99 each, including works by Coldplay and Kanye West, and exclusive videos from the Beastie Boys and U2. In addition, the first ever video iTunes Originals is being released with an exclusive performance and interview from Death Cab for Cutie as well as an exclusive video album from Brazilian Girls. The store will also include six short films from Academy Award-winning Pixar Animation Studios for just $1.99 each.

Other major new features in iTunes 6 include expanded online gift options which now allow customers to give specific songs, albums, music videos or their own iTunes playlists as gifts. Previously, users were limited to sending gift certificates or setting up allowances. This new feature will allow iTMS customers to purchase and send specific content to anyone with an email address, whether or not that person has an iTMS account.

Apple also announced a new public beta of “Just for You” personalized music recommendations and the debut of online customer reviews. The latter will allow the 10 million iTunes users to post reviews, and read and rate other customers’ reviews.

The release came in conjunction with the announcement of a new video iPod that will play all of the content for sale on the iTMS.

Updated 4:10 PM 10/12/05: Added information about DRM restrictions.

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