Users of Apple Inc.'s iTunes software will now be able to see what songs their friends are buying and where their favorite bands are playing next.
These social features are part of Ping, a new Apple service akin to Facebook, Twitter and other popular social networks.
People can sign up, then find friends, acquaintances and public figures to "follow." As with Facebook and Twitter, Ping will deliver a stream of updates, showing friends' iTunes purchases and other information. Ping will also generate a personalized top-10 music chart based on what friends buy or listen to.
Apple says Ping is an optional service; people can choose to keep their music purchases and other iTunes actions private.
Ping doesn't have to rival Facebook or Twitter in popularity to be a success, Forrester analyst James McQuivey said. He said Ping just needs to help Apple sell a few more songs.
The social feature is the first obvious sign that Apple is integrating technology from the music startup Lala.com, which it bought last year.
Lala also gave members a peek at what music friends were playing. And it had developed — but never introduced — an iPhone app that would have allowed users unlimited streaming of songs for 10 cents each.
Apple, however, gave no indication Wednesday that it might be working on a Lala-inspired streaming music service, which might let people access their vast iTunes music libraries remotely instead of having to download and store them individually.
Other companies are set to benefit from Ping, including Live Nation Entertainment Inc., which powers the concert listings of the new Ping music discovery tool. CEO Michael Rapino said in a statement he was "thrilled" to take part in the plan, which he said will help sell tickets through LiveNation.com and Ticketmaster.com.
At a media event in San Francisco, Jobs also showed off a line of revamped iPods. Among them was a smaller, button-free iPod Nano that people control with swipes across its touch screen.
Apple also added a front-facing video camera to the iPod Touch so that people can use it for video chats using Apple's FaceTime software, which was previously available only on the iPhone 4. The iPod Touch also got a new, sharper screen and a camera on the back for taking photos and recording video.
A new iPod Shuffle brings back buttons that Apple did away with in the most recent version.
Jobs also said Apple is updating the software that runs iPhones, the iPod Touch and the iPad. Next week, iPhone and iPod Touch users can get the free iOS 4.1, which adds the ability to upload high-definition video over Wi-Fi and improves the quality of photos taken with the devices.
The iPad, which currently runs an older version of iOS, will catch up to its siblings in November. It will get multitasking and other features Apple introduced in iOS 4, plus features such as wireless printing from the tablet. Apple had been criticized for making a powerful device but hobbling it by not including any ports for USB devices such as printers or thumb drives.
Mintz reported from Seattle. AP Business Writer Ryan Nakashima in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
Source: The Associated Press.