Apple's fireworks: The iTV and other goodies

Apple unveiled a package of new products yesterday, including new iPods, but more importantly, a surprising unfinished product that could one day take a place in your living room.

It is called the iTV, a small sleek box that will let you wirelessly move digital movies, TV shows, music videos and photos from your computer to big-screen televisions.

The iTV, which Apple chief executive Steve Jobs calls the “the missing piece,” is not out yet, and so we don’t how well it will do.

The iTV is significant because the high-stakes right now surrounding video — as content providers abandon old technologies and move quickly to embrace the Internet delivery into the home. The iTV will likely spawn a whole eco-system of goods and services to grow around it.

Here is a great summary piece of all the latest Apple action by the Mercury News’ Elise Ackerman, including how Apple’s additional video offerings compare with those of MovieLink, Guba, Amazon and CinemaNow. You can watch Jobs’ Webcast here.

Here are the Apple highlights:

–The iTV will be available in early 2007, for $299. Analysts note the device will let you move videos to your TV using only six buttons, vs. 56 needed for the Windows XP Media Center, the iTV’s chief competitor.

–Apple’s iTune store added movies from four Disney-owned studios (Walt Disney, Pixar, Touchstone and Miramax), as expected. The movies will be a resolution of 640 x 480, a four-fold improvement considered “near DVD” quality. Newer releases, to be released simultaneously with DVD release, will cost $14.99, older titles $9.99.–an 80-gig video iPod for $349 with bigger, brighter screen and longer lasting battery (20 hrs); a more colorful selection of iPod nanos (with double the previous resolution) and a matchbook-size iPod shuffle (pictured here), both of them seeing similar price, size and battery improvements. All in time for this shopping season.

Wow. It is too early to tell how well the iTV will perform. But the speed at which Apple is moving, and timeliness of the other deals it is striking in this highly competitive world of video, underscores in our view how Jobs keeps Apple one of the more dynamic companies in Silicon Valley. It is a pleasure to watch this company execute despite its age.

And the affair between Apple and Google continues: “It’s what I always wanted,” Google’s vice president Marissa Mayer told the Merc, who attended the Apple meeting with co-founder Larry Page.

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