Genius features underscore the need for iTunes to go DRM-free

The Genius features built into the new iTunes version 8 are amazing. Genius playlists build on-the-fly music playlists based on the music you have on your system. It’s lightning fast and has led me to re-discover tracks from my collection that I’ve long neglected. But it’s Genius sidebar that is the more interesting part of the software.

Q&A: EA's Ben Bell on making The Sims 3

With over 100 million copies sold across the globe, The Sims is more than a game franchise for Electronic Arts. It’s an entire division, or a studio label in EA parlance. It’s been five years since The Sims 2 brought 3D to these games. In February, EA’s Maxis studio will release The Sims 3 on the PC. The new game features improved graphics and an entire town called Pleasant Valley, but the heart of The Sims 3 is in creating the souls of these virtual characters. Players can choose from dozens of character traits to assign each of the town’s 90-plus Sims with unique personalities. Ben Bell, executive producer of The Sims 3, took some time away from Pleasant Valley to talk about the new game.

Bigger, longer & uncut: The second Microsoft Seinfeld ad

Before I say anything about the new Microsoft/Seinfeld ad, let me just say that I’ve only watched the uncut four and a half minute version. When re-cut as a television spot — they’re usually 30 – 60 seconds — it could have a different feel. That said, this one is better than the first one, but still pretty pointless.

The fix is on? iPhone 2.1 software out tomorrow.

One of the key elements of Apple chief executive Steve Jobs’ keynote during this week’s “Let’s Rock” event was not a product announcement at all, but an announced update. The iPhone 2.1 software update is due out tomorrow, and Jobs has set expectations extremely high for it.

TC50: Ashton Kutcher thinks online content and television are merging and Blah Girls is a part of that

Original video content online has a stigma attached to it. Although it is original, it’s generally thought to be a lower form of content than the stuff made in Hollywood. While that used to be because much of it was user generated or amateur content, we’re seeing more Hollywood players such a Seth MacFarlane (the creator of the Fox show Family Guy) getting involved in its creation. Still, the stigma remains. But if Ashton Kutcher, the actor and part of the team behind the new online video venture Blah Girls, has his way, online and television content will soon merge and stigmas will fall by the wayside.

The slow death of the hard drive-based iPod

Yesterday at Apple’s “Let’s Rock” event, the company completely revamped its iPod line. While the highlights were the newly elongated iPod nano and the trimmer iPod touch, the iPod that started it all, the version that is now known as the iPod classic, got updated as well. It was an interesting update though because it was more of a sign that the end is near for the hard drive-based iPod.

TC50: VideoSurf debuts search engine for video

Video search engines fail most of the time because they rely upon people to tag keywords of things that appear in the video. But VideoSurf is unveiling today a better way to search through videos. It is launching a beta search engine at TechCrunch50 in San Francisco.

New version of Medialets analytics shows your App Store apps how they stack up

60 days after the launch of the App Store there are already a ton of applications for the iPhone and iPod touch. In fact, at today’s Apple “Let’s Rock” event Apple chief executive Steve Jobs said there are over 3,000 apps that have been downloaded some 100,000,000 times already. With so many apps there is getting to be a lot of competition out there between ones that serve similar functions. Medialets‘ new analytics release aims to show developers the best data to analyze their applications and compare them to similar ones.

iPod nano — taste the rainbow

One of the key launches at today’s “Let’s Rock” event put on by Apple was a new iPod nano. The small iPod has gotten even thinner while becoming elongated to make room for a wider screen. But the real crowd pleaser seemed to be the new colors.

After months in exile, NBC content returns to iTunes…in HD

When NBC made the decision to leave Apple’s iTunes store late last year, several of its shows were among the most popular on the service. NBC went on to put its content on several other services, including iTunes-rival Amazon, and launched its own service with Fox, the online streaming video site Hulu. Still, it always seemed odd that NBC, which has arguably the best content, wouldn’t be paired with iTunes, perhaps the top content provider. Today, NBC has come back.

Adobe announces newest version of eBook technology

Adobe has revealed its plans for the latest version of its server software for distributing eBooks, which will be released on September 22 and called Adobe Content Server 4. The most important improvements are the new support for the EPUB format, as well as a pay-as-you-go pricing model that charges based on the number of downloads.

New CNN show pushes the limits of Twitter — literally

One anchor for the cable news channel CNN has become enamored with the micro-messaging service Twitter over the past several weeks. He used tweets (Twitter messages) to complement his coverage of the recent Hurrican Gustav and now the network has apparently decided to take it one step further, basing a whole show around the real-time citizen journalism/opinions that take place on Twitter.