I always get pretty excited about a new version of iTunes – the last version introduced the iTunes Music Store. This was a fantastic new feature, but only for those living in the US. It was less exiting for the rest of us, and we’re still waiting for an international music store. The release of iTunes 4.5 had me thinking maybe this time we’d get remembered, but although there are some excellent new features, non-American users are still short-changed.
Most of the new stuff relates to the iTunes Music Store, but some – such as the music links – are available to users outside the US. One feature that doesn’t appear to work in the UK (though I can’t imagine why not) is the ability to publish favourite compilation mixes. In theory, you should be able to put together a mix of your favourite tunes, click a button and publish it on the ITMS. But that requires an account, so tough luck for the UK crowd until we get the ITMS for Europe.
One feature that makes the 10MB download worthwhile is the print function. Another major new feature is Party Shuffle. This dynamic playlist shuffles through your music. Just point it at your dance collection, and let it mix it up. If you have any requests, you can add them on the fly.
There is also a new codec for importing CDs. The Apple Lossless encoder compresses CD music files by 50 per cent (playback is supported only on the 3G iPods). This is great for audiophiles that want the best sound, though it does raise a question as to the claimed “as good as CD quality” AAC files. Look for a head-to-head, ear-to-ear test in a future Macworld.
As ever, iTunes is free – which makes it an absolute no-brainer. Even though not all the features work in the UK, there’s enough new stuff to make the download worthwhile.