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iTunes gift cards: Variable prices, Starbucks, iTunes 11

Apple is introducing new denomination-free iTunes retail gift cards that allow customers to purchase iTunes credit ranging from $15 to $500, 9to5Mac reports. Unlike past iTunes gift cards that were pre-printed with $15, $25, $50, or $100 denominations, the new cards rely on the store’s cashier to put the desired amount on the card; a few stores could begin stocking the cards today.

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Starbucks has announced a split digital gift card in conjunction with Apple, the Starbucks iTunes (RED) eGift basket. A $30 purchase gets two eGifts — $15 to Starbucks and $15 to iTunes. For every gift sold, Starbucks and iTunes will contribute 5 percent of the purchase price to the Global Fund, which is working to eradicate AIDS in Africa.

In another piece of iTunes gift card news, iTunes 11 now allows gift cards to be redeemed using your computer’s camera. When pressing the “Redeem” button in the iTunes Store, the camera can snap a photo, and iTunes will automatically read the code from the back of the gift card, so the user doesn’t have to enter it manually.

Apple releases new Remote 3.0 iOS app

Alongside iTunes 11, Apple has released a new version of the Remote iOS app for iTunes. Remote version 3.0 is redesigned, featuring an iPad interface that more closely resembles the look of iTunes 11, plus a more powerful search feature that delivers real-time results as you type.

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Up Next, which offers a simpler way of seeing the next songs in a playlist, is included, as is an Expanded view that shows all songs on an album. The app is also optimized for the iPhone 5. Remote 3.0 also features new icons for both itself and connected iTunes libraries, now with gray accents rather than black ones.

iTunes 11 officially released

Apple has officially released iTunes 11. The new iTunes features a simplified player, redesigned Store, and new iCloud features. A considerably redesigned interface focuses on edge-to-edge designs for albums, movies, and TV shows in the iTunes library, and personal recommendations are available when users click In the Store, which has similarly been simplified visually. Purchases in iCloud now appear inside your iTunes library, and can be played directly from iCloud or downloaded as a copy to sync to a device or play offline. Playback syncing is also a possibility with iCloud, which remembers where you left off in a movie or TV show; iTunes will now continue playing right where you left off, no matter what device you use.

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iTunes 11 features Up Next, a simple way to see which songs are playing next. Up Next enables users to reorder, add, or skip songs at any point. The new, smaller MiniPlayer includes album art, adds Up Next, and makes searching easier. Apple is also boasting improved search within iTunes, as instant results from your library pop up as you type in the search field.  For Mac, iTunes 11 is being updated through the Mac App Store, an iTunes first. Expect some initial downloading time to be followed by behind-the-scenes hard drive grinding as your library is updated in the background after installation.

Notably, the Mac requirements for iTunes 11 are a computer with an Intel Core processor and 512MB of RAM, OS X version 10.6.8 or later, 400MB of available disk space, and a broadband Internet connection; Safari is no longer listed as a required item for iTunes. Windows system requirements are a PC with a 1 GHz Intel or AMD processor and 512 MB of RAM, Windows XP SP2/Vista/7/8, 400 MB of available disk space, and a broadband Internet connection, up from 250MB required for the prior PC version.

Report: iTunes 11 could be released today

Apple’s iTunes 11 is “expected as soon as” today, according to The Wall Street Journal. A profile of Apple’s Senior VP Eddy Cue also mentions the launch of the new iTunes, which “has been delayed a month by engineering issues that required parts to be rebuilt, according to people who have seen it.” A recent report expected the launch of iTunes 11 shortly, and Apple has said the media player and organizational tool would appear by the end of November after missing its original October launch date.

iTunes now on Facebook Gifts

Facebook has announced that iTunes has been added to Facebook Gifts as of today. Users can now send recommendations or iTunes credit for purchases — in denominations of $10, $15, $25, or $50 — to Facebook friends. Facebook Gifts launched near the end of September with about 100 merchants, and the social network recently announced more new partners. [via CNET]

Report: iTunes 11 release ‘within the next days’

iTunes 11 could be released “within the next days,” according to MacRumors. A post on one of the site’s forums shows an email reportedly sent to record labels by Fieyr, a German music distribution service. The email is asking for picture and gallery submissions of musicians to iTunes. Apple has previously said iTunes 11 would appear by the end of November, after missing its original October launch date.

AC/DC comes to iTunes, gets special digital box sets

AC/DC’s complete catalog is now available for the first time on iTunes, Apple announced today in conjunction with Columbia Records. Two specially packaged compilations are also being offered — all AC/DC studio albums are offered in The Collection ($100), and The Complete Collection ($150) includes the band’s complete catalog, a special promotion reminiscent of the iTunes compilations Apple created for The Beatles and U2. The AC/DC catalog includes 16 studio albums, four live albums, and three compilation albums.

iTunes Match down following iMessage, FaceTime outages

Apple’s iTunes Match service is suffering from an outage, which appears to have started early on Monday; songs are not loading from the service. This follows a weekend in which iMessage and FaceTime both experienced outages. Apple’s Support website for iCloud noted that some users experienced iMessage and FaceTime outages Sunday, but does not note iTunes in the Cloud or iTunes Match status. [via Apple Insider]

Apple: iTunes 11 delayed until November

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Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr has informed CNET that iTunes 11 will not ship in October as originally announced; it is now expected by the end of November. “The new iTunes is taking longer than expected and we wanted to take a little extra time to get it right,” Neumayr said. “We look forward to releasing this new version of iTunes with its dramatically simpler and cleaner interface, and seamless integration with iCloud before the end of November.”

Bloomberg: Apple plans early 2013 streaming radio service

Bloomberg reports that Apple is currently negotiating with major record labels to launch an ad-supported Internet radio service within the first three months of 2013. Previously rumored, the service is said to be similar to those offered by Pandora and others, although it will allow users more flexibility as to what they hear. According to the report, advertising revenues have weighed heavily in the negotiations, as the labels are seeking a percentage of ad sales, while Apple wants to grow its iAd platform.

SuperSync 5 adds advanced ITunes Match support

SuperSync, an iTunes library synchronization and management tool, has been updated to version 5.0. The latest version goes beyond allowing Mac or PC users to view, merge, and synchronize iTunes libraries over local networks or over the Internet: the newest update adds advanced iTunes Match support, helping users to get more matches, upgrade tracks to the highest bit rate possible, and remove iCloud duplicates. SuperSync 5.0 is available now with a two-computer/unlimited iOS device license for $23.

Bowers & Wilkins debuts A7, A5 speakers

Bowers & Wilkins has unveiled two new dedicated AirPlay speakers, the A7 and A5. The A7 ($800) comes equipped with a six-inch dedicated bass driver alongside two sets of 1” tweeters and 3” mid-range drivers, while the A5 ($500) is a smaller version of the same all-in-one design, using twin 1” tweeters and 4” full-range drivers. Both new wireless speakers feature a design similar to the company’s MM-1 speakers, though more elongated, and without separated satellites.

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As with all AirPlay speakers, a Wi-Fi network and either an iOS device or a computer running iTunes are the only things needed to use the speakers. Both models will be available in October.

Ping to shut down on Sept. 30

As of September 30, Apple will deactivate its unpopular Ping social network for music. According to a message found within iTunes, “Ping will no longer be available as of September 30. Thank you for your interest in Ping. We are no longer accepting new members.”

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The move was previously indicated by Apple, and the service’s lack of traction was openly conceded by executives some time ago. In addition to integrating some support for social networks such as Twitter and Facebook within iTunes, separate reports have suggested that Apple is working on a music streaming service similar to Pandora, which might offer new opportunities for users to discuss and share their favorite songs.

iTunes 10.7 becoming available via download

The latest update to Apple’s iTunes software, version 10.7, is now available for download from the company’s website although as of press time it hasn’t yet appeared as a software update.

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Although no new features were mentioned during Apple’s iPhone 5 keynote presentation today, this update likely adds support for iPhone 5 and iOS 6, to be released next week. It also adds support for the latest iPod nano, shuffle, and touch models.

Apple announces major iTunes update

During today’s iPhone 5 event, Apple also unveiled a major update to iTunes, its iconic media management application. Designed to be “dramatically simpler” the new version provides a much more simplified user interface presented primarily as a grid view, with album content expanding in place in a style similar to iOS folders and deeper links into the iTunes Store for browsing and purchasing additional content. A new split screen view allows users to see their full library while working with playlists, a new popup and drop down dialogs provide access to now playing queues and search results, providing more effective navigation without taking the focus away from the main screen. Improved playlist management allows users to move effectively drag and drop tracks directly into their preferred playlists and a new mini-player interface has been added providing album artwork with basic controls and search capabilities.

The new version of iTunes will also provide direct iCloud integration allowing users to stream previously purchased content from iCloud such as Movies and TV shows, with playback positions automatically synced with iOS devices via iCloud. Tighter iTunes Store integration also allows artists to share photos and other information and allows users to access artist pages to look for information such as concert dates and scheduled new releases. The new iTunes is expected to be available in late October.

Apple, Twitter talks focused on product integration

Following dueling reports from earlier in the week indicating that Apple had met with Twitter reps about a strategic investment, a new report claims that talks between the two companies centered more on product integration ideas. Citing multiple people familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reports that the investment idea never progressed into serious discussion or negotiations, while the product integration deal came together very quickly. According to the report, which cites two people briefed on the matter, the two companies continue to talk about future product integrations, which may include more deeply melding Twitter and iTunes as Apple prepares to phase out Ping later this year. Apple added Twitter integration in iOS 5 last year, and in OS X Mountain Lion last month.

Fox films now available in iTunes in the Cloud

Films from 20th Century Fox are now available for download from iTunes in the Cloud. When Apple originally launched iTunes in the Cloud for movies earlier this year, both Fox and Universal held their films off the service; Universal added its films to the service in April. Apple’s iTunes in the Cloud service allows customers to re-download past purchases multiple times, and also serves as a base for content streamed directly to the Apple TV. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple launches iTunes in the Cloud for movies in 35 new countries

Apple has launched its iTunes in the Cloud service for movies in 35 new countries. MacRumors reports that the feature has rolled out in Australia, Argentine, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, the U.K., Venezuela, and Vietnam. In addition, the company has also expanded its iTunes Match service into Hungary and Poland. Apple’s iTunes in the Cloud service allows customers to re-download past purchases multiple times, and also serves as a base for content streamed directly to the Apple TV.

U.S. senator implores DOJ to drop Apple e-book suit

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has penned an open letter the the Department of Justice, asking it to drop its lawsuit against Apple and major publishers. In the suit, the DOJ claims that Apple and the publishers colluded to raise the price of digital books. “While the claim sounds plausible on its face, the suit could wipe out the publishing industry as we know it, making it much harder for young authors to get published,” Schumer writes for the Wall Street Journal. “The suit will restore Amazon to the dominant position atop the e-books market it occupied for years before competition arrived in the form of Apple. If that happens, consumers will be forced to accept whatever prices Amazon sets.”

Schumer goes on to point out that Amazon held a monopoly position in the market before the arrival of the iBookstore, and set the prices for the books itself—many times undercutting the market for hardcopy titles. He also states that “As our economy transitions to digital platforms, we should be celebrating and supporting industries that find ways to adapt and grow”, adding that he believes the suit will “have a deterrent effect not only on publishers but on other industries that are coming up with creative ways to grow and adapt to the Internet”. Finally, the senator calls for new guidelines governing non-merger Justice Department investigations, which should “take a broad, pragmatic view of the market as a whole”.

Apple adds Food & Drink category to App Store

As expected, Apple today took its new Food & Drink category live in the App Store. The category was revealed in an earlier email from Apple to select developers, informing them of the change. According to that email, the category includes “apps that help users cook and bake, mix drinks, manage recipes, find new restaurants and bars, and learn what their friends like to eat and drink”, excluding “diet, grocery shopping, coupon-clipping, or food-related game apps.” Currently, the category holds 1120 apps; you can see the listings by following the link above.

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