Apple has finally stepped up to the plate by offering a small taste of the high-quality (256 kbps AAC encoding) DRM-free music that we had all been longing for. In order to reap these "iTunes Plus" benefits you’ll need to be using the new iTunes 7.2, and you’ll also have to pay an additional $0.30 per song (about $3.00 more per album).
The DRM-free song selection is currently limited to the EMI music catalog which includes artists like The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, and Norah Jones. I would have liked to see a larger selection of music available, but this is a big move in the right direction. Apple had such an overwhelming response from music publishers regarding the DRM-free music that they are looking into ways of letting others offer their own high-quality DRM-free music.
You’ll also notice that Apple finally added Windows Vista to their list of compatible operating systems, which is something I expected to see this time around after Microsoft issued an iPod update for Vista. I also thought it was kind of cool that they revamped their minimize/close buttons in the upper-right corner of iTunes to match the style in Vista.
Apple also announced the start of iTunes U for universities. It allows colleges to create their own iTunes site that hosts digital content created for classes:
Colleges and universities build their own iTunes U sites. Faculty post content they create for their classes. Students download what they need, and go. Learning isn’t just for the classroom anymore. It’s for anytime and anyplace you’ve got a Mac, a PC, or an iPod.
They already have several large universities on iTunes, including Duke, Stanford, and Berkeley. Apple did a great job of making it easy for students to access the content provided on iTunes U:
With the iPhone just a few weeks away, I’m guessing that the next update we’ll see to iTunes will add features to manage the phone. Things like a contact manager will hopefully be included so that iPhone users don’t have to sit there and type all of their friends in on the phone itself.