SAN FRANCISCO — Apple is cutting the price of some songs in its market-leading iTunes online music store to 69 cents and plans to begin selling all tracks without copy protection.
At the Macworld Expo trade show Tuesday, Apple's top marketing executive, Phil Schiller, said iTunes songs would come in three pricing tiers: 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29, depending on the recording company they come from.
Until now, pricing has been 99 cents per song. The new pricing begins in April, and "with many more songs priced at 69 cents than $1.29,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs in a press release. Jobs was not at yesterday's event, as had been expected.
Apple offered the record labels that flexibility on pricing as it got them to agree to sell all songs free of "digital rights management" (DRM) technology that limits people's ability to copy songs or move them to multiple computers. By the end of this quarter, Apple said, all 10 million songs in its library will be available without DRM.
While iTunes is the most popular digital music store, others have been faster to offer songs without copy protection. Amazon.com started selling DRM-free music in 2007 and swayed all the major labels to sign on in less than a year.
In addition, starting today, iPhone users are now able to directly download music from the iTunes Store to the phone's iPod, using the phone's data network. Until now, iPhone users could only get to the iTunes Store using the phone's Wi-Fi access, but not AT&T's 3G network. AT&T is the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the United States.
The changes to the pricing and access of the iTunes Store may help Apple keep its lead as the No. 1 music retailer in the United States, as it was ranked by The NPD Group last August. No. 2 is Wal-Mart, followed by Best Buy, Amazon and Target.
The iTunes updates marked the highlights of Schiller's stand-in for Jobs, who used to make Macworld the site for some of Apple's biggest product unveilings, such as the iPhone.
But Apple said last month that Jobs would not address the throngs this time because the company plans to pull out of Macworld next year.
'Thin" 17-inch laptop
Apple's final appearance at the Macworld trade show opened with a focus on new software for Mac computers and a "thin" 17-inch laptop, the MacBook Pro.
The notebook weighs 6.6 pounds, and was described as being .98-inch thick by Apple and the lightest notebook in its class. Its introduction echoes another made by Apple last year of the 13-inch MacBook Air, which was dubbed the "world's lighest notebook," at 3 pounds.
The new MacBook Pro will cost $2,799, come with a 320-gigabyte hard drive and start shipping late this month.
Perhaps the biggest twist is the laptop's battery, which is designed to last longer on each charge — up to seven or eight hours — and work after more charges than older batteries. But like Apple's iPod and the super-slim MacBook Air, the battery will be sealed inside and the owners won't be able to remove and replace it themselves. Instead, they'll have to spend $179 to have an Apple store expert swap in a new one.
Schiller showed off improvements in Apple's movie, music and photo software at the annual gathering of Apple devotees.
For instance, iPhoto '09 can recognize faces and sort photos based on who's in them. GarageBand '09 includes videotaped, interactive music lessons given by Sting and other musicians. Apple also added more professional video editing features to iMovie '09.
Apple's answer to Microsoft's Office productivity suite, called iWork, also got a makeover, including zippy new ways to add animation between slides in the Keynote presentation software.
And Apple unveiled a "beta" test version of a Web site for sharing documents, iWork.com. Unlike Google's online documents program, however, Apple's version does not allow people to edit documents in a Web browser.
Apple co-founder Jobs, a survivor of pancreatic cancer, said Monday he has an easily treated hormone imbalance and will remain in charge of the company.
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