Expectations ran high before Apple’s annual music event in San Francisco, but trying to determine if the company met those expectations isn’t as easy as it seems. I spoke with a number of analysts to get their thoughts on Apple’s performance. According to the rumor mill before the event, Apple was going to introduce 99-cent TV show rentals, double the song sample length, launch a new Apple TV with Netflix support, and of course, release new iPods.
With the exception of increasing the length of song samples, Apple released all of the products and services that were expected, and went a little further. There were even several items talked about that weren’t expected.
Apple launched Ping, its social networking service for music that allows people to share their music reviews, likes, and suggestions with people that follow them. Apple could have integrated services like Twitter and Facebook into iTunes, but did it on their own for what one analyst believes to be about control and loyalty.
“Apple likes to be in control of everything, but it makes good sense,” Van Baker, vice president and research director for Gartner, told The Loop. “They want this to be a feature that builds loyalty around Apple.”
Apple took another big step with the Apple TV, removing the hard drive, reducing the size, and making it a streaming only device.
“Apple is not trying to be all things to all people,” said Tim Bajarin, President of Creative Strategies. “This is an introduction to streaming for consumers.”
Michael Gartenberg, a partner with Altimeter Group, agrees. “You can’t do everything in one go — Apple never does that.”
However, the new Apple TV may not put the device exactly where Apple wants it to be in the market, at least for now.
“Does it take the Apple TV to the mainstream? No. Is it better? Yes,” said Baker. “The $99 price will make it more appealing and it’s an improvement over the last generation.”
Perhaps the biggest announcements of the day were reserved for the iPod line. While some observers may have thought there is little Apple could do to improve on its market leading devices, the company totally revamped the line-up, drastically changing the iPod nano and strengthening the iPod touch.
The iPod touch has emerged as a strong competitor in the gaming market. Jobs said during his presentation on Wednesday that the touch is the No. 1 gaming platform in the world, outselling Nintendo and Sony offerings combined.
It’s no great surprise that Apple moved to solidify the touch’s dominance in that space, adding the Retina display and the A4 chip found in the iPhone 4.
“Mobile gaming isn’t just about casual games anymore,” said Gartenberg. “This is a serious gaming platform.”
With the introduction of a new iPod shuffle, nano, and touch, Apple has a device for every lifestyle and price point. With all the iPod news that was announced, one point caught the attention of all three analysts — the iPod touch is now Apple’s best selling iPod.
“I was impressed,” said Baker. “People say the market is done, but Apple doesn’t buy into that. They were able to move the sweet spot of iPods to the touch, which is their most expensive device.”
In addition to all of the major product announcements, Apple also showed off iOS 4.1 and iOS 4.2 for iPad, giving users a taste of what’s to come in the platform in the next few months.
Overall, the analysts agreed that Apple did everything they needed to do at Wednesday’s event to ensure the continued success of its current products, while taking steps to the future with devices like the Apple TV.