Shopping is Random

Essential Shuffle and Price Shuffle.

CUPERTINO — Apple Computer Inc. announced today that its online music service, the iTunes Music Store (iTMS), will be adding two new features next Tuesday.

"Essential Shuffle," as part of iTMS's "iTunes Essentials" collection, will instantly create a playlist of random length and content, with selections being drawn from its extensive catalog of over one million songs and nine thousand audiobooks*. "We think this is going to be really big," said Apple's CEO Steve Jobs at a press event earlier this week, "there is so much great content out there, and we wanted to give customers a way to discover it. iTunes Essentials was designed to do that, and our newest 'Essential' playlist ensures that every track, no matter how obscure, can be found by a potential new fan."

During a demonstration of Essential Shuffle, a list of 1,042 items was created, beginning with the jazz classic "Your Feet's Too Big" performed by Fatts Waller, and concluding with "Jump" by Van Halen.

"Price Shuffle" allows users to escape the monotonous 99¢ per track** pricing of the iTMS. By enabling the optional feature, users will be charged a random price, which is not displayed to the user until the purchase is complete, for downloading each track or album from the store. "This is actually really fun," said Jobs, "it makes even the payment process fun, and none of the other guys are even close to offering something like this."

With Price Shuffle, individual tracks will vary in price from free to $5. Albums, which generally sell for $9.99, but with many exceptions, can cost anywhere from one half to 1.5 times the regular price when using Price Shuffle. Due to legal limitations, Price Shuffle will only be available in the US Store, and is not available to customers with a billing address in FL, VT, or RI.

To show off the feature, Jobs invited Bono of U2 to give it a try. The Irish musician decided to have fun and use Essential Shuffle to choose his track. The first song in the list was "Silence," four seconds of complete silence performed by Candypants. Price Shuffle charged $4.38 for the download. "This is a demo account, right Steve?" quipped Bono.

The iTunes Music Store is currently available in 15 countries, including Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and excluding all others.

* Catalog figures refer to the US. store.
** Most individual music tracks sell for 99¢ each in the US and Canada, 79p in the UK, and €0.99 in the other EU stores.

Posted: Wednesday - January 12, 2005 at 08:22 PM