September 10, 2009, 12:00 AM

Apple polishes the iTunes experience

Apple has rolled out a series of small improvements to make the iTunes experience better, including iTunes LP, which offers more than just music, an improved sharing arrangement and a powered-up music mixer.

Apple Inc. is trying to make the iTunes experience more like an old-fashioned album. It unveiled iTunes 9 this week that includes a new feature called iTunes LP. The LP function allows consumers to purchase an album of music with the supporting material that comes with a traditional CD or LP-liner notes, lyrics and artwork, for example-and some features that are unique to iTunes LP, such as music videos and interview footage.

ITunes 9 also offers more sharing options, music mixing and a redesigned site.

The LP feature, in particular, allows iTunes to capture music fans who were going elsewhere to obtain the complete experience of an artist, says Russ Crupnick, vice president and senior industry analyst at NPD Entertainment, who follows the digital music market. “Real fans were going to MySpace and then clicking to the labels’ sites or the artists’ web sites or even to third-party sites to get that extra experience,” Crupnick says. “Now they can get that experience at iTunes.”

The new iTunes Extras provides a similar experience for movies on iTunes with features including documentaries, deleted scenes, interviews and interactive galleries.

ITunes` so-called Genius Mix also fills in a gap that other sites, such as Pandora.com, fill-it assembles playlists of similar music. ITunes creates the Genius Mix by analyzing 54 billion songs in 27 million user playlists.

ITunes 9 also introduces a feature Apple calls Home Sharing, which lets users transfer music, movies and TV shows among up to five authorized computers. Family members can view up to five iTunes libraries on their home network, see only the portion of these libraries they don’t already have, import their favorite content directly to their own libraries, and automatically add new purchases from other computers into their library.

Apple also redesigned the iTunes web site, which keeps it current with other music sites, Crupnick says. “EMusic and other newer sites are starting to improve the user experience and Apple needed to keep up,” he says.

The iTunes Store has a catalog of 11 million songs, 50,000 TV episodes and 7,500 films.

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