Steve Jobs returns to the stage with an overhauled iPod Nano

Steve Jobs triumphantly returned to the spotlight to present this year's lineup of new iPods, iPhone OS 3.1, iTunes 9, and improvements to the iTunes store. In iPhone OS 3.1, a free incremental download that goes live today, the App Store has Genius recommendations, and a ringtone store with over 30,000 ringtones from all of the "big four" major labels priced at $1.29 each.

iTunes 9 also goes live today, receiving improved Genius functionality as well. Here, it applies to "Genius Mixes," a Pandora-esque playlist feature where songs of a similar nature are played sequentially. The database for Genius Mixes currently contains over 54 billion songs. iTunes syncing has also been improved, rather than only being able to sync content by playlist, all of the content going to your iPhone or iPod (apps, music, events, photos, etc.) can be arranged.

The iTunes store flow has been redesigned with quick-view popups of albums and dropdown menu navigation that changes the store's previous "back, forward, home" browsing experience. iTunes store is also now integrated with Facebook, and albums that users are interested can be shared as newsfeed items on the popular social networking site.

As rumored, the iTunes LP debuted today. This new album format was previously known as "Cocktail", and packages an iTunes music album with production and liner notes, video, photos, and lyrics.

What came as a surprise with the iTunes LP announcement today was that the same idea was applied to movies downloaded through iTunes. Called "iTunes Extras," movies purchased on iTunes have their own bonus features like a DVD or Blu-ray disc would have, except they're packed into iTunes.

Even further defying today's "It's only Rock and Roll..." theme, a considerable amount of time was spent discussing the iPod Touch/iPhone as a game system. Because the iPod Touch and iPhone have proven to be such successful gaming machines (Phil Schiller said the platform has 21,178 games versus the 607 on Sony PSP and 3,680 on Nintendo DS), it is just as much a game platform as anything else.

Of no surprise to anyone today were the price drops across the iPod line, which a number of sites predicted earlier this morning. In the iPod touch line, the 8 GB model dropped from $229 to $199, the 32 GB from $399 to $299, and now a 64 GB model for $399. The 120 GB iPod classic which was $249 is only sort of retired, as some had expected. What really happened was that the price point stayed the same, but the Classic has been bumped up to 160 GB of storage. The 4 GB iPod Shuffle hasn't changed its $79 price and the 2 GB costs $59, but a stainless steel $99 special edition was debuted and new color schemes.

The iPod nano was the golden child of the day though, earning Jobs' coveted "one more thing" status because it is "the most popular music player in the world," with sales of over 100 million units. As such, the latest version has been overhauled with a larger 2.2" screen, an onboard camera, microphone and speaker, pedometer, FM radio, voice recorder, voice navigation like the Shuffle, and the previously mentioned Genius Mix.

The 8 GB Nano will cost $149, and the 16GB model will cost $179 with a number of color options.

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