At its annual music event today in San Francisco, Apple announced iTunes 10, the next generation of its media-player and music-download software.

iTunes 10 introduces a new feature called 'Ping' - a social network for music fans. Describing the process that led to Ping, Steve Jobs said that Apple: "Focused on discovery with iTunes... how do you find new stuff? People are always asking, what are my friends listening to? What are my favourite artists up to? What concerts are my friends going to? And how do I share with my friends."

Ping is, Jobs said, "not Facebook, not Twitter, it's something new... a social network for music. Built right into iTunes". Ping is open to 160 million iTunes users in 23 countries, immediately.

With Ping you can follow your favourite artists and friends, discover what they're talking about, listening to, and downloading. Ping slots right into Source List in iTunes, below the iTunes Store link.

Jobs said that Ping is for "social music discovery". Using it you can follow and be followed. Music artists will set up their own pages, and you can set up a circle of friends. And in a potential dig at new rivals Facebook, Jobs said: "Privacy is super simple to set up. Anyone can do it."

In a similar vein, is TuneUp - an iTunes companion program. It shows you selected artists that are playing in your area, with links to ticket services.

Apple has also worked on the iTunes interface. Apple iTunes 10 includes a new hybrid view with album artwork displaying for albums. 

Apple iTunes 10 is free, and available today.

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