iTunes 8.1 Coming Soon With Speed Improvements, Remote App Updated [Update: iTunes 8.1 Available]

Alongside the announcement of a redesigned iPod shuffle today, Apple has quietly announced iTunes 8.1. According to iTunes’ “What’s New” page, iTunes 8.1 will feature speed improvements, the ability to use “Autofill” on any manually managed iPod or iPhone, and an “Import as iTunes Plus” option. Additionally, several screenshots indicate that “Party Shuffle” has been renamed to “iTunes DJ.”

Apple’s Remote app [App Store] for the iPhone and iPod touch has also been updated to version 1.2 in order to add iTunes DJ support for iTunes 8.1.

Update: The most observable feature of iTunes 8.1 seems to be the addition of iTunes DJ. Disguised as a new feature, iTunes DJ is essentially a retooled “Party Shuffle.” The most significant change is the ability to allow other iPhone and iPod touch users to request and rate songs from within the Remote application.

Apple claims to have added the Genius sidebar to Movies and TV Shows, although it’s not showing up for us.

Speed will likely be the most significant improvement in iTunes as its performance has gradually slowed as features have been tacked on over time. What Apple has done in iTunes 8.1 isn’t yet clear, although we’re hoping for a Cocoa version of iTunes. Currently iTunes is the only iLife application still running in a Carbon shell which can likely be attributed to a majority of iTunes’ performance inadequacies.

Update: As far as we can tell, iTunes 8.1 is still a Carbon app. The iTunes release notes do shed some light on where we should see improvements:

iTunes 8.1 is now faster and more responsive. You will enjoy noticeable improvements when working with large libraries, browsing the iTunes Store, preparing to sync with iPod or iPhone, and optimizing photos for syncing.

AutoFill is a feature which automatically fills an iPod with music, either from your entire music library or a specific playlist. Until iTunes 8.1, the feature was only available on the iPod shuffle and iPod nano. To enable AutoFill for your iPhone or iPod touch, you must check the box next to “Manually manage music and videos.”

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