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Apple's Ping rival to Facebook and Twitter launches with 160m users


Apple put itself on a collision course with Facebook last night as it unveiled a new social network called Ping.

The iPod and computer maker added a new function to its popular iTunes software which effectively creates an instant Facebook and Twitter rival with 160 million members.

"This is a social network all about music," Apple chief Steve Jobs said as he revealed Ping at a San Francisco press launch, relayed via satellite to media at an event in London.

"It's Facebook meets Twitter meets iTunes," Jobs added as he explained Ping was a tool to help its 160 million iTunes customers to discover new music.

"With Ping you can follow your favourite artists and friends and join a worldwide conversation with music's most passionate fans," said Jobs.

Users can create a "circle of friends" to share their tastes, as happens with Facebook, or broadcast their opinions in Ping, as with Twitter.

In the wake of Facebook's well publicised gaffes over user privacy, however, Apple's limited, all-or-nothing controls may cause controversy.

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Apple also used the event to showcase its annual update to its range of iPods .

The most dramatic change was to the mid-range, which now has a small touchscreen. Prices vary from £47 for the 2GB Shuffle to £360 to the top-of-the-range 64GB iPod Touch.

The company also introduced a new edition of its Apple TV box. Dramatically smaller and cheaper, the €120 machine will allow customers to rent movies and TV shows over the internet when it hits the shelves in about a month.

The event was rounded off with a solo performance by Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, who sang three songs, including one new track slated for their album.

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