Apple posted some short Guided Tour videos about the iPad on Monday, confirming my first impression that the iPad isn't a great leap forward for music. That's understandable, since there are other gaps that the iPad is trying to fill first--I think the big draw will be iBooks and Web surfing from the couch over a Wi-Fi connection, which can be done with an iPhone today with much eyestrain.
But the video about music playback (labeled "iPod") did give a couple of hints on how the iPad might evolve to take advantage of all that extra screen real estate. In particular, the menu on the left side of the screen will broaden exposure to some cool features that are buried on the iPhone. The Genius Mixes feature comes to mind. Introduced with iTunes 9 and the iPhone 3.1 software update last September, this feature automatically creates endlessly looping mixes of similar songs in your library. (The iTunes 9.1 software update--released Tuesday and required for syncing your computer with the iPad--lets you rename and delete Genius Mixes for the first time.)
Unlike the regular Genius feature, Genius Mixes doesn't require you to build off a currently playing "seed" song, which can be hit or miss--some songs simply don't appear enough on other users' playlists for Apple to build a Genius playlist. Rather, if I want to hear an Indie Rock Mix, or AOR Classic Rock Mix, or Art & Experimental Mix, I can simply hit the icon and it starts playing. The Genius Mixes feature also offers a more coherent playback experience than simply shuffling among songs in the same genre.
But to get Genius Mixes on an iPhone or iPod Touch, you need to dig deep into menu options to drag the Genius icon onto the dock. With the iPad, it's easily available from the left side menu.
The other thing that struck me while watching the video was how dull regular album art is when displayed on a larger screen. I wonder if the iPad will finally help the iTunes LP format take off--it seems like the perfect venue.