As usual there was a flurry of rumors surrounding Apple's surprise product launch today in San Francisco. The event was live streamed across the web for Mac users only (though there was a work around for PC users). Expectations ranged from updates to the iPod, iTunes and even Apple TV.

While Apple CEO Steve Jobs did indeed dazzle his audience with revamped versions of all three products, the big surprise came with his introduction of Ping, a social network built directly into iTunes. As Jobs explained today:

We're announcing Ping -- it's a social network for music. It's like Facebook and Twitter meet iTunes. It's all about music. Built right into iTunes is Ping -- you see all your recent activity. Here's a post from an artist -- Lady Gaga. You can find people just by typing in their name. If they've said 'you can follow me' you can follow them with just a click... Ping is for social music discovery. You can follow people and you can be followed. Most artists will hold their hand up and say 'you can follow me' -- you can hold your hand up and say that as well, or you can say 'people can follow me but I have to approve who follows me.' Then you can set up a circle of friends.
Will Apple's new music social network take off? Here are the immediate reactions from tech pundits on Twitter:

A social network for music discovery sounds like a pretty great idea, actually.less than a minute ago via web

With Ping (available today) Apple is signaling they are making a decades-long-move to go after Facebook. One piece at a time.less than a minute ago via web

Ping=Goodbye, MySpace! New Apple TV=Goodbye, Roku!less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

There are 160 million iTunes users in 60 countries, says Steve Jobs. That could make Ping the #2 social network in the world.less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Makes Google look like chipped liver.less than a minute ago via web

  • This Is a Huge Threat to Facebook, writes Nick O'Neil at All Facebook: "The most significant thing about Apple’s platform is that they already have payments, premium content, and 160 million users. The one thing that doesn’t exist yet is the ability to build applications that integrate with Apple’s new social network, however this is a first step and we believe this could become a much greater threat. Granted, there are plenty of people in the world who don’t have access to Apples’ technology. However in the attention economy, the most valuable consumers will rapidly shift their attention (voting power) to Apple’s platform. This is extremely dangerous for Facebook."
  • This Isn't Going to Work, writes Sam Diaz at ZDNet: "Apple is good at what it does - hardware, software, design and, of course, marketing. But social networking? Even if it is tied to music, I just can’t see widespread adoption of Ping - even if it’s forced on us through iTunes... iTunes is already bloated. There's already too much there and adding something else is too much."