updated 10:10 pm EDT, Mon June 11, 2012
Also fixes photo sync order, other bugs
Apple has posted a new version of iTunes, 10.6.3. The release has very few overt changes, but is critical for developers, since it folds in compatibility for the newly-released iOS 6 beta. An early version of the update removed Ping entirely for some readers, but the service is still present in the release now.
Ping started off troubled and never really caught on with iTunes users, despite rapid initial membership growth. Launched originally in early September 2010, the service briefly featured Facebook integration until Facebook closed that avenue, saying it hadn't been properly consulted about the load such a move would place on their servers (despite 18 months of negotiations). Over one million people signed up for Ping in the first two days, but without the Facebook integration and with only half-hearted celebrity support, user participation dwindled.
The service offered its own "followers" and "like" feature, and later added Twitter support which helped increase activity but still left the service with little to attract new users. Apple CEO Tim Cook referred to Ping as a misstep during his interview at the D10 conference last month and openly pondered the possibility of killing it outright.
Apple may have foretold the end of Ping with the announcement of Facebook integration coming in iOS 6 (and potentially to OS X in a future update). Users will be able to "like" songs and post links to iTunes music (the latter of which can be done now in the iTunes Store). The release version of iOS 6 is due in the fall.
In addition to iOS 6 beta compatibility, the update addresses a problem where iTunes may become unresponsive when syncing an iPad (1st generation) that contains an iBooks textbook, along with fixing a bug where iTunes may unexpectedly delete apps or delete playlists on a device. The update also resolves an issue where photos synced to a device may appear in an unexpected order, and improves overall stability and performance.
The update to iTunes is available through Apple's support website as well as Software Update. The latest version is still compatible with PPC Macs (running OS X 10.5.8) as well as Intel Macs. Both Mac and 32/64-bit Windows versions of the update are available.
An earlier version of this story said that Ping had been removed from iTunes 10.6.3 based on reader reports. This version corrects the record based on our own testing. MacNN regrets the error.