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Mix: iPod shuffle praise, MPMan, Russian MP3 sites

Ron Harris of the Associated Press says that the iPod shuffle “proves that fewer bells and whistles can be just as good as more” and that the player’s ease of use is “unrivaled.”

MP3.com’s Eliot Van Buskirk notes that the first MP3 player was not Diamond’s Rio PMP300 as many think—it was Saehan’s MPMan, sold in Asia and the US a few months before the Rio in 1998.

Peter Lewis of Fortune says the iPod shuffle is “bound to be a hit.” He says “It’s simple, useful, loads of fun, and inexpensive enough to entice newbies to give digital music a try.”

The Wall Street Journal looks at Russian Web sites—such as AllofMP3.com, MP3search.ru and 3MP3.ru—which tout legal music downloads for as little as a nickel apiece.

Apple seeking two iPod interns

Apple is looking for two interns for its iPod software team, according to new postings on the company’s jobs site. “The iPod SW Platform team is seeking an enthusiastic intern. This position requires a self-motivated, flexible individual with strong technical and communication skills who can contribute in a team environment.” Apple said duties may include: development of testing tools and automated testing solutions; prototyping new features and capabilities; bug isolation and reporting; and writing and managing test cases.

iPod turning Japanese, inspiring knock-off tissue ads

piciLounge friend and reader Paul Nordstrom August writes from Tokyo, Japan’s Ginza district with this report on the increased Japanese cultural interest in the iPod: “I went by the Apple Store and at 8:00 or 9:00 pm on a Saturday it was packed out. The main floor is about 60 percent iPod. They had one Mac mini on a central stand - it looks fabulous with a 20-inch screen. No iPod shuffles on display, but each staff member had one around their neck… Anyway you may know they hand out tissue packs as adverts in Japan, and I was extremely amused to find this being handed out in Sapporo last week - fantastic!”

Click “Read more” for the full-sized image, which we’ve digitally blurred to obscure the advertised (adult) web site.

BudFrog keeps your iPod earbuds in check

pic Hook Industries has announced the BudFrog, a new iPod accessory that aims to stop earbud cord tangles. The $6.95 product allows you to easily adjust the length of your cords to whatever length you want, keeping excess cord out of your way when you’re on the go. The BudFrog mounts directly to any Apple-produced iPod clip, and also allows you to listen to your music without wearing your earbuds—“kinda like a mini boom box,” according to Hook. The BudFrog comes in several colors to match all iPod and iPod mini models.

NY-based Rip2Pod CD-loading service launches

Rip2Pod is the latest company to offer a CD-loading service for iPods. “We are located in New York City in the West Village and are dedicated to making your lives easier. For just $1 a CD, weeks and months of frustration will be avoided. We provide ripping services for any entity that legally owns their own music media such as DJs, art galleries, restaurants, or individuals. We have pick-up and delivery service available to all residents of the New York City metropolitan area. We offer a wide range of encoding formats and bitrates. All files are tagged with Song Title, Artist, Album, Genre, and Album Artwork. Multiple options exist for transferring the files back to you including DVD’s, ‘Plug and Play’ external drives, or simply your iPod.”

$40 off in-ear earphones

Microphonesolutions.com is offering iLounge readers an exclusive discount for all in-ear earphones with the exception of the following: Etymotic ER6, Etymotic 6i and Shure E2c. Enter coupon code IPODLOUNGE40OFF at check out. This coupon cannot be combined with free shipping. A 30 day money back gaurantee with full manufacturer’s warranty apply. Authorized dealer for all brands. Coupon can be discontinued after 15 days.

iTunes Music Store tops 250 million songs sold

Apple today announced that more than 250 million songs have been purchased and downloaded from the iTunes Music Store since it launched. The company said that iTunes users are now downloading 1.25 million songs per day—an annual run rate of nearly 500 million songs per year.

“When we launched the iTunes Music Store we were hoping to sell a million songs in the first six months—now we’re selling over a million songs every day, and we’ve sold over a quarter billion songs in total,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “iTunes is leading the way into the digital music era and together with iPod is changing the way millions of music lovers find and enjoy their music.”

Mix: iDog, iPod mishaps, shuffle songs, Podcast shootout

Sega’s iDog is an iPod-inspired pet robot. “Seven LEDs on the face express emotion, while an audio jack under the right hind leg let’s you plug in your iPod (or other audio player) to broadcast through iDog’s speaker.”

The New York Times published three iPod stories this weekend. They include articles on iPod-related mishaps; high school students getting their iPods stolen; and the booming iPod-loading industry.

Steven Levy of Newsweek has written an article on the iPod’s shuffle songs feature, asking if the process is truly random.

The PDA Guy has a roundup of the top four Podcasting clients for the Mac: iPodder, iPodderX, PoddumFeeder and PlayPod. “iPodder is my preferred option, followed by PlayPod.”

New iDockCovers, MockDock announced

pic Westshore Craftworks has announced a number of new products for Apple’s iPod Dock. The company said it now has a selection of iDockCovers to fit both sizes of the iPod photo, and is now offering three new electric guitar-shaped iDockCovers available in all sizes. The hardwood iDockCovers slip over the iPod Dock, adding color and style. Westshore also introduced MockDock, a $2.95 wood insert for those who want to use iDockCovers but do not have an Apple iPod Dock. The iDockCovers start at $14.95.

Mac mini launches, but iPod shuffle draws crowd

picThough the line ran more than a hundred people deep by the early, 9:00am opening of Apple’s flagship Orange County store in Costa Mesa, California, the crowd wasn’t there for today’s release of Apple’s Mac mini personal computer - two-thirds of those we spoke with said that they were waiting only for Apple’s new iPod shuffle. The cheapest iPod has been in exceedingly short supply since its January 11th launch, with reports that hundreds of units have sold out within hours from virtually every store that has stocked them.

picSeveral minutes before the store opened, an Apple Store employee (the “sacrificial lamb”) delivered disappointing news to the gathered crowd: the store had only a small but unspecified number of shuffle units, and each customer would be limited to only one. The store would take the phone numbers of all remaining customers and give them priority on an impending shipment expected within the next day. No such limitation was placed on the purchase of Mac mini computers, which at $499 and up are expected to infuse significant new life into the Macintosh computer user base.

Customers began to line up at 5:00am to enter the Apple Store, but surprisingly, the first five people in line were not all there to purchase the Mac mini on its release date - several wanted shuffles only. Most of the crowd appeared an hour before the store opened, and after Apple announced the limitation on shuffle sales, many believed that they would not be able to walk away with units today, but remained in line regardless. Demand was split evenly between those wanting 512MB ($99) models and those wanting 1GB ($149) shuffles. However, one student and dedicated Mac fan near the front of the line described the Mac mini as “cute,” and expressed interest in the new machine.

No Apple discounts or promotional offers were available at the launch event. But the South Coast Plaza shopping mall offered free gift bags to the first 50 people in line, containing luggage tags and fabric arm bags branded with the mall’s logo.

Sony exec admits strategic music mistakes

The head of Sony’s video game unit said this week that his company missed out on potential sales from its line of digital audio players because it was overly protective of Sony’s music content. “Ken Kutaragi, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, said he and other Sony employees have been frustrated for years with management’s reluctance to introduce products like Apple’s iPod, mainly because the Tokyo company had music and movie units that were worried about content rights. Now, Sony’s divisions are finally beginning to work together and share a common agenda, Kutaragi said at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo.”

Mix: Baig, Wired, Coursey, Lost iPods

Praising the iPod shuffle’s “breakthrough price” and “excellent battery life,” USA Today tech columnist Edward C. Baig gives the device three and a half stars out of four.

The February 2005 issue of Wired magazine’s “Wired, Tired, Expired” lists the mythical iPhone as “Wired,” the iPod as “Tired,” and the iBook as “Expired.” Strangely, Wired’s January 2004 issue also listed the iPod as “Tired.”

eWeek’s David Coursey gives the iPod shuffle a C- grade, saying that Apple is “trying to make a virtue out of the fact that the device lacks a screen by making it sound like random playback is an advantage.”

LostiPods.com is giving away an iPod mini to the 500th member to register their iPod in the site’s iPod tracking service. The site will also give an iPod mini away for each 100th member after the 500th milestone.

iPod part makers follow Apple to the bank

PortalPlayer, whose chip powers hard drive-based iPods, reported record revenue on Thursday thanks to strong sales of Apple’s music player. PortalPlayer said it had revenue of $44.7 million for its fourth quarter, up from last year’s revenue of $8.1 million—a 75 percent increase. The company posted a profit of $10.5 million, or 50 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $759,000 in the fourth quarter of 2003.

Synaptics, maker of the touchpad technology used in the Click Wheel of Apple’s iPod, said Thursday that second quarter profit jumped 178 percent due to increased demand for the iPod during the holidays. The company reported income of $9.7 million, or 33 cents a share, up from $3.5 million, or 13 cents, a year earlier. Synaptics said revenue rose 65 percent to $56.5 million from $34.3 million.

HotRomz offers ‘outrageous’ tactile iPod socks

pic HotRomz has announced the release of a new collection of original hand-made iPod socks. Available in a variety of colors and tactile textures, these new protectors fit all 3G and 4G iPods and are priced at $24.95. The socks are made from hand washable poly fiber and (certain styles) mohair. “You pride yourself on your unique style, now you can cradle your iPod in a high-quality hand-made sock found no where else. These aren’t your grandma’s socks! Your iPod slips right in to the Sock and is surrounded in softness. Downright artsy and yet thick enough to protect your iPod from scratches and turn more than a few heads.”

iPod shuffle compatibility, other issues detailed

While Apple’s iPod shuffle is a relatively simple device with few opportunities for problems to occur, a few issues have popped up with the low-cost music player.

Some eMac and iMac G3 users have reported prolems in connecting the iPod shuffle to their computer. Because of the device’s width, the iPod shuffle cannot be connected to the USB port on the side of these systems. eMac and iMac G3 owners can connect the device to their Apple keyboard if they are running Mac OS X 10.3.6 or later, however, the iPod shuffle will not charge from the keyboard—only sync. Apple recommends that users purchase the iPod shuffle Dock or a USB extension cable if they want to be able to charge the device with the all-in-one Macs.

Apple said this issue could occur with “any computer, display, or USB hub with recessed or closely spaced USB ports,” including Apple’s 17-inch Studio Display 17 (ADC), certain Xserve configurations, and possibly a variety of PCs.

Apple has also detailed an issue in which the iPod shuffle may not play AAC music files that were not originally encoded with iTunes. “If you try to play a song on iPod shuffle that was encoded in AAC format (.M4A) by an application other than iTunes, iPod shuffle may not play it and skip to the next song,” Apple says. “To prevent this from happening, always use iTunes to encode songs to AAC for iPod shuffle play.” Songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store are not affected.

Meanwhile, MacFixIt reports that some readers have reported problems with loose buttons, overly sensitive buttons, and issues with synchronizing the iPod shuffle with multiple computers.

And according to iLoungers in our forum, the iPod shuffle’s lack of an internal clock—the first iPod to not have one—means that “last played” counts are not being updated when users sync the device back with iTunes.

Hebe Styling announces iDrive auto iPod solution

pic UK-based Hebe Styling has announced the release of the iDrive, a new in-car stereo solution for the iPod and iPod mini. The cradle-based system acts as a direct link between an iPod and your car’s sound system and also charges your player at the same time. The iDrive uses an FM modulator that is fitted directly onto the back of your head unit “without compromising the quality of radio-signal reception,” according to Hebe. This direct connection means “no loss of sound quality and no stray transmissions that could be picked up by other aerials.” The iDrive cradles are trimmed with blue neon and come with inserts that allow you to use either the standard iPod (all generations) or iPod mini. The iDrive is priced at £95.

Creative says it will benefit from iPod shuffle buzz

Creative Technology today reported that it sold two million digital music players in its second quarter of fiscal year 2005, ended December 31, 2004. The company said sales were up 50 percent to $375.1 million, and that it has sold over five million players to date. In comparison, Apple sold over 4.5 million iPods during the same holiday quarter, and has sold more than 10 million to date.

Following recent criticism of Apple’s iPod shuffle, Creative CEO Sim Wong Hoo said in a financial statement that his company will benefit from the new low-cost Apple player. “I believe we are extremely well positioned against the flash products and pricing that were recently announced by Apple, as we have superior features and broad product lines that span the entire category,” Wong Hoo said. “I also believe that Apple’s entry into the flash market will create more awareness in the flash market segment, and we are well positioned to become a big beneficiary of this expanding market.”

Mac: iPod Access 3.2 released

iPod Access 3.2 from Findley Designs is the latest version of the utility that enables you to copy songs from your iPod back to your Mac. Version 3.2 adds Playlist cloning for PC formatted iPods, fixes Playlist display issues, adds Hotkey and arrow support for Artist selection, and offers an improved backup procedure.

Apple shipping 1GB iPod shuffles

Following fairly widespread availability of 512MB models, several iLoungers report that Apple is now shipping 1GB iPod shuffle orders from its online store. However, we have yet to hear about 1GB models making their way into stores. With these shipping notices, there is a good chance you will soon be able to find the larger capacity iPod shuffle model at Apple Stores across the United States.

DLO responds to iBoom issues [updated]

Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO) has responded to reports of a power charging-related problem in the company’s iBoom that can cause damage to both iPods and the accessory if battery power and AC power are used at the same time.

“We had an isolated production run of iBooms that may present problems with the AC power while the batteries are in place,” DLO president and CEO Jeff Grady told iLounge. “If a customer has any problems with their iBoom related to AC power usage while the batteries are in place that results in damage to the iBoom, we will replace the iBoom at no charge. The customer simply needs to contact our customer service department should they have any problems.”

Update: DLO has told iLounge the following: “The reported problem with the isolated production run of iBooms will in no way damage the iPod. We have investigated this issue thoroughly and have not had any reports that any iPods themselves have been damaged through use with the iBoom.”

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