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Speck ships SkinTight protector for iPod shuffle

pic Speck Products is now shipping its SkinTight iPod shuffle skin. Made of form-fitting Kraton polymer, the case “provides protection without adding bulk,” and features a two-piece design for easier synching/charging. The SkinTight is available immediately in clear, black and pink for $19.95. Speck said that red, blue, and green would ship on March 30.

Motorola iTunes phone to be announced this week?

Motorola is expected to announce its first handset with iTunes integration on Thursday, March 10, according to a Newsweek article. While not noted by the publication, CeBIT 2005, an electronics event considered to be the largest in the world, will kick off in Hannover, Germany, on Thursday. Previous reports have said the flagship iTunes phone will be called “ROKR.”

“The music phones to be launched this month will allow customers to play their existing iTunes songs, and presumably buy new ones, on their Motorola phones,” writes Newsweek’s Brad Stone. “The problem for Motorola and Apple is that wireless operators like Sprint are interested in setting up those stores themselves.” Motorola CEO Ed Zander argues that consumers will “demand brands like iTunes but concedes that the carriers will ultimately get the first shot at selling songs on phones.”

First stand-alone iPod store now open

picA stand-alone iPod store has opened up in San Luis Obispo, California. Shane Williams, owner of the iPod Shop, said it’s the first such store in the country. “We were originally selling the iPods out of our Mac store [the Mac Superstore in San Luis Obispo], and when they became all the rage, we found that we didn’t have enough room for them and all of their accessories,” Williams said. The iPod Shop, which averages about $4,000 per day in revenue, offers 14 iPod models, more than 100 accessories, and “a comfortable chair in the middle of the room to listening stations along the walls.”

Apple faces patent lawsuits over iTunes, iPod

Apple has recently been confronted by two companies that say Apple is infringing on their patents with its popular iTunes and iPod products.

A Hong Kong-based company called Pat-rights claims its holds a patent on the digital rights management (DRM) process that Apple uses in the iTunes Music Store and iPod. The company is demanding 12 percent of Apple’s gross revenue from iTunes and iPods. Pat-rights said it will file a lawsuit on March 21 if the company and Apple do not reach an agreement before then.

Meanwhile, Illinois-based Advanced Audio Devices, has reportedly sued Apple, claiming that the company’s iPod violates one of its patents. A Chicago Tribune article is scant on details, but the paper does say that Advanced Audio told Apple in December that the iPod infringed on its “Music Jukebox” patent. Apple “ignored [Advanced Audio’s] attempt to seek a business resolution,” the federal suit said.

iSkin shows off iPod shuffle, 4G iPod case concepts

pic iSkin has provided iLounge with a first look at two upcoming cases for the iPod shuffle and fourth-generation iPod. The iPod shuffle skin will totally enclose the device in silicone, and will feature a covering for the controls in a complimentary color, and a hole for a lanyard or keyring. The new iSkin Duo case for 4G iPods is made of colored silicone and silver metal, and features an integrated metal plate in the rear that includes a new high performance belt clip. iSkin said the finished products may vary from the illustrations.

Click “Read more” for full-size pictures of the new cases.

Study: Average iPod owner spends $150 on accessories

A recent consumer survey found that the average iPod owner in the U.S. spends about $150 on accessories—on average half of the value of the device. The study by market research firm Envisioneering Group averaged the price of an iPod at $300 and was taken before the introduction of the iPod shuffle.

“This is an amazing uptick in iPod accessory sales and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down,” Richard Doherty, research director at the Envisioneering Group, told the Mac Observer. “The iPod is a different phenomenon among electronic products. Music is a reflection of our soul and the iPod is becoming an emotional extension of people.”

Doherty said iPod accessory sales could go higher than $150 per device sometime in 2005. “I don’t think you’ll see the average hit 200% of each average iPod sold of $300, but it will creep up a little,” he said. “Demand will stay strong, for sure.”

STM Mini Cocoon now available in U.S.

pic RadTech today announced that it will be selling the STM Mini Cocoon for the iPod mini in the U.S. The case consists of two pieces—a semi-rigid outer clamshell and a silicone skin that allows access to all controls and ports. The silicone skin can be used for added protection while inside the main case, or used separately apart from the case. The STM Cocoon ($39.95), which received an iLounge “Highly Recommended” rating, also features a belt clip, neck lanyard, and a storage pocket for items such as earbuds and cables.

 Read the STM Mini Cocoon review

Mix: Drexel, Emotional attachment, Godcasting, iTunes flirting

Following in Duke University’s footsteps, Pennsylvania’s Drexel University School of Education will distribute free iPods to incoming students next fall.

The “iPod economy” is unusual because of the “emotional attachment” people feel toward their iPods, says Richard Doherty, research director at the Envisioneering Group, a market research firm in Seaford, NY.

Godcasting” is a new form of podcasting, in which preachers convert their sermons to audio to be heard on portable digital audio players such as the iPod.

Blogger Alexander Payne recounts how he chatted with a girl at a coffee shop with nothing more than their iTunes Library titles via the application’s music sharing feature.

Mac: Synergy 1.7 released

Synergy 1.7 from Wincent Software is the latest version of the popular iTunes add-on that puts buttons to control the application in your Mac OS X menu bar. This update provides Growl support, the ability to autolaunch scripts on track/status changes, internal enhancements, and 32 more free Button Sets. Synergy costs $10.

UK filesharers pay thousands of pounds in fines

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) said Friday that it has successfully obtained compensation from UK residents who illegally distributed music via peer-to-peer networks. The average settlement was more than £2,000. The 23 illegal filesharers (named on the BPI site) that have settled range in age from 22 to 58 and include people from every walk of life—from a student to the director of an IT company to a local councilor. The number of files they were distributing over the internet ranged from hundreds to many thousands. The BPI said it will soon bring 31 new cases against UK filesharers.

Star Wars: Episode III iPod cover announced

pic, an official Lucasfilm store, is now offering a Star Wars iPod cover featuring an image of Darth Vader from the upcoming Episode III installment. Developed by MacSkinz exclusively for, the hard shell cover is made of scratch and chemical resistant plastic with the image embedded in the material. “The iPod cover adds an extra level of protection and uniqueness to your iPod. It includes a front and back matching set, and is as thick as a credit card and form fits your iPod,” according to the store. The Star Wars iPod cover will be available in two sizes for the 20GB and 40GB fourth-generation iPod, and is scheduled to ship next month for $29.99.

Mix: Hand charger, giant mini, shuffle how-to, Snocap, 1950s iPod

Make magazine’s Phillip Torrone has built a clever iPod shuffle hand charger.

Anders Hansen has created a giant iPod mini out of Motorola RAZR V3 packaging. “I don’t think this is what Motorola had in mind for an iTunes phone,” says Gizmodo.

Hackaday features detailed “non-violent” disassembly instructions for Apple’s iPod shuffle.

Snocap, the new company headed by Napster founder Shawn Fanning, has struck a deal with Sony-BMG Music to help distribute the record label’s music through file-swapping networks.

Worth 1000 has a Photoshopped 1950s ad for a $49.95 Apple iPod that offers “20 minutes of music anywhere.”

Mac: PlayPod 1.0b podcast client released

IGG Software today released the first public beta of PlayPod 1.0, a new RSS podcast client and news aggregator. The application features an integrated podcast directory, iTunes and .Mac support, feed groups, podcast previewing, and scheduled downloads. PlayPod is priced at $16.99.

NY Library uses iPod shuffles for audio books

Wired’s Cyrus Farivar has written an article about a New York library that is loaning out iPod shuffles loaded with audio books. “Checking out a new iPod now applies to more than shopping trips or web browsing,” writes Farivar. “This week the South Huntington Public Library on Long Island, New York, became one of the first public libraries in the country to loan out iPod shuffles. For the past three weeks, the library ran a pilot program using the portable MP3 devices to store audio books downloaded from the Apple iTunes Music Store. They started with six shuffles, and now are up to a total of 10. Each device holds a single audio book.”

Pull-i felt sleeves for all iPods available

pic Pull-i is a new a line of protective sleeves for all iPods—including first, second, third and fourth generation models, the iPod mini, and iPod shuffle. Made of high-quality cotton felt, the Pull-i sleeves are available in seven colors—black, brown, grey, red, pink, blue and green—and sell for €12.50 (Euro). “All Pull-i jackets fit perfectly well, due to their slim-fit design, which also protects against scratching, slipping and light bumps,” said versandwerk, the company behind the new product. A selection of special edition sleeves for €15 are also available.

New PortalPlayer chips cut power and size; future iPods to benefit?

PortalPlayer, which makes the chips that power all current hard drive-based iPods, today disclosed details of its next-generation PP5022 chip for portable digital media players. The PP5022 improves upon the current PP5020 chip, offering “up to triple the battery life” thanks to better power consumption. It should be noted, however, that many factors such as LCDs, hard disks, and other integrated components will have a significant impact on battery life. Currently, the 4G iPod offers 12 hours of playback time; the iPod photo 15-17 hours; and the iPod mini 18-26 hours. The PP5022 also builds on the multimedia capabilities of the 5020, with support for video playback and, like the iPod photo’s TV slideshow features, dual-screened control of video: a menu could be on the portable screen while video clips play on your TV.

In a related announcement, PortalPlayer introduced the PP5024 chip, a more limited processor intended for high-capacity flash memory-based music players. In future generations of the iPod shuffle, the PP5024 could eventually replace the SigmaTel processor Apple currently uses. There is currently no clear reason to make such a switch, however.

Mac: AccessTunes 1.0 released

AccessTunes from Bains Software is a new Mac OS X program that provides always-on music sharing via iTunes and the Web. “AccessTunes starts sharing your iTunes Music Library as soon as you turn on your computer, making it available as a shared iTunes library on the local network, and accessible from anywhere in the world via the Web,” explains the developer. “With accessTunes, you can listen to your roommate’s music even if he doesn’t have iTunes open, or listen to music from your home computer at work, even if you’re on a PC.” AccessTunes is $15 shareware, allows you to share your entire iTunes Music Library or certain playlists, and supports password protection.

High-capacity replacement battery for 4G iPods debuts

NewerTech and Other World Computing today introduced a new high-capacity replacement battery for all fourth-generation iPods. The $25.99 NewerTech NuPower 4G 750mAh battery “offers the maximum capacity possible with 20 percent more capacity than the factory-installed battery shipped with 4G iPod models,” according to the companies. Non-scratch installation tools and instructions are included with the battery.

Also available are NewerTech’s 2100mAh and 1800mAh iPod batteries, which offer up to 70 percent more capacity for first and second-generation models, and the 850mAh iPod battery, which offers 30 percent more capacity for third-generation models.

iTunes song download rate holds steady after holidays

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says Apple’s announcement today that it has sold more than 300 million tracks from the iTunes Music Store means that the daily average of downloads has held steady following a holiday uptick. In a research note to clients, Munster said the average per day since January is approximately 1.35 million downloads, in-line with the 1.43 million average after the holidays. “We had been anticipating a more significant drop off in iTunes sales from the levels seen in the weeks following the holidays,” he said, noting that iTunes sales have exceeded his estimate for the March quarter.

Mix: iPod hack, Mac mini, TiVo, iRiver

“Computer enthusiasts have worked out how to reprogram Apple’s iPod music player with their own code using an ingenious acoustic trick,” reports New Scientist.

The Register speculates that Apple’s Mac mini was originally intended to feature an integrated iPod Dock.

Forrester Research analysts Josh Bernoff and Chris Charron suggest to Apple CEO Steve Jobs that he should buy TiVo.

South Korea’s Reigncom, maker of the iRiver line of MP3 players, took out ads in local newspapers yesterday, saying it’s the patriotic duty of citizens to buy Korean-made players.

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