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Mix: Legal downloads, Creativity contest, Family Guy

About 35% of music fans now download tracks legally from online stores such as iTunes, and the percentage will soon pass the 40% who have pirated music, according to a new survey by Entertainment Media Research.

The third Mike Industries iPod-A-Month Creativity Competition seeks entries (text, video, audio, a web site, or a GIF/JPEG image) that display “the most creative alternative use of an iPod.” The winner will receive an iPod shuffle. iLounge is also providing a pair of Etymotic ER-6i earbuds and an Apple sport case to the winner.

Stewie Griffin from the animated Fox series “The Family Guy” was featured in his own Apple inspired silhouette commercial this week.

Apple hit with lawsuit over iTunes interface

Contois Music Technology has filed a lawsuit against Apple over the user interface of iTunes, according to an AppleInsider report. Contois alleges that Apple violated a patent it holds, and seeks damages and the ability to stop Apple from distributing iTunes as the application looks and behaves now.

“The suit, filed on June 13th in Vermont District Court, alleges that Apple’s iTunes software design infringes on Contois’ six-year old design patent (US Patent No. 5,864,868) entitled ‘Computer Control System and User Interface for Media Playing Devices.’ Contois is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining Apple from further distributing its iTunes software in its current form. The company also asked the Court for an unspecified amount of monetary damages resulting from Apple’s ‘copying and willful infringement’ of its design patent as well as reimbursement of legal fees associated with the lawsuit.”

Targus announces new line of iPod gear

imageLaptop accessory maker Targus today announced an iPod accessory line featuing new cases, a wireless remote and a sound enhancing amplifier.

The Slide Case ($29.95) is a black leather case that consists of two parts—the iPod fits into the top piece, which slides into a second leather piece with a belt clip, allowing you to face your iPod in or out (to conceal it or for easy access to controls). It’s available in three sizes for the iPod mini and all versions of 3G, 4G and photo models.

The Flip Case ($29.95) is also a black leather case for the iPod mini and full-size Click Wheel iPods. It features a front that flips down for quick access to iPod controls and connectors. The Flip Case also includes a belt clip and an iPod screen protector.

Targus’ RemoteTunes ($49.99) wireless remote uses RF technology to allow iPod users “freedom to control their music at home, in the office or while on the go.” It offers a range of 150 feet and does not require line of sight to work. The remote also features a “power save” mode—when it doesn’t receive a signal for 20 minutes, it powers off (once the remote buttons are pressed it automatically powers back up). The package contains a remote, receiver, belt clip, stereo cable and tabletop stand. It is based upon ABT’s iJet (iLounge rating: A-).

The SoundUP ($39.99) high definition sound enhancer and amplifier “utilizes Phantom Technologies’ patented circuit and restores information lost when audio files are compressed—revealing instruments and voices that are trapped during compression and previously not heard.” Available in two sizes for the iPod and iPod mini, the device is also a headphone splitter and includes a remote pass-through allowing RemoteTunes or Apples’ wired remote to be used with it.

Sony BMG, EMI offer iPod-incompatible CDs

As part of “a growing skirmish between the record labels and digital music master Apple,” both Sony BMG and EMI are releasing more and more copy-protected CDs that can’t be transferred to an iPod.

“CDs with the protective technology prevent users from posting them on the Internet and allow users to burn only three copies onto other discs, which themselves can’t be copied again,” reports Variety. “Sony BMG is already selling about half its discs with the technology, while EMI releases its first this summer. But the technology also prevents consumers from transferring songs onto an iPod… because the technology uses Microsoft’s Windows Media software.”

Variety says that both labels hope to reach a deal with Apple that will allow iPod owners to legally rip and transfer music from the CDs to their iPod for listening on the go.

“By launching the copy-protected CDs without iPod compatibility, the labels are raising the stakes in an ongoing conflict between Apple and the rest of the music business, which wants the tech company to open its proprietary iPod and let others sell antipiracy-protected songs that work on the device,” the publication reports.

FastMac offers ‘longest lasting’ iPod Battery

FastMac has announced a new iPod battery upgrade that offers up to 70% more capacity than the original battery and up to 7.5 times as many charge cycles, according to the company. “This is accomplished through the use of patented nanoparticle technology code-named ‘TruePower,’ which significantly slows the degradation of the battery,” says FastMac.

The upgrade is available for 1G/2G iPods ($39.95) and 3G iPods ($29.95), and comes with a 2-year warranty. The company said necessary tools and installation instructions are included. FastMac also offers an iPod upgrade service for an additional $49.95, which includes prepaid shipping and professional installation.

Mix: Shuffle damage, CD Baby, Food and Wine, Paris, Office

Brand Republic asks if the iPod shuffle is damaging Apple’s iPod image.

LA Weekly has an interview with CD Baby founder Derek Sivers, who discusses online indie music distributing and Apple’s goal to “get every piece of music ever recorded available in the iTunes Music Store.

TechRestore offers lifetime iPod battery replacement

TechRestore has announced a $99.99 lifetime iPod battery replacement service. The iPod Battery Freedom service for all full-sized iPod models (1G/2G, 3G, 4G, photo and mini) includes installation of a replacement high capacity iPod battery “with at least 30% more capacity than the original iPod battery” and return overnight shipping for the first battery replacement.

A quick check of the program’s terms and conditions reveals that you are eligible to get a replacement battery only once every 18-months, and that (in addition to your costs of shipping your iPod to the company) you’ll have to pay a $12.99 return shipping charge each time a future battery is replaced.

‘BadApple’ brings podcast features to iTunes

BadApple is a free plug-in for the Windows version of iTunes that enables users to download and manage podcasts directly within the application.

“After downloading and installing BadApple, you will have a ‘Podcasts’ link you can click on from iTunes,” explains the developer. “You can use this to browse through categories to find the Podcast you want. Each podcast has a description. Once you locate a podcast you are interested in, double clicking on the podcast will load it to your library. When you plug in your iPod the podcast will be loaded to that depending on your settings.”

Griffin debuts iFill Internet Radio recorder

imageAs first reported by German web site iPodfun.de, Griffin Technology has used MacExpo in Germany to publicly debut iFill ($19.99), new software that records Internet Radio broadcasts to an iPod - a concept described by Griffin as timeshifting of Internet Radio. “iFill is the perfect way to fill your 60 GB iPod with an incredible array of of music from thousands of Internet Radio stations around the world,” explained Paul Griffin, President, Griffin Technology. “iPod users have needed a way to sample a wide variety of music and programming. iFill ‘fills’ this need and also makes it a snap to purchase the music they like.”

Under development for some time, iFill is capable of recording multiple radio stations at once, automatically splitting each broadcast into tagged MP3 or AAC format songs. As its name suggests, it will continue to record until your iPod is filled with as much new music as you desire. iFill includes an easy-to-use interface that is independent from iTunes, yet incorporates all of its key features - including one surprise.

Concerned about the potential for music piracy, Griffin has incorporated music industry-friendly safeguards. iFill will not operate without an iPod attached to your computer, and will save songs only to the iPod, not your computer. Additionally, after automatically identifying a song’s artist and title, iFill’s “Songs on iPod” list will include a direct iTunes Music Store link (“little round arrows in the list view”) so that you can easily purchase a full, clean version to replace the imperfect one recorded from radio.

Currently available as a one-week demo for Mac OSX 10.3 and 10.4 users only, iFill will be released for Macs in July. A version is also under development for Windows PCs, and is planned for release in August.

Independence Day DecoDock announced

imagePressure Drop has announced a limited edition DecoDock with red, white and blue LEDs to celebrate the 4th of July. The Independence Day DecoDock sells for $31.99 and will ship on June 24th in limited quantities.

The DecoDock (iLounge Rating: B) is a stylish dock designed in the classic Art Deco style for charging/syncing an iPod shuffle. It’s also offered in cobalt blue, obsidian black, silver, pink, green, and white.

Mix: MP3 market, Coldplay, Distractions, NYPL

The MP3 player market is set to double between 2005 and 2009, DisplaySearch analyst John Jacobs said yesterday. He expects the global MP3 player market to exceed 50 million units this year.

Coldplay’s new album, X&Y, topped the sales charts in the U.S. and also did well in digital format. Approximately 8% (about 62,000) of the nearly 740,000 copies sold in the first week were downloaded from online stores. “Most of those sales were at Apple’s market-dominating iTunes Music Store, which had been accepting orders for the album for a month,” reports the LA Times.

A British sociologist says that iPod owners “love being able to shut out the world’s distractions, hate their cellphones and would prefer not to talk to anyone.”

The New York Public Library has excluded iPod users from access to its new audio eBook collection because of its choice to use a Windows Media-based technology for the audio DRM.

Pacific Rim offers iLoungers June discounts

imagePacific Rim Technologies has kicked off a June sales promotion just for iLounge readers. The discounts will last until June 30, 2005.

You can get $5 off the company’s Cube Speakers (coupon code: IPODLOUNGE-CUBE), $10 off its Stereo Kit bundle (IPODLOUNGE-REMOTE), $2 off its aluminum hard case (IPODLOUNGE-4G), and $4 off its iShield 1 or iShield 2 (IPODLOUNGE-3G).

Queen Elizabeth gets ‘royal iPod’

imageBritain’s Queen Elizabeth II has joined the iPod generation. UK tabloid The Sun reported Friday that she is now the owner of a silver 6GB iPod mini, and that Prince Andrew, fourth in line to the throne, was behind the move.

“The Queen loves music and was impressed by how small and handy the iPod is,” a royal insider told the paper. “Obviously it is quite complicated to download songs, but I’m sure one of the courtiers will do it for her. Prince Andrew will probably also help out because he’s a real dab hand with gadgets.”

Cableyoyo controls cord clutter

imageThe Cableyoyo is a cord management product for devices such as the iPod. The product’s ultra-thin plastic case conceals up to 6-feet of coiled wire. It also comes with a small adhesive attachment that lets you mount the Cableyoyo to virtually any surface. The Cableyoyo, which is available in white, black and silver, began shipping earlier this month for $4.99.

“Our increasing dependence on digital products is creating a persistent and growing nuisance: a mounting pile of tangled cords,” says the company behind the product. “Even wireless products require electric chargers. The Cableyoyo brings order to that chaos, cleans up your desktop, stores your wires neatly, and makes travel with cables hassle-free.”

Mix: iTunes 4.9, Super Tangent, Odeo, Family, WWDC

Make magazine reports that podcast download logs are showing a new user agent for iTunes 4.9, hinting that Apple is actively testing the new version internally.

Kodawarisan has posted photos of its teardown of the Luxpro Super Tangent.

Screenshots of Odeo’s upcoming podcasting service have been posted on flickr.

Meanwhile, another flickr user has posted a rather strange photo of her “iPod Family”—a dad (1G) and mom (iPod mini) looking over their baby (iPod shuffle).

CNET News.com has posted the complete transcript from Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote speech at the Worldwide Developers Conference, which took place earlier this month in San Francisco.

Mac: Pod Genius 1.0 released

Prosoft Engineering has announced the release of Pod Genius ($59), new Mac OS X software that helps you maintain, manage, and optimize Your iPod, according to the developer.

“Pod Genius is the only comprehensive software utility geared specifically toward iPod users. Recover lost or damaged music, repair corrupted data structures, backup your iPod to an exact copy, permanently delete unwanted files, or optimize the file layout of your music. You’ve invested a lot into your iPod and music, with Pod Genius, you can be sure your iPod will faithfully perform and your investment is well-protected.”

Belkin acknowledges Power Pack defect, calls for returns [updated]

imageBelkin has confirmed to iLounge that a manufacturing defect affects a portion of its Power Pack units for the iPod shuffle. The company said that while the Power Pack is providing the appropriate voltage, a connected iPod shuffle may not charge with either the AC or DC adapters even after hours of charging.

“This defect was first reported to us and verified on June 14th as a result of a customer support call,” Brian VanHarlingen, Belkin’s Senior Technology Manager, told iLounge. “Upon identification of the potential issue, we immediately ceased all shipments of the product from our distribution centers.”

VanHarlingen said Belkin is currently looking into the cause of the defect and how the issue slipped through the cracks. “We are currently conducting detailed testing to determine the cause of the problem and the extent of the problem (what percentage of products, and which production lots, are affected). We are also determining how our usually very thorough manufacturing QA processes allowed them to be produced.”

VanHarlingen said that customers who purchased a Power Pack and are experiencing the charging issue should either return the product to where it was purchased, or contact Belkin directly at 800-2-BELKIN x2064 to arrange a return. “We will continue to offer updates as we determine the cause of this defect,” he said. “We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience that this causes for customers who have purchased the product.”

Update: As expected, VanHarlingen has provided iLounge with an update on the defect:

“We have confirmed that the affected Belkin Power Pack for iPod shuffle products properly charge the iPod shuffle as long as the iPod shuffle is turned on—in either the shuffle or play-in-order modes,” he said. “However, the iPod shuffle will not charge using the Power Pack if the iPod shuffle is turned completely off.”

“We are currently revising the design to ensure that the product will consistently charge the iPod shuffle in either circumstance. Once we have the revised product in stock, we will exchange units for customers experiencing this issue, and, as previously mentioned, we are honoring any requests for refunds.”

Speck debuts Portfolio Skin case

imageSpeck Products continues its onslaught of new iPod accessories with the Portfolio Skin, a new silicone case that opens up like a book and closes with a strap made out of the same material. The case, which offers all-around protection, is available in clear or pink and each comes with four different colored straps.

Speck says the Portfolio Skin will work with 20, 30, 40 and 60GB 4G iPod and iPod photo models. It will be available from the company’s online store early tomorrow morning for $34.95. Click below for our exclusive photos.

Apple pact with Wal-Mart ‘broader than some realize’

Morgan Stanley analyst Rebecca Runkle said today that Apple’s pact with Wal-Mart may be broader than some realize.

“While we don’t believe Apple iPod availability at Wal-Mart is completely new news, we do think the partnership is broader than people think, in transition and set to expand in the near-term,” Runkle said in a research note to clients.

Runkle said Apple and the retail giant have expanded their initial test rollout in the last few months. Confirming the report, iLounge readers in Florida, Indiana, Texas and elsewhere have noted in recent weeks that they’ve seen various iPod models at their local Wal-Mart stores. Select Wal-Mart locations are carrying the 20GB iPod, the iPod mini, and the iPod shuffle, along with HP-branded versions.

Runkle estimates that sales of iPods at Wal-Mart locations could boost sales by 100,000 units and add $20 million in revenue each quarter. “We view the growing Wal-Mart relationship as a positive—a way to expand the brand to the mainstream and additive to the bottom-line,” she said.

Apple to offer Sundance Channel podcasts

Apple and the Sundance Channel have signed a deal to make content from the cable network available exclusively as podcast downloads from the iTunes Music Store.

“The partnership with Sundance gives iTunes one of its first exclusive podcast partners and inches Apple’s iTunes operations—originally created as a music distribution hub—toward becoming a broader, radio-like media entity,” reports AdAge (free registration required).

One of the first podcasts from the Sundance Channel will be “The Al Franken Show,” which features the Air America talk show host.

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