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French lawmakers approve bill to open iPod, iTunes

French lawmakers have voted to approve the online music interoperability bill that would force Apple to open its copy-protection technology and break the exclusive tie between downloads from the iTunes Music Store and the iPod. As reported earlier today, “the draft law—which also introduces new penalties for music pirates—would force Apple Computer Inc., Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. to share proprietary anti-copy technologies so that rivals can offer compatible services and players.” The French Senate will give a final vote on the bill in coming weeks.

Analyst expects widescreen iPod; Current 60GB iPod ‘at risk’

Apple could be phasing out its current high-end iPod to make room for a new widescreen video iPod, according to American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu. In a research note to clients, Wu said that Apple has notified its product distributors that the 60GB iPod is “at risk” until the end of April, which means the device could be discontinued or replaced. The analyst said he believes that a new widescreen video iPod with Bluetooth headphones could be introduced during Apple’s third quarter — April, May or June.

French lawmakers set to vote on music interoperability bill

French lawmakers will vote today on a draft law that could force companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Sony to share their digital copy-protection technologies. The bill, which would break the exclusive iTunes-iPod link, requires companies to provide the inner-workings of their digital rights management (DRM) so that competitors can offer compatible products. After today’s vote, the bill is due to be sent to France’s Senate for its last full reading and vote.

Mix: Georgia College, Shareholders, Do Not Disturb, Inflation

Professors and students at Georgia College & State University have strongly embraced the iPod. “At least 100 of the rural school’s employees are turning iPods into education or research tools — impressive for a college with only about 300 faculty,” notes the AP.

Apple will hold its annual shareholders’ meeting on April 27 at the company’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters. Shareholders will be asked to re-elect Apple’s board of directors.

Belkin debuts TunePower for video iPod

Belkin today announced the TunePower for Apple’s fifth-generation (video) iPod. The add-on battery pack, which ships later this month for $80, provides up to 6 hours of extra video playtime. The TunePower comes with two sleeves to fit either the 30GB or 60GB iPod, features a protective case, and includes an AC adapter for simultaneous charging and playing.

Microsoft designing device to rival iPod, other portables

In an attempt to take on the iPod, PlayStation Portable and GameBoy, Microsoft is readying a new handheld device that will combine games, music and videos, according to a report by Dean Takahashi of The Mercury News. This story can be considered further confirmation of a January BusinessWeek article which said that the software giant is “mulling its own digital device that adds gaming to music and video, in an effort to compete with Apple’s iPod empire.” Microsoft has reportedly reorganized its home entertainment and Xbox groups to better plan the device.

Samsung forced to cut flash memory prices

Samsung has been forced to cut NAND flash memory pricing because of “weaker-than-expected” iPod sales and competition from SanDisk, according to a report. “With weaker-than-expected iPod nano sales this year, Samsung has been trying to maintain control over its inventory levels by dumping excess stock with memory module makers,” reports Digitimes. “Samsung is pushing its products hardest with companies that it has close ties with, but other firms are receiving attractive quotes from the memory maker as well.”

Report: Apple choosing manufacturers for ‘iPhone’

Apple is working on “an iPod with phone functions” and could use Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Hon Hai Precision to build the device, says Johnny Chan, a J.P. Morgan analyst based in Hong Kong. Barron’s Online reports [paid sub. req.]: “Apple still hasn’t decided whether to give the contract for what’s being referred to as an ‘iPhone’ to Hon Hai or to another manufacturer, says Ellen Tseng, a Morgan Stanley analyst in Taipei. One analyst in Taipei who declined to be identified said Taiwan Green Point Enterprises, which makes plastic cases for the iPod, is in talks with Apple for a role in the phone.”

Our new News Views, explained

Over the past several weeks, we’ve made a number of subtle but important changes to parts of the iLounge web site. You may have noticed one of them right here - our new News Views bar. Though it looks like the old bar, it now gives you three different ways to customize news on the iLounge home page to your liking, and saves your choice for later visits.

Jabra debuts wireless iPod transceiver, plans speakers (updated)

Updated: Prominent wireless headset maker Jabra has unveiled a new Bluetooth wireless transceiver for the iPod, capable of transmitting data (including iPod music) back and forth with devices such as wireless headphones. Named the Jabra A125s Bluetooth Adaptor for iPod (shown, left, and now in a Flash animation on the company’s web site), the device promises 10 hours of music playback time, but does not include a headset or other receiving device. Please note that this is a Jabra-developed and -sold accessory, not an Apple one.

Analyst: 75% chance of iPhone in next 12 months

Apple’s stock will benefit this year from new iPods, Intel-based Macs and the possibility of an Apple-branded cell phone, investment firm Piper Jaffray told clients this week. “We would be buyers of AAPL on the recent pullback given we believe iPod demand will accelerate in mid-CY06, based on upcoming positive seasonality and new form factor iPod’s,” Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a research note sent to iLounge. “Additionally, we believe Apple will benefit from the new Intel-based Mac’s, along with what we estimate to be a 75% chance of a iPhone in the next 12 months.”

Mix: DRM, French law, Gratis Internet, HD Radio

An report says that purchased music wrapped in digital rights management (DRM) technology drains your iPod battery faster than regular audio files.

While French lawmakers have discussed forcing companies such as Apple to open up their proprietary music formats, they have yet to offer an official proposal on the matter for voting.

Despite promises to never sell or transfer its huge list of contacts, Gratis Internet, best known for its “Free iPod” pyramid schemes, has sold 7.2 million Americans’ names, e-mail addresses, home phone numbers and street addresses to e-mail marketing giant Datran Media.

Mercury Radio Research has released the results of a survey of 1,000 people about HD Radio and the iPod: “Given the choice between the two technologies at the same price, better than 50% preferred HD over the iPod.”

ezGear debuts ezCharger, powerStick in black

ezGear has announced black versions of its ezCharge and powerStick iPod accessories. The powerStick ($33) is an auxiliary power source for use with all dockable iPods. It uses 4 AA batteries and can increase the use of your iPod 3 to 4 times the regular battery life. The ezCharge ($25) is an iPod car charger that’s compatible with all iPods with dock connectors. It includes a fuse protected circuit, a coiled cable, an LED indicator light.

Apple posts new, non-silhouette iPod + iTunes ad

Breaking with its well-known series of “silhouette” ads, Apple Computer this evening introduced a new 1,000 Songs television commercial, depicting the piece-by-piece construction of a city from album cover building blocks. The blocks then transform into a tornado that funnels into the top of an iPod nano, followed by the tagline, “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Already spotted by readers on television, Apple’s new ad can be seen online at this link; high-definition (720p/1080p) and iPod versions are also available.

Incase offers collegiate cases for iPod nano

Incase Designs has announced its officially-licensed Collegiate Wallet collection for the iPod nano. The leather cases feature the logo and mascot of one of six top universities, including Duke, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, Miami, and Washington. They feature a clear screen protector, access to all controls, an interior slot for ID or credit card, suede lining, and come with a matching logo keychain. They retail for $25 and are available in Apple retail and online stores as well as select college campuses.

Limited edition TinPod cases debut

TinPod has announced three new tin iPod cases with artistic designs, hinged lids and padded neoprene lining. The TinPod cases, priced at $17 each, are limited editions, featuring three original illustrations. They work with 3G, 4G and 5G iPods. “When we designed the TinPod, we wanted to add something special,” says the company. “So we asked renowned illustrator Kurt Ketchum to help out. The three designs called Die Blechdose, L’Orange Lune and Change Attitude draw on the realms of music and travel.”

Mix: Jack Black, San Jose State, Griffin PSP gear, Guba

“Nacho Libre” star Jack Black will release several “confessionals” about the making of the movie in a series of video podcasts available from iTunes. A new podcast will be available every Tuesday and Thursday for 10 weeks.

San Jose State University is the latest school to join Apple’s iTunes U program, which provides server space and tools for distributing class-related audio and video.

Long-time iPod accessory maker Griffin Technology has introduced three new products for the Sony PSP—the iTrip PSP, iFM PSP and SmartShare PSP.

Guba has added a new feature to its Usenet video search that allows iTunes users to quickly subscribe to podcast feeds with keywords matching their particular interests.

Report: iTunes is most-used media player

iTunes is steadily becoming the most used desktop media player application. According to recent data from Nielsen//NetRatings, unique users of iTunes passed Apple’s QuickTime player in mid-2005, and at current growth rates iTunes should pass RealNetwork’s RealPlayer by mid-2006. While Microsoft’s Windows Media Player still has more unique users—80 million, compared to 30 million—iTunes is used over twice as long as either RealPlayer or Windows Media Player. The report says that RealPlayer, iTunes’ nearest rival, is used for 46.4 minutes per person on average, while iTunes is used for 111 minutes on average.

Vaja unveils new 5G iPod cases

Vaja has introduced two new cases—the iVod Video Crystal and the iVod Video SP—for Apple’s fifth-generation iPod.

imageThe iVod Video Crystal is a Swarovski crystal-encrusted case that’s available in 10 different color combinations. The luxury case features a leather strap with silver appliques, padded interior, screen protector, and access to all controls and ports. iVod Video Crystal sells for $340.

iLounge EIC Horwitz on WNYC radio today, 2:45PM ET

iLounge’s Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Horwitz will appear today on New York City’s WNYC (93.9FM) radio program Soundcheck to discuss iLounge and the iPod accessories market. The audio segment - our first since pausing production of the iLounge Week-in-Review Podcast - will air at approximately 2:45PM Eastern/11:45AM Pacific.

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