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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.

BTI now shipping Tunestir II, video iPod battery

Battery Technology, Inc. (BTI) has announced the availability of its Tunestir II and new Video iPod Battery. Both products are now in stores and shipping to customers.

imageThe Tunestir II combines an FM radio transmitter, an FM radio receiver and an inline remote control with cord management. “The Tunestir II not only allows users to program into memory up to 15 FM stations that they can transmit their iPod tunes to, but it also allows users to program into memory their 15 favorite FM stations that they want to listen to directly,” says BTI. The Tunestir II works with all dockable iPods.

Mix: Most-admired, AOL video, Flux, Murdoch

Fortune has named Apple to its list of the world’s top 10 most-admired companies. “Globally, innovation proved the key to success, with Apple’s iPod revenue launching the computer company straight into ninth place,

Tunewear debuts Sienna leather iPod cases

imageTunewear has announced its new Sienna series of nappa leather cases for the fifth-generation iPod and iPod nano. The Sienna series includes new caramel color versions of the Prie Ambassador ($40/$50), Prie Tunewallet ($30/$40) and Prie Tunetag ($25) cases. All models in the Sienna range include Tunefilm, a clear protective film that covers the front and back of the iPod for extra protection. All of the cases will begin shipping in April.

NCAA basketball tournament coming to iTunes; Season Pass offered

Apple and CBS Sports have announced that the 2006 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship will be available from the iTunes Music Store. Condensed versions of the tournament games will be available for $1.99 per game or $19.99 for all 63 games using Apple’s new “Season Pass” feature on iTunes. Full-length versions of this year’s semifinals and championship game, as well as “compilations of buzzer beaters, upsets and memorable championship games from past NCAA Tournaments” will also be available on iTunes.

The new Season Pass option, which is very similar to the recently introduced Multi-Pass feature, allows iTunes customers to automatically receive the game videos as they become available for a much lower price than buying each game separately. “The new Season Pass feature on iTunes is the easiest way to purchase the entire 2006 NCAA Tournament,” says Apple. “Every game will automatically be placed in a customer’s download queue the day after it airs on CBS. Customers will be notified about new game highlights as they become available via email, and can be downloaded once they log into iTunes.”

NIH: More research needed for iPod hearing risk

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) said that further research is needed to determine whether portable music players and earbud headphones increase the risk of hearing loss. NIH commented on the issue in response to a lawmaker’s request for a review of hearing problems associated with iPod earbud usage.

Reuters reports: “Earbud headphones, like the ones typically used with iPods, project sound directly into the ear canal, while traditional earmuff-style headphones allow the sound to diffuse, the NIH said in a February 14 letter made available on Tuesday. The proximity of the source of the sound to the ears can contribute to hearing loss, but ‘more research is required to determine if a particular type (of earphone) increases the risk,’ said James Battey, director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.”

Miniot intros wooden case for 5G iPods

imageMiniot has announced the release of the iWood 5G, a new version of its hand-crafted wood case for fifth-generation iPods. Available in varieties such as maple, walnut, mahogany, cherry and oak, the case is carved from a single piece of wood and features a hinging lid. It can be ordered with a monogram initial on the outside and a two-line message inside. The iWood 5G is available in two sizes to fit the 30GB iPod (€85) and the 60GB iPod (€95).

Apple offers first full-length movie on iTunes (updated, price raised)

Apple is now selling what appears to be the first full-length movie on the iTunes Music Store. The movie, however, is not from a major Hollywood studio — “High School Musical” is a made-for-TV Disney Channel original movie. It’s one hour and 40 minutes in length and weighs in at 487MB in file size. Like most videos on iTunes, the movie sells for $1.99.

Update: Following its $1.99 debut on the iTunes Music Store, High School Musical has been repriced at $9.99, and apparently can no longer be found via the Search feature on the Store. This link continues to work.

PodFunk offers silicone cases for 5G iPod, nano

imagePodFunk has introduced new iPod nano and fifth-generation iPod silicone cases. The company’s nano cases include the Wink series original (white), the Wink Chocolat (brown) and the Wink Noche (black). They all have a fully covered and operable eye-shaped click wheel cover that’s available in six different colors per series. The cases also have a screen protector and flip-open dock connector covers. PodFunk’s Zen case for the 5G iPod is available in black, blue, red and green. It features a fully covered play-through click wheel cover, a screen protector and access to all ports and controls.

Mix: Jobs salary, Proporta, iTunes flaw, Pacific Rim

Apple CEO Steve Jobs once again received a $1 salary in 2005. However, Jobs’ 10 million restricted shares of Apple stock, awarded in March 2003, will be fully vested this month.

Proporta has announced that they are giving away a free pink silicone case with the purchase of any 30GB fifth-generation iPod case from the company.

Apple has confirmed a security vulnerability affecting iTunes and QuickTime that could lead to code being run on the system. Both the Mac OS X and Windows versions of QuickTime Player 7.0.3 and 7.0.4 and iTunes 6.0.1 and 6.0.2 are affected.

In celebration of its new v3.0 site launch, Pacific Rim Technologies is running a 7-day promotion with “deeply discounted” iPod accessories every day until March 19th.

Wi-Gear debuts upgraded iMuffs Bluetooth headphones

imageWi-Gear has announced the iMuffs MB210, a new version of its wireless Bluetooth headphones for the iPod. The upgraded iMuffs add support for the fifth-generation iPod and iPod nano, new echo and noise canceling software for the microphone, improved range and signal reliability, and are offered in a choice of white or black. The $180 headphones and wireless iPod adapter allows users to listen to their iPod wirelessly from up to 30’ away. The behind-the-neck headphones feature controls for play/pause, volume, and next/previous track, and also offer mobile phone integration.

French law could force Apple to open up iTunes

France is set to vote in a new law that would force Apple to open up its iTunes Music Store to enable consumers to transfer purchased songs onto devices other than the iPod. If enacted, industry observers say the law could prompt Apple to shut down the iTunes store in France.

“Under a draft law expected to be voted in parliament on Thursday, consumers would be able to legally use software that converts digital content into any format,” reports Reuters. “It would no longer be illegal to crack digital rights management—the codes that protect music, films and other content—if it is to enable to the conversion from one format to another, said Christian Vanneste, Rapporteur, a senior parliamentarian who helps guide law in France. ‘It will force some proprietary systems to be opened up ... You have to be able to download content and play it on any device,’ Vanneste said.”

iFrogz intros new customizable iPod cases

imageiFrogz has announced its new customizable three-component iPod cases. The complete iFrogz set consists of the wrapz (main silicone body), bandz (extra side padding) and screenz (screen and click wheel protector). The $24 cases are available for 4G and 5G iPods and the iPod nano.

The cases, which feature an anti-static treatment and belt clip, are available in a rainbow of custom colors and come with one screenz decal that covers the click wheel. “With hundreds of screen decal selections in different categories such as sports, girly, culture, artistic, pop, colors and nature, iFrogz offer over a million combinations of complete iFrogz sets,” says the company.

Analyst: iPod sales on track despite supplier chatter

Apple investors shouldn’t focus too much on recent rumblings from manufacturers and suppliers suggesting a slowdown in iPod sales, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. “Our preliminary analysis of iPod unit shipment data from NPD leads us to believe that Apple is on track to meet or slightly exceed our iPod unit assumptions and be primarily in line with Street numbers,” Munster said in a research note provided to iLounge. “Specifically, our analysis of data for January points to iPod units of 9.3 million in the March quarter; we are modeling for 9.0 million (average iPod unit estimate from 11 Street models is 9.5 million).”

Munster says that recent news coming from suppliers isn’t the best way to forecast iPod unit sales. “In some cases, various Apple suppliers and manufacturers can provide a decent indication of trends in the iPod business, but making direct assumptions about Apple from chatter out of these partners does not always prove to be the best course of action,” Munster said. “Apple has more than 50 supply and manufacturing partners for its products. A small handful of these partners receive the majority of their revenue from Apple, while most receive revenue from many other companies that have products in totally different segments of the market.”

Fortte offers leather cases for 5G iPod, nano

imageFortte has released new leather cases for the fifth-generation iPod and iPod nano. The PDA style flip-cover cases are made from Italian leather and feature openings for all controls and ports, a removable spring-loaded swivel clip, and a snap-button closure. The 5G iPod case sells for $35 while the nano version sells for $29. Both are available immediately.

Mix: Sopranos, Podfitness, SanDisk, Denon

While it still doesn’t sell its shows on iTunes, HBO has added free video podcasts to promote the sixth season of The Sopranos. The podcasts feature cast interviews and other behind-the-scenes content.

Podfitness will soon offer individualized personal training sessions for iPods. “Using patent pending technology, Podfitness allows you to select a world class trainer and choose your own music to get a personalized audio workout on your MP3 player or iPod.”

SanDisk CEO Eli Harari claims his company’s new Sansa e200 MP3 player is better than the iPod nano: “We feel it’s far better designed than Apple’s Nano… Sansa is priced attractively and has many more features than the Nano. You can view pictures and videos on our unit. We have FM radio, voice recording, a slot to add extra memory from a card, and a removable battery. The Nano doesn’t have those.”

Speaking to T3 magazine, a Denon representative dismissed iPod speaker systems, saying: “These are all just overgrown boom boxes and they only work with iPod. For about £320 you can buy one of our brilliant mini Hi-Fi systems and a Denon iPod dock.”

Limited Edition Star Wars cases released

imageThe Star Wars Shop and XtremeMac have teamed up to launch limited edition 60GB/30GB iPod and iPod nano cases. The 30GB iPod ($29.95) case features Star Wars characters, Luke, Leia, Han Solo, Darth Vadar and Chewbacca rocking out as if in a rock band. The iPod nano ($24.95) case features Stormtroopers attacking. The cases are available for pre-order and will ship sometime in March.

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