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Creative settlement only ‘drop in the bucket’ for Apple

Apple’s $100 million settlement with Creative Technology is only a “drop in the bucket” for Apple and removes potential future headaches for the company, according to one Wall Street analyst. “If Creative had been able to win any favorable rulings in the five outstanding lawsuits, Apple could have faced headaches including: further appeals, product injunctions, future and historical royalty payments,” said Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. “Considering $100m represents 1.1% of Apple’s $9.2 billion in cash (at the end of the June quarter), we believe the settlement will prove to be the right course of action.”

Incase intros leather folio for U2 iPod

Incase has unveiled a new case designed specifically for Apple’s latest special edition U2 iPod. The Nappa leather case, called the Folio for iPod U2 Special Edition, features a clear window for viewing the laser-engraved signatures, matching embossed graphics, a red Tactile-Control Click Wheel cover, and wrap-around protection. The $50 case also offers a suede lining, snap closure, clear screen protector, and an interior slot for ID or credit card. The Incase Folio for iPod U2 Special Edition is available now from Apple’s online and retail stores.

Apple, Creative announce settlement; Creative joins ‘Made for iPod’ program

Apple and Creative Technology today announced a broad settlement to end all legal disputes between the two companies. Apple said it will pay Creative $100 million for a license to use Creative’s recently awarded patent in all Apple products. The companies also announced that Creative has joined Apple’s “Made for iPod” program and will be announcing their own iPod accessories later this year. Creative sued Apple in May, claiming that the iPod’s interface is infringing on its “Zen Patent.” Following the company’s legal actions, Apple countersued Creative.

“Creative is very fortunate to have been granted this early patent,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “This settlement resolves all of our differences with Creative, including the five lawsuits currently pending between the companies, and removes the uncertainty and distraction of prolonged litigation.”

“We’re very pleased to have reached an amicable settlement with Apple and to have opened up significant new opportunities for Creative,” said Sim Wong Hoo, chairman and CEO of Creative. “Apple has built a huge ecosystem for its iPod and with our upcoming participation in the Made for iPod program we are very excited about this new market opportunity for our speaker systems, our just-introduced line of earphones and headphones, and our future family of X-Fi audio enhancement products.”

Google offers vinyl iPod wraps

Google’s official company store is now selling inexpensive vinyl wraps for fourth- and fifth-generation iPods and the iPod nano. Made by inPODnito, the repositionable wraps are adhesive-backed, feature a repeating Google logo pattern, and sell for $1.75 each.

Mix: Gray market, YouTube, Shareholders, iPod teens

Wired’s Scott Carney reports on India’s consumer electronics gray market. “After a good deal of haggling, I can pick up a 30-GB video iPod for $280, which is only $20 cheaper than you can get one at Best Buy in the United States, but a whopping $160 cheaper than the $440 that authorized dealers sell iPods for in India.”

GigaOm’s Robert Young says Apple should buy YouTube. “By buying YouTube, Steve Jobs could leapfrog to the top of the heap. After all, he would end up with immediate presence within the ranks of the top 50 web properties. YouTube would also, for the first time, give Apple a platform to tap into the highly-coveted stream of online ad revenues… And by owning a leading platform for user-created content, distribution, and social networking, Jobs could fill in nearly all of Apple’s strategic holes (vs. web competitors) in one fell swoop.”

Trade Union criticizes Apple’s iPod factory report

Apple’s report of labor conditions at the Foxconn iPod plant in China has been criticized by a leading international trade union organization for not being independently verified. Janek Kuczkiewicz, director of human and trade union rights at the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), said he was not impressed by Apple’s audit. “We are not impressed either by the report or by the findings of Apple,” Kuczkiewicz told BBc News. “Apple interviewed just 100 people out of the estimated 30,000 iPod workers. We do not know the conditions in which the interviews were held. We have serious reservations about the report.”

Synaptics unveils innovative touch-screen technology

Synaptics, which supplies scroll-touch technology for full-size iPods, has announced a mobile phone concept device featuring an innovative new touch-screen technology that could possibly be used on future iPods.

“ClearPad is a thin, high resolution capacitive touch screen that can be placed over any viewable surface for finger input. ClearPad enables a dynamic and adaptive user interface that eliminates the need for mechanical buttons on handheld devices,” Synaptics explains. “This allows mobile designers to increase LCD size to support the content and functionality available for todays handheld devices. Because ClearPad is solid state, it can be curved and mounted beneath plastics, offering mobile designers an opportunity to create sleek and stylized industrial designs.” Synaptics said ClearPad will offer “unique capabilities such as two finger input, proximity sensing, text entry and high resolution finger input that can dramatically improve and enhance the user experience with a touch screen.”

Synaptics said the ClearPad technology is under development and that it is expected to be available in bulk to OEMs by the end of the year.

XtremeMac debuts InCharge Traveler, MicroPack

XtremeMac today announced two new iPod power solutions—the InCharge Traveler global charging kit and the MicroPack portable battery and media dock.

imageThe InCharge Traveler kit ($80) includes four plug adapters and a wall unit that automatically switches between 120V and 240V outlets, as well as a 12V car adapter and an empower adapter for use on airliners. The kit comes in a travel pouch and is compatible with all dock connector iPod models (4G and later).

imageThe MicroPack ($100; Sept.) features a built-in Lithium–Polymer battery that provides iPods with up to 80 hours of audio playback or up to 8 hours of video playback. The dock also offers A/V line out, dual headphone jacks and volume controls, and can be used to sync an iPod with your computer using USB or Firewire.

Dell quietly exits digital music player market

Several iLoungers note that Dell’s last remaining digital music player, the DJ Ditty, has quietly disappeared from the company’s online store. The DJ Ditty, a flash memory-based player that competed with the iPod shuffle, was the last player offered by Dell after the company discontinued its hard drive-based line of DJ players in February. Dell’s DJ Life website currently links to error pages for ordering, and the company’s online store now only sells media players from Sandisk, Samsung, Creative, Archos, and iRiver. Members of Dell’s message boards also note that the Ditty is no longer to be found in the company’s monthly catalog and that the player was briefly available at a discounted price earlier this month.

ABC News programming added to iTunes Music Store

Apple today added paid programming from ABC News to the iTunes Music Store. The new offerings include ABC News Specials, ABC News: Celebrity Flashback, and ABC News: The Day It Happened. The ABC News Specials include shows on the LAPD, UFO’s, the legend of Pope Joan and more. The Celebrity Flashback programming includes vintage interviews with the likes of Steven Spielberg, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Grace Kelly. ABC’s The Day It Happened features original video of historic events—“live reports and broadcasts, just as if you were tuned in on the very day.” Events include the fall of the Berlin Wall, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and six others.

iHome offers iH52 bookshelf iPod speaker system

iHome has released further details on its iH52 bookshelf iPod speaker system. First shown in March, the iH52 features two stereo drivers in specially designed Reson8 speaker chambers along with with a separate subwoofer. The $200 system also includes a universal charging iPod dock, a 3-line display, RF remote control, and auxiliary input for other audio sources.  The iH52 provides 32 watts of total output and also sports composite and S-video out jacks, Firewire and USB connectivity, and 6 AM/FM radio presets. The iHome iH52 is available in black or silver.

Mix: Stargate, iPod eBooks, Front lines, Sewing patterns

MGM announced today that it has made current episodes of the hit science fiction/adventure series Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis available from the iTunes Music Store. Starting today, the first five episodes of Stargate SG-1 season 10 and the first five episodes of Stargate Atlantis season 3 will be available, and new episodes for both series will be available within 24 hours after airing on the SCI FI Channel.

iPREPpress has announced the availability of 34 eBooks for download onto the iPod. “The books include sports and entertainment superstar biographies, graphic biographies and other nonfiction titles. The iPod eBooks feature the same content as Gareth Stevens’ print editions but with interactive and easy to navigate text and images. The superstar biographies contain hyperlinked text to text and text to images and the graphic eBooks display rich images in a slideshow style.”

Apple to reel in digital music holdouts

Analysts say that the few remaining high-profile digital music holdouts—including the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Garth Brooks, Radiohead and Kid Rock—can’t avoid iTunes forever. With CD sales continuing to drop, it’s only a matter of time until the holdouts get on board, said Phil Leigh, an analyst with Inside Digital Media. “Any artist that doesn’t is going to be left at the station,” he said. “It’s not a secret that growth in the CD market is as dead as General Custer.” Artists argue online sales give them too small a profit, and that iTunes hurts the artistic integrity of an album by allowing customers to buy songs individually for 99 cents. “We’ve always thought certain artists put out albums that aren’t meant to be compilations with 50 other artists,” said Ed “Punch” Andrews, manager for both Seger and Kid Rock. “We’re hoping at some point albums become important again like they were in the past 30 years.”

Sumajin offers new in-ear earphones

Sumajin has announced a new set of sound isolating earphones. The SEP-001 in-ear earphones offer a lightweight design and feature 3 different sized sleeves for a custom fit. The earphones also come with a 2-pin audio adapter for airplane travel, a Sumajin Smartwrap cable manager, and a small pouch for storage. The Sumajin SEP-001 earphones are available in white or black and sell for $40.

SanDisk intros new player, cuts prices to take on iPod

SanDisk has introduced an 8GB version of its flagship media player and reduced prices on its entire Sansa line up in a bid to lure customers away from the iPod. SanDisk, which is a distant second to Apple in the digital music player market, today announced its $250 Sansa e280 player, which offers 8GB of flash storage (expandable to 10GB with microSD slot), audio, photo and video capabilities, FM tuner and recorder, a user-replaceable battery, and a 1.8” TFT display. SanDisk also cut prices on its existing line of Sansa e200 players. The e250 (2GB) now sells for $140, the e260 (4GB) is now priced at $180, and the e270 (6GB) now sells for $220. According to the NPD Group, SanDisk accounted for 9.7% of U.S. MP3 player sales in the second quarter, up from 3.1%  last year.

Apple to meet with Scandinavian agencies over DRM concerns

Apple will meet with Scandinavian consumer rights groups as early as next month to discuss complaints that Apple’s iTunes copy-protection breaks consumer laws. In June, the consumer agencies of Sweden, Denmark and Norway claimed that Apple is violating contract and copyright laws by making iTunes Music Store downloads only compatible with the iPod. They said customers are forced to waive their free use rights of legally bought products in order to download music. Apple responded in writing, but now wants a face-to-face discussion. “They (Apple) have asked to meet the authorities and explain their position,” said Marianne Abyhammar, Sweden’s acting consumer ombudsman. “We will call such a meeting, to be held in Oslo, as soon as possible. The ambition is to arrange for a meeting at the beginning of September, but no date has been set yet.”

ezGear intros ezView case for 5G iPods

ezGear today announced the ezView leather case for fifth-generation iPods. The ezView features a protective cover that doubles as a built-in stand, an integrated screen protector, and non-skid rubber feet. The $40 case also offers slots for credit cards or business cards, a belt clip, and access to all controls and ports. The ezView is available in two models to fit the 30GB and 60GB iPods.

Mix: YouTube, Zune content, wiPod, iBall

YouTube plans to provide “every” music video for free on its popular video sharing site. The company is reportedly in talks with Warner Music and EMI. Analysts said the move is a “nail in the coffin” for paid music videos and potentially threatens iTunes.

Microsoft’s Zune media player will come with pre-loaded videos. EMI Group, the world’s third-largest music company, has reportedly signed a deal to provide content from its artists, including rock bands 30 Seconds To Mars and Hot Chip.

No Jobs keynote planned for Apple Expo Paris

Apple Expo Paris will not host a keynote presentation this year, according to show organizers Reed Expositions. “Apple CEO Steve Jobs has traditionally popped across the Atlantic to visit Europe once a year for the show,” reports Macworld UK. “Jobs was replaced by Apple VP Phil Schiller in 2004, as he was recovering from life-saving surgery at that time. Jobs also failed to deliver a keynote speech at last year’s Paris show, though he did visit the event to speak with journalists and introduce to the iPod nano.” Europe’s largest Mac-focused event, Apple Expo Paris will run September 12 through the 16.

Apple posts report on iPod plant investigation

Apple has posted an extensive report on its findings from the company’s investigation of working and living conditions at the Foxconn iPod factory in China. Apple said its audit—which was in response to much-publicized allegations of unacceptable worker treatment—covered labor standards, working and living environment, compensation, overtime and worker treatment. “We found the supplier to be in compliance in the majority of the areas audited,” Apple said. “However, we did find violations to our Code of Conduct, as well as other areas for improvement that we are working with the supplier to address.”

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