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Mix: WSJ primer, Universal Music, iPod designs, Cool Gorilla

The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg and Katherine Boehret have penned an informative digital music primer. “Many folks—even some who own iPods and other players—are still confused over how legal digital music works,” they write. “So here’s a quick-and-dirty guide to the digital music world, in question-and-answer form. We’ve included the questions we are asked most frequently, plus a few other topics.”

Universal Music says it plans to price back-catalog CDs in line with their digital versions. The Guardian reports: “Universal is to split its CDs into three price and product ranges in Europe to revitalise a format that accounts for more than 90% of record sales. The most significant change is the introduction of a ‘basic’ CD for older recordings, such as the Killers’ Hot Fuss, that will wrap the album in a card case with no sleeve notes.”

iLuv debuts i180 iPod video recorder

iLuv has unveiled a new device that allows users to record videos directly to a fifth-generation iPod from from any video source (TV, DVD player, camcorder, etc.). The iLuv i180 iPod dock features four recording time settings—30 min, 60 min, 120 min, 180 min—and basic record/stop and timer buttons. After a video is recorded, it can be found and played on the iPod under Videos > Video Podcasts > iLuv. The i180 also charges a docked iPod and has composite AV (RCA) and S-Video connections. The i180 is expected to be available in mid-August for $200.

Apple revamps podcast categories on iTunes Music Store

Apple has updated the iTunes Music Store’s podcast directory with a new set of podcast categories. In an email sent to podcasters, Apple said the revamp will affect the way a podcast is listed in the directory, and that podcast feeds should be updated to match the new category structure. “Today we launched a revised set of categories for podcasts listed in the iTunes Music Store,” Apple said. “We’re sending you this email to let you know how to change your podcast feed to accommodate these changes. The revised categories and subcategories are listed at the bottom of this message. Please take the time to change your podcast feed as soon as possible. Please note that we will support the use of the old category names for the next few months, so there is no immediate deadline for making these changes.”

HandStands announces iSnug Accessory Case

HandStands has announced the latest addition to its iSnug line—the iSnug Accessory Case. The new case offers protection for cables, the iPod power brick, and popular iPod accessories like Griffin Technology’s iTrip. Like the original iSnug, the $20 case features a hard outer-shell and interior EVA foam padding. The iSnug Accessory Case is available immediately.

Apple continues iPod factory investigation

Despite word from Foxconn that Apple has completed its audit of the Chinese iPod factory, Apple says it continues to investigate the working conditions. “We are still investigating the working conditions at Foxconn’s manufacturing plant in Longhua,” said Apple spokesman Steve Dowling. “This is a thorough audit, which includes employee working and living conditions, interviews of employees and managers, compliance with overtime and wage regulations, and other areas as necessary to insure adherence to Apple’s supplier code of conduct. Apple’s supplier code of conduct sets the bar higher than accepted industry standards and we take allegations of noncompliance very seriously.”

Mix: NAND flash, Blade, Dead iPods, Scratched iPods

Last week’s news that Apple may delay the release of new iPods has memory chip makers worried that the NAND flash market could take a hit.

The premiere episode of Spike TV’s Blade: The Series is available from the iTunes Music Store as a free download.

Neuros Recorder 2 update offers clearer iPod-ready videos

Neuros Technology has released a firmware update for its MPEG-4 Recorder 2 that delivers sharper video for fifth-generation iPods. “This upgrade doubles the bit rate of shows and movies recorded for playback on an iPod, offering video that is comparable to material on the iTunes Music Store,” according to Neuros. The Recorder 2 records iPod-ready video from any source (TV, satellite, DVRs, etc.) onto a flash memory card (Memory Stick Duo/Pro Duo or Compact Flash) that is inserted into the device. It comes with a remote control and provides three resolution settings and four quality settings.

Target now selling pink ColorWare iPods

Target is now selling special two-tone pink edition iPods produced by ColorWare. Target is selling the pink iPods for $80-$90 over retail—the store is offering 1GB ($230) and 2GB ($280) iPod nanos and 30GB ($390) and 60GB ($490) fifth-generation iPods. The pink iPods are available online only. As previously reported on iLounge, ColorWare offers custom painted iPods and other electronics. The company allows customers to pick between 24 standard colors and several color combinations. iPod nanos are available directly from ColorWare for $65 over retail, and 5G iPods for $75 over retail.

France adopts toned down iTunes interoperability law

French lawmakers on Friday adopted a toned down version of the controversial law that could force Apple to open up its iPod and iTunes copy-protection technology. The law, which aims to make content from digital media stores compatible with all portable devices, could tempt Apple to shut down the iTunes Music Store in France. “In its initial form, the bill would have forced online stores like iTunes to drop barriers that prevent songs it sells being played on portable MP3 devices and computers designed to work with another music store,” reports Reuters. “But after amendments introduced in the Senate, the law allows companies to argue that measures to restrict the technical compatibility of songs or films sold online were undertaken at the request of the authors.”

Apple adds Nike Sport Music area to iTunes Music Store

Following yesterday’s Nike-ready iPod and iTunes software updates, Apple has added a new section to the iTunes Music Store with several offerings designed to enhance the Nike + iPod experience. The new top-level iTunes area, called “Nike Sport Music,” features Nike+ Workouts (continuous-play music mixes with voice-over coaching instructions), Nike video podcasts, Sport iMixes put together by iTunes customers, and Athlete Inspiration playlists featuring music picks from the likes of Lance Armstrong, Vince Carter, Ronaldo, Landon Donovan, and others. Also, as part of the launch of the Nike content, electronic group The Crystal Method created an exclusive 45-minute sport mix featuring original tracks and new remixes of their old songs.

Das Blau debuts Versa2 5G iPod case/stand

Das Blau has introduced the Versa2 leather case/stand for fifth-generation iPods. The hand-made Versa2 features a belt loop that turns into a desktop stand, a built-in screen protector, and fits both 30GB and 60GB models. The $60 case is available in several color combinations, including: “Carrottini” (orange leather with green corduroy lining), “Hot Rod” (black leather with red corduroy lining), “Mocha Sky” (dark brown leather with gray lining), “Sherlock” (brown leather with beige pattern lining), and “Testtube” (black leather with striped lining).

Apple investigating stock option grant irregularities

Apple said today that an internal probe had discovered irregularities related to the issuance of stock option grants between 1997 and 2001. The company confirmed that one of the grants in question was to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, but said it was subsequently cancelled and resulted in no financial gain. Apple said it has notified the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and that a special external committee will perform an investigation. “Apple is a quality company, and we are proactively and transparently disclosing what we have discovered to the SEC,” said Jobs. “We are focused on resolving these issues as quickly as possible.”

Apple updates iPod, iTunes with Nike support

Apple today released iPod and iTunes software updates to add support for the Nike + iPod Sport Kit and related services. According to release notes, iPod Updater 2006-06-28 brings Nike support for the iPod nano, as well as a volume limit feature for the iPod shuffle, and various bug fixes. Apple said the iPod update includes iPod Software 1.1.2 for 5G iPods, iPod Software 1.2 for nanos, and iPod Software 1.1.4 for shuffles, but that it contains the same software versions as iPod Updater 2006-03-23 for all other models. The just-released update of iTunes, version 6.0.5, allows users to sync Nike + iPod workout data to nikeplus.com and track their progress.

iTunes video sales top 35 million; Over 150 TV shows offered

Apple said today that it has now sold more than 35 million TV shows and videos from the iTunes Music Store. The company also said that iTunes now offers over 150 TV shows from all of the major broadcasters. “iTunes is the world’s most popular online video store with over 35 million videos sold, and we continue to expand the catalog of great television content now with over 150 network and cable programs available,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of iTunes.

Mix: iTunes movies, Napster, Virgin, Boring podcasts

Technology Review says full-length iTunes movie downloads would not be efficient because of their large file size and current broadband speeds. “This is one of the reasons why there’s no activity taking place” in movie downloads, says Frank Casanova, director of QuickTime Product Marketing at Apple. With a 1.5GB movie file, “you could request a movie from Netflix [which delivers DVDs by mail] before this download gets to you.”

Napster has released two new Napster-branded portable music players. The company is offering a 256MB flash player for free with a Napster To Go year-long subscription, and a 1GB player that is $50 with the Napster To Go subscription. [via Gizmodo]

MTV adds more programming to iTunes Music Store

MTV Networks today announced that new television programming from Spike TV, Nick at Nite, TV Land, Logo, MTV and The N is now available on the iTunes Music Store. Adding to the MTV Networks content already on iTunes, the new programming includes full seasons of: Spike TV’s “Blade: The Series,” “TNA: iMPACT,” and “Disorderly Conduct”; TV Land’s “Sit Down Comedy with David Steinberg”; Nick at Nite’s “Fatherhood” and “Hi-Jinks”; Logo’s “Noah’s Arc,” “U.S. of ANT,” and “Wisecrack”; MTV’s “Viva La Bam” and The N’s “Beyond the Break”.

Alpine intros KCE-415i adapter for video iPods

Alpine has introduced a new in-vehicle interface adapter that connects a fifth-generation iPod to an Alpine video monitor, enabling users to play and watch videos stored on the device. The Alpine KCE-415i adapter can control an iPod through an Alpine head unit or remote control, and also charges a connected iPod automatically. The adapter is compatible with the following Alpine monitors: TME-M860, TME-M770S, IVA-D100R/RB, IVA-D310R/RB, IVA-W200Ri, PKG-2000P, and PKG-1000P. Pricing was not immediately available. It’s also not clear when the KCE-415i adapter will be available in the U.S. [via Engadget]

Speck debuts MobileTune FM transmitter/charger

Speck Products today announced its new MobileTune FM transmitter and charger for iPods. The shift-knob inspired device features a leather and chrome design, an “easy-turn tuner” dial, and works with 4G and 5G iPods, the iPod nano, and iPod mini. “Clad in soft, genuine leather with a polished chrome dial, the MobileTune is the model of sophistication in a category rampant with dull plastic devices,” says Speck. “The MobileTune’s distinctive look is only rivaled by its superior performance. It comes with a built-in antenna that provides a strong, clear signal for superior audio performance. The built-in charging technology rapidly charges your iPod.” The MobileTune sells for $60.

XtremeMac offers Superman iPod case

Look, up in the sky… To coincide with the opening of Superman Returns this week, XtremeMac is offering a new iPod case featuring the man of steel’s classic S-shield logo. Part of XtremeMac’s Iconz line, the case covers the entire face of the fifth-generation iPod with play-through coverage for the Click Wheel, built-in screen protection, and access to all controls and ports. The Superman case sells for $30 and is available for both the 30GB and 60GB models.

NBC sells over 6 million videos through iTunes

NBC said today that it has sold more than 6 million television shows through the iTunes Music Store since the network’s videos were added in December. John Miller, chief marketing officer for the NBC Universal Television Group, said the Sci-Fi Channel’s “Battlestar Galactica,” USA Network’s “Monk,” and sketches from “Saturday Night Live” have been among the most popular videos on iTunes, while classics such as “Alfred Hitchcock Present” have not done as well. NBC also announced today that it is partnering with the YouTube video-sharing site to promote its Fall television lineup.

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