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Marware offers C.E.O. Classic case for U2 iPod

Marware has announced a new version of its C.E.O. Classic case for the special edition U2 iPod. The new black leather case features red side accents and stitching, and sells for $35. Like the original C.E.O. Classic, the case comes with two removable lids—one with a storage pocket for earbuds, and one with a view of the screen and play–through controls. The C.E.O. Classic also features a removable belt clip and a clear vinyl screen protector.

New details emerge on Microsoft Argo/Zune player

Further interesting details and the first alleged picture of Microsoft’s “iPod killer” were leaked this week. Seattle Times columnist Brier Dudley, citing a source close to the project, claims the Microsoft device is part of “a complete line of Xbox-branded digital-media products, including a device that plays media, a software media player and an online media service.” He says the project is being referred to internally at Microsoft by the code name “Argo.” Gizmodo, however, received a tip claiming that the Microsoft player was code-named “Zune” and said that it wasn’t likely to have gaming features. Meanwhile, Engadget scored the first purported photo of the device, which features a vertically oriented 4:3 aspect screen and iPod-like controls and styling.

Apple Japan exec behind iPod marketing resigns

Apple said today that Yoshiaki Sakito, its vice president of marketing in Japan, has stepped down. “Sakito has been credited with leading a successful marketing push for Apple’s iPod portable digital music player in Japan,” reports AP. “The iPod has been a big success in Japan as it has in the rest of the world, dominating the market. Sakito was the most visible executive in the iPod’s Japan push, and the Nikkei said his departure highlights divisions with the managerial ranks.” Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, will replace Sakito until a successor is named.

Kensington debuts RDS FM transmitter for iPods

Kensington has introduced the world’s first RDS FM transmitter for iPods. The Kensington RDS FM transmitter/car charger allows an RDS-enabled car stereo to display song and artist information transmitted from a fifth-generation iPod or iPod nano. “Our research indicates that over 80% of all new cars being sold in the US include RDS enabled stereos,” notes Kensington. “RDS is a hugely popular feature and is quickly becoming mainstream. The new Kensington RDS FM Transmitter is the first to allow iPod consumers to take advantage of this exciting car stereo technology.” The device also features ClearFM technology, simultaneous charging of your iPod, three station pre-sets, and a black and brushed aluminum design. The Kensington RDS FM Transmitter will be available this month for $90.

Analyst: New iPod nano due Q4 with magnesium casing

American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu believes we won’t see the next generation iPod nano until sometime this Fall, and that the new model may sport a new magnesium-based enclosure. Wu says the new nano is facing transition issues due to a move to an SOC (system-on-a-chip) architecture. “In terms of timing, we continue to believe calendar Q4 is most likely, specifically October and at the earliest, late Q3, meaning the 2H of September,” he says. Corroborating a similar report earlier today, Wu says the new nanos may sport a new magnesium-based casing. “We believe this new casing will improve scratch-resistance, durability, and help lower Apple’s support and warranty costs,” he says.

Next iPod nano to sport aluminum enclosure?

Apple plans to use an iPod mini-like aluminum casing on the next generation iPod nano, according a report by AppleInsider. In an effort to cut down on scratching, Apple has been “experimenting with aluminum anodized enclosures similar to those used in the company’s iPod mini,” the site claims. Apple has reportedly “committed to the transition away from the nano’s polycarbonate-coated shell and towards aluminum enclosures.” AppleInsider says the new casing is expected to debut in “color variations similar to those used with the iPod mini.”

Album sales down, but music downloads soar

Although U.S. album sales were down 4.2 percent in the first half of the year, digital music sales skyrocketed 77 percent, according to Nielsen SoundScan figures. “Nearly 281 million digital singles were purchased through July 2, compared to 158.8 million in the time frame last year,” reports AP. “More than 14 million full-album downloads were purchased in the first six months of this year, more than double the 6.5 million bought in the first half of 2005. The growth of online music purchases is a mixed blessing for recording companies, however. Such sales often come at the expense of more profitable album sales as music fans opt to cherry pick a few songs online instead of purchasing a whole album.”

Mix: iPod nano, Lil’ Monsta, Child porn, McGraw-Hill

A recent drop in NAND flash memory prices could indicate that Apple’s rumored 6GB and 8GB iPod nanos may not be introduced until November. “Apple’s upcoming 6 Gigabyte and 8 Gigabyte nano will be on the shelves in November rather than September,” Baird analyst Tristan Gerra said.

Following its much-publicized iDon’t campaign, SanDisk has launched a new mascot to promote its Sansa digital media player—the Lil’ Monsta. The company describes the creation as “a creature with a beastly appetite for music, video and images.”

Winners announced for Book XL, Photo Contests

Winners have been announced for iLounge’s most recent contests: Blog the Book XL and iPods Around the World #4000. Winning the first place Geneva Lab Model XL speaker system ($1075) is James Oliver, United Kingdom, with Leopold Plassart of Nantes, France winning the second place prize of a Geneva Lab Model L speaker ($599). A third place, randomly selected winner, Johnathon Schlemmer of Overland Park, Kansas, also won a Model L speaker, all courtesy of Geneva Lab.

Our second contest awarded a custom-colorized iPod nano to the person who submitted the 4000th photograph to our iPods Around the World photo gallery. The winning photo was submitted by Nathan Wong of Taipei, Taiwan, who sent in a photo of a 4G iPod in Los Altos, California, birthplace of Apple Computer. Nathan picked a jet black body with Ferrari red click wheel.

Congratulations to all of our winners! Our 100,000th validated forum member countdown is still underway, with a winner to be announced in the near future.


Analyst: iTunes movies, iPhone ‘almost certain’

Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster has put together a new report ranking the certainty of current Apple rumors. The analyst outlined potential products into three categories and expected release dates: almost certain (in the next 6-12 months), likely (in the next 9-18 months), and a stretch (in the next 12-18 months). Munster ranks the likelihood of both feature-length films on the iTunes Music Store and an Apple iPhone to be “almost certain.” Munster said he expects iTunes movies by the end of 2006, and an “iPod with cellphone capability” within the next 12 months. Under his “likely” rumors, Munster lists the “real” video iPod, which he expects as early as this holiday season. Finally, Munster calls speculation of both in-flight iTunes and advertisements in iTunes “a “stretch.”

Microsoft considering free replacement of iTunes songs?

As part of the launch for its forthcoming iPod rival, Microsoft reportedly plans to give consumers free, compatible versions of songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store. The ploy would allow music fans to make the switch from the iPod and iTunes to the Microsoft player and Windows Media-based online store without losing previously purchased music. “This way you won’t have to pay twice for your music, which is a huge barrier for Microsoft to attract users to their service,” Gizmodo reports. “If you’ve got $1000 worth of music in your iPod, why would you change to something that required you to buy it all again? This move makes sense.” Also, like the recently announced MusicGremlin device, Microsoft’s offering is said to let device owners wirelessly connect to another owner’s player and share music. Meanwhile, Microsoft remains coy. “The stories you are seeing are based on speculation and rumors and, as such, we didn’t participate,” Microsoft said in a statement. “We don’t have anything to announce at this time.”

Analyst: Wireless 6G iPod to counter Microsoft device

One analyst believes that Apple will introduce a wireless sixth-generation iPod this Fall to counter the debut of the much-rumored portable Microsoft device. “Apple has stated that ease of use is a key element of the iPod, so wireless functionality is an obvious next step for the product line,” Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said in a research note provided to iLounge. “Apple has also stated that the pace of iPod innovation will not change. Historically, that pace has been about two new iPods per year, but Apple has yet to release a new iPod this year. Based on these two factors, we expect a new wireless iPod this Fall.” As reported earlier, Microsoft is reportedly prepping a wireless audio and video player, which is expected to be out before Christmas. “Microsoft is rich with resources to compete with Apple. We do not believe, however, that the yet-to-be-seen Microsoft offering will be a worthy opponent for the iPod,” Munster said.

iPod blamed for teenager’s lightning strike

A 17-year-old Colorado teenager blames his iPod for being struck by lightning while mowing the lawn. Jason Bunch says the current from the strike traveled through the headphone wires of his iPod, burning his ears, cheeks and side. The Denver post reports: “The wounds follow the line of his iPod, from his ears down his right side to his hip, where he was carrying the device. The iPod has a hole in the back, and the earbuds dissolved into green threads. Bunch and his mother believe the iPod acted as an antenna, drawing the lightning to him. There were tall pine trees nearby that didn’t get hit.” Weather experts, however, say that is unlikely. “There is no scientific evidence to show that lightning is ‘attracted’ to items like an iPod. However, if someone wearing earbuds is struck, current may travel along the wires into the ears,” said Gregory Stewart of the Denver-based Lightning Reference Center. “There are documented cases of lightning traveling through wired telephones and killing the users.” [via Gizmodo]

Kiwali offers Deco covers for 5G iPods

Kiwali has announced a new collection of its Deco adhesive covers for the fifth-generation iPod. Covering the front and back of the iPod, each 5G Deco cover is printed on Naster polypropylene in one of eight designs. The $12 covers are repositionable and provide protection from scratches and everyday use. “The Kiwali Deco for 5G iPods is an easy and affordable way to accessorize the video iPod to reflect personality, mood, or taste,” says the company.

Apple sued over stock option grants

Apple has disclosed that two derivative lawsuits have been filed against its current and former officers and directors relating to the company’s awarding of stock option grants. The suits were filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California and the Superior Court for Santa Clara County. Last week, Apple proactively announced that it had discovered irregularities in the issuance of certain stock option grants. The company is conducting an independent investigation into the matter and said it is currently evaluating its response to the lawsuits.

National Semiconductor employees told to return iPods

Laid-off employees at National Semiconductor have been asked to return the iPods given to them last month as part of a company-wide reward. On June 12th, National Semiconductor announced that it was giving each of its 8,500 employees a 30GB fifth-generation iPod for having an exceptionally profitable year. The Star-Telegram now reports: “Last week, the company laid off 35 employees at its Arlington plant. To the surprise of some at the plant, the laid-off workers were asked to give back their high-tech toys… One of the 35 laid-off workers said many employees at the Arlington plant were under the impression that the iPods were theirs to keep. Some had sold them or given them as gifts, according to the caller. Employees who leave the company can return the device or pay ‘fair market value’ for it.” [via CNET]

Apple, Creative ‘open to settlement’ of suits

Apple and Creative Technology said in court documents that they “remain open to the possibility” of ending their legal battles over patent infringement. In a July 3rd joint court filing, the two companies said they were in negotiations for the licensing of Creative’s patent to Apple six months before the suit was filed and were “open” to reaching an agreement. “The parties will remain open to the possibility of settlement,” the joint report said. “No specific settlement discussions are planned.” As previously reported, Apple and Creative are suing each other in California, Texas and Wisconsin over various patents relating to the iPod and Zen audio players. The International Trade Commission is also investigating complaints made by each company.

Report: Wireless Microsoft iPod rival due by Christmas

Bloomberg News has uncovered new details of Microsoft’s forthcoming iPod rival and iTunes Music Store clone. The Microsoft-branded portable music and video player will reportedly be out by Christmas, featuring a wireless Internet connection to download music without a computer. Bloomberg says the device is being developed under the supervision of Xbox executives Robbie Bach and J. Allard. In addition, Microsoft is said to have hired music industry executive Chris Stephenson to meet with music and Hollywood companies about licensing content for the Microsoft digital media store. Bloomberg says Microsoft has already met with EMI Group, Universal Music Group, NBC, Fox, and CBS.

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.

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