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GINI debuts iTube speaker system, iConec dock

GINI Systems has introduced its new iProducts line, which initially includes a tube-based 2.1 speaker system and an iPod docking station. “Together, they form a complete iPod audio system that instantly converts digital tunes into music with ‘tube warmth’ that audiophiles have come to know and enjoy,” says GINI. The iTube speaker system ($379) combines vacuum tube and solid-state audio technologies, and features an iPod-like design, an amplifier with a built-in subwoofer, a pair of satellite speakers, and a remote control. GINI’s iConec ($79) iPod docking station features component and S-video output, a full function remote control, built-in charging, and five iPod adapters.

PortalPlayer CEO to step down

iPod chip maker PortalPlayer has announced that company CEO Gary Johnson plans to resign by the end of the year. “My true passion is in leading companies through their initial rapid growth,” said Johnson. “When I joined PortalPlayer, the company had one product and very limited cash. Today, it has several design teams working on products for three major personal multimedia player markets and nearly $200 million in cash… I feel that it is time for me to pursue other opportunities where I can again be instrumental in the early stages of a company’s growth.” The move comes a little more than three months after the company said its chips would not be used in some of Apple’s flash-based iPods.

Target stores offer collectible iTunes gift cards

Special limited edition iTunes Gift Cards featuring popular bands and artists are now being sold at participating Target stores. Collectible cards featuring Jewel, Kanye West, James Blunt, Mariah Carey, Hoobastank, Dixie Chicks, and Panic at the Disco have custom artwork and provide access to exclusive bonus material on the iTunes Music Store. Six other cards featuring Sheryl Crow, Mary J. Blige, 50 cent, All American Rejects, Black-Eyed Peas, and Weezer offer only custom artwork. Each card is redeemable for $15 worth of iTunes merchandise. “Collect all thirteen cards or give them to your favorite fan,” says Apple.

ATO readying High-definition video add-on for iPod

ATO plans to introduce a new version of its iSee video player that will be capable of playing high-definition video. Like the company’s original iSee 360 (shown right), the forthcoming device will feature a sleeve-like form factor, built-in LCD display, and the ability to play videos stored on an iPod’s hard drive. ATO said the HD player will be compatible with MPEG 4, Divx, HD.264 and other video formats. It is expected to sell for approximately $199 to $250, and will be released within the next five months, according to the company.

E! television programs now on iTunes Music Store

E! Entertainment and Apple have announced that select E! television shows are now available on the iTunes Music Store. The new programming includes the second season of “The Girls Next Door,” new episodes of “The Soup,” new and past episodes of “Dr. 90210,” and new episodes of “The Simple Life: ‘Til Death Do Us Part.” Like other shows on iTunes, each episode is priced at $1.99.

Video game to connect gamers to iTunes Music Store

Video game developer Left Behind Games has announced that it will integrate links to the iTunes Music Store in an upcoming game, allowing gamers to purchase music they hear during gameplay. The game, “Left Behind: Eternal Forces,” is a real-time strategy game based on the best-selling Left Behind book series. The developer said that clicking a music link will pause the game and launch the iTunes Music Store. After the song is downloaded, gamers can resume action or customize their playlist and listen to the newly downloaded music while playing. The game is scheduled for an October release. preparing iLike music service

Online music community today announced that it will soon launch iLike, a new social music discovery service “targeted at the iPod and MySpace generation.” The iLike service will “expand the company’s existing services by including mainstream artists and incorporating links among friends.” iLike will also include software for iTunes users, according to the company. “These new services, to be offered at, will include a companion app for iTunes that allows consumers to organize their digital music libraries and discover new artists based on their listening habits. iLike will help consumers discover music based on what they and their friends like.”

Apple: iPods designed to last four years [updated]

In a Chicago Tribune article on faulty iPods, an Apple spokeswoman said that failure rates for the device are low, and that an iPod is designed to last four years. Apple’s Natalie Kerris said iPods have a failure rate of less than 5%, which she said is “fairly low” compared with other electronics. “The vast majority of our customers are extremely happy with their iPods,” she said. Rob Enderle, analyst at the Enderle Group, estimates that 15% of iPods will fail within one year of purchase. He said that’s comparable to other gadgets, such as cell phones. The Tribune article also cites a 2005 survey by MacInTouch, which includes reports from more than 4,000 respondents. The survey found that of the 9,000 iPods owned by the respondents, more than 1,400 of the Apple devices had failed. The survey reported a total failure rate of 13.7%, about half battery related and half hard drive related.

Update: Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris has confirmed to iLounge that she was misquoted in the above-linked Chicago Tribune article. She said she told the reporter that the iPod was designed to last “for years”—not “four years.”

22Moo developing PodBuffet iTunes kiosk

Australian hardware and software developer 22Moo today announced that it has begun development on an iTunes Kiosk called the PodBuffet. 22Moo said that the current prototype machine uses an Apple Mac mini, a 15-inch TFT touch screen with virtual keyboard software, a wireless internet connection, and a “customized application for timed access” to the iTunes Music Store. The PodBuffet will also feature multiple dock connectors and USB and Firewire ports for older iPods and iPod shuffles. “Soon iPod owners around the world can download videos and musics to their iPods from places such as airports, train stations, hotels, shopping centers, etc.,” the company said in its announcement.

Memorex reveals iFlip portable video player for iPod

Memorex has provided iLounge with exclusive details and photos of a new portable video player for fifth-generation iPods. The new iFlip features an 8.4-inch LCD display, integrated speakers, tilting iPod dock, and lithium-ion battery. Users can watch videos stored on an iPod on the iFlip’s built-in display or use the player’s speakers for music-only playback.

The iFlip offers a native resolution of 480 x 234, while the integrated battery provides up to five hours of power. The fold-up unit also features S-video out, line out, and dual headphone jacks. While the iFlip has an on-screen menu system (brightness, contrast, sharpness, color, screen mode, etc.), Memorex said the user will still navigate music and video via the iPod. The iFlip will launch in mid-September, retailing for $200. It will be available in black or white, with an iFlip carrying case sold separately.

Mix: Synaptics, iClod, HealthPod, PumpedforSummer

Apple could once again tap Synaptics to provide the touch-sensor components for the iPod’s click wheel. Cowen and Company said Synaptics will likely receive a “meaningful but minority role” as a supplier to Apple as early as the first quarter of 2007.

In his latest Wired News column, Eliot Van Buskirk says that Microsoft’s Zune player is doomed. “Prior to Friday’s announcement, some were calling the new device the ‘mPod’ (Microsoft + iPod) killer. But given Microsoft’s typically tone deaf approach to usability and Apple’s market lead it will be a miracle if its next nickname isn’t the ‘iClod’ (iPod + clone + awful).”

Metallica music now on iTunes Music Store

Long-time digital music holdouts Metallica are now selling their entire back catalog on the iTunes Music Store. Apple is currently offering 10 albums, from the band’s debut “Kill ‘Em All” to 2004’s “Some Kind of Monster” EP. Previously unreleased live tracks have also been added to each of the first four albums as iTunes bonuses.

“Over the last year or so, we have seen an ever-growing number of Metallica fans using online sites like iTunes to get their music,” the band says on their official website. “So, in continuing with the tradition of offering our albums for sale online (which we’ve been doing for a few years through various sites), as well as making our live concerts available for download in their entirety (through the site), we are now offering fans the opportunity to obtain our songs individually.”

Metallica was involved in a high-profile legal battle with the original Napster and several universities over its music being shared using the Napster network. In addition, the band was not on board for the launch of the iTunes Music Store in 2003, refusing to sell their songs individually. A spokesman for Metallica’s management company said at the time that the band “would rather not contribute to the demise of the album format.”

Warner Bros. TV shows added to iTunes Music Store

Apple has added new television content from Warner Bros. to the iTunes Music Store. New offerings include Friends, Aquaman, Babylon 5, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and The Best of MADtv. “For more than 50 years, Warner Bros. Entertainment has created award-winning programming for television in all genres, producing a library of more than 40,000 TV titles and 14,000 animation properties, including more than 1,500 classic animation shorts,” reads a description on iTunes. “Whether it’s trendsetting comedies, powerful dramas, out-of-this-world adventure stories, or quality cartoons for kids, Warner Bros. delivers something for everyone.”

Facebook giving away 10 million iTunes music samplers

Popular social networking site Facebook today announced a back-to-school promotion to give away 10 million music samplers from the iTunes Music Store. The site said that starting today it will give away 1 million, 25-song music samplers from iTunes each week for the next 10 weeks. Each iTunes sampler will feature “select songs from a different genre ranging from Alternative to Rock, Hip-Hop to Dance and Electronica.” Facebook, which launched in February 2004, has registered over 8.3 million people and ranks as the seventh-most trafficked site in the US, according to comScore.

Analysts comment on Microsoft ‘iPod killer’ plans

Following Microsoft’s confirmation of its Zune player and media store, several analysts have chimed in with what the company’s plans will mean for Apple and Microsoft’s partners. Analysts stressed that Microsoft will likely be hurting its own partners more than Apple. “While the focus is on Apple, we believe this move will likely have a much larger competitive impact on Creative, SanDisk, Sony, Samsung, iRiver, Archos, and others,” said American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu. “Microsoft’s action could also make partners think twice before deciding to work with the company on future projects. We view Microsoft’s entrance into portable media hardware akin to a civil war.”

Power Support debuts Splash Case for iPod nano

Power Support has announced the availability of its new Splash Case for the iPod nano. The water-resistant silicone case completely encloses the nano and guards the device from water and sand. The Splash Case also provides screen visibility and access to all controls. The case sells for $35 and is available now.

Amazon movie service to launch next month; E-tailer drops music plans

Amazon’s video download service will reportedly launch in mid-August, offering a subscription service and a la carte movies and TV shows. Advertising Age reports that because of Apple’s digital music dominance, Amazon chose to drop music and focus on video. “The service, which is referred to as Amazon Digital Video—or Amazon ‘DV’—has evolved over the past year from a music-themed offering to a video-centric one, according to production-studio and TV-network executives briefed on the plans. The reason? Apple already commands such a large share of digital-music sales that Amazon felt it would be too difficult to break into the market.” Amazon’s service will require users to install software to buy videos individually, “likely as part of a download-to-own model, or subscribe to them, like a digital version of Netflix’s rental model.”

Report: Next iPod to offer eBook functionality

Apple’s next iPod could allow users to read eBooks on its widescreen display, according to a report by Engadget. The gadget site claims that two “trustworthy” sources have provided details on Apple’s eBook plans, including the possibility of eBooks being sold on the iTunes Music Store. “According to a source at a major publishing house, they were just ordered to archive all their manuscripts—every single one—and send them over to Apple’s Cupertino HQ,” reports Engadget. “A separate trusted source let us know that the next iPod will have a substantial amount of screen real estate (as we’d all suspected), as well as a book reading mode that pumps up the contrast and drops into monochrome for easy reading.”

Microsoft confirms Zune products

Following months of rumors and speculation, Microsoft has finally confirmed the existence of its “Zune” project, which will spawn products to compete with the iPod and iTunes head-on.

Microsoft executives said today that the company will later this year launch the Zune umbrella brand, which it calls “a family of hardware and software products” targeting various digital entertainment services. As expected, the first Zune offerings will be a portable audio player and a digital music service, both of which will be released before the end of 2006. Microsoft said additional Zune-branded devices will follow, including a portable video player and possibly a portable gaming device. The company also confirmed the rumored Wi-Fi connectivity features.

Microsoft has also launched a new “Coming Zune” website and a new “Zune Insider” blog. The company said it will support the Zune launch later this year with a “massive advertising and marketing campaign expected to be heavily artist-centric, including several live performances nationwide.”

Grado Labs announces iGrado headphones

imageHigh-end headphone maker Grado Labs has announced its new iGrado headphones. The $49 headphones are targeted at iPod users, feature a behind-the-head design and use the same drivers found in the company’s Grado SR60 headphones. The iGrado headphones will be available in September. “Grado, one of the oldest family owned companies in the Audio Industry, has for almost half a century been the leaders in design engineering for the high-end audio and recording industries. Grado is famous for their remarkable headphone and phono cartridge designs and hold over 48 patents.”

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