Now available is the fifth iLounge Week in Review podcast, hosted by iLounge Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Horwitz.
This week’s topics: A patentable iPod interface, threats from Microsoft to provide new iPod-challenging hardware this year, color, free Pod Subway Maps, Doom for the iPod, and Zizzle’s introduction of the interactive music toy iZ. Additionally, we discuss a collection of new iPod accessories released or reviewed this week, including Tiger’s iDog, eight different iPod mini cases, Shure’s E4c earphones, and Macally’s Link360 Adaptors. We also briefly discuss our new Guide, which will debut on August 15. Enjoy.
Reuters reports on digital music’s stumbling block of incompatibility: “At the heart of the problem are dueling digital-rights-management (DRM) systems from bitter rivals Apple and Microsoft.”
Lisa DiCarlo of Forbes says that Apple and Microsoft patents relating to a digital music player “might not even be directly related.”
TheStreet.com reports: “According to market chatter, Apple is set to announce a deal with Google calling for Google to offer Apple’s iTunes music store through its own site.”
The MacTV Videocast website has posted a downloadable copy of the new Gap iTunes commercial in QuickTime format.
In this week’s dip into the iLounge Discussion Forums: although many iPod users prefer not to use the iPod’s equalizers, one reader has asked, “What Are Your Favorite EQ Settings?” Are you an EQ on or an EQ off kind of iPodder?
Some iPod owners have decided to ‘hack’ their iPods in order to change the “Do not disconnect” message - see what others have used to replace the default message. (Be careful: some customization may invalidate your warranty.)
One reader says that his sister believes he is too old to own an iPod at 47 - do you think the iPod crosses the generation gap, or is it a music device for younger audiences only? (If so, are the rest of us doomed to using cassette Walkmen forever?)
Along the lines of our long-running “Show us what you look like” thread: check out The Definitive “Introducing Myself” Thread. New to the forums? Then introduce yourself here!
The White House is now offering President Bush’s radio addresses and select speeches as podcasts on the iTunes Music Store.
BusinessWeek’s Arik Hesseldahl says that the recent iPod patent dispute is normal in the tech industry: “When that happens, companies usually find it’s helpful to take out a license on each other’s patents… Apple and Microsoft have a long history of taking out cross-licenses with each other.”
WinInfo’s Paul Thurrott says that Microsoft and its partners aren’t going to catch the iPod anytime soon: “Guys, let me save you a lot of time and money: It ain’t going to happen. If Apple would simply open up the iPod to WMA (Windows Media Audio) files and PC-based online music services, the iPod would accomplish two things: It would literally be perfect, and it would blow away any reason at all to consider any other kinds of music players.” [via MDN]
Peter Griffin, a columnist at The New Zealand Herald says that he won’t be buying an iPod until adds support for Windows Media: “As a user of Windows Media Player and an avid CD buyer, I won’t be investing in the little white device until Apple sees sense.”
Griffin Technology today announced the PowerJolt auto charger for Apple’s iPod shuffle, fourth-generation iPods, and iPod mini.
The PowerJolt plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter outlet and features a USB port to accept an iPod shuffle directly. The $24.99 charger also comes with a 48-inch Dock Connector USB cable that lets you use the PowerJolt with iPods and iPod minis.
“The PowerJolt auto adapter allows you to take your iPod on the road and listen to great music while keeping your iPod fully charged,” says Griffin. “The PowerJolt charges your iPod whether it’s playing music or in standby mode, ensuring that you’ll arrive at your destination with a fully charged iPod.”
Zizzle, a new toy company lead by the co-founder of the original Tiger Electronics (the company behind the Furby toy), will soon unveil iZ, a “9-inch tri-legged fusion of toy and music.” The unique character lets kids create musical beats by moving and pressing different parts of his body, and doubles as a portable iPod speaker.
While Zizzle has yet to release a picture of iZ, the company recently teamed up with iLounge to launch the “What is iZ Giveaway,” in which iLoungers try to guess what exactly iZ is from a handful of cropped photos of the product.
In an official announcement for iZ, Zizzle said the character will “play your music with his horn flashing lights, his eyes bouncing to the beat, and act as a DJ, adding his own commentary to any song. Let’s not forget iZ’s sense of humor which is demonstrated through burps and other ‘rude’ lifelike noises.”
Zizzle also provided details on the music-making feature. “Kids start by pressing his stomach to start a beat. Once they find a sound they like, they move to iZ’s right ear to add a little rhythm to the equation, and turn his left ear to find a musical lead. An easy to use tempo control makes the sounds limitless as players create tunes never before heard. iZ’s eyes even independently rock out to the innovative tunes created.”
iZ is scheduled to be available at major retailers this fall. A multi-million dollar TV and print advertising campaign is planned. Zizzle said the iPod will be featured prominently in commercials and on the iZ packaging.
Update: Zizzle has provided us with a complete photo of iZ (right).
Apple may have lost its attempt to patent the iPod software interface because long-time rival Microsoft had already filed a similar application. Bloomberg News reports that Microsoft’s patent application was filed with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office five months before Apple’s request, which was rejected last month.
“Apple plans to appeal the decision to ensure it won’t be forced to pay royalties to Microsoft on every iPod sale,” Bloomberg reports. “The decision could be a setback for Apple, which is also facing increased competition from Microsoft, which makes software for rival music players, and other companies that want to take market share.”
Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said that Apple will continue to pursue the iPod patent. “Apple invented and publicly released the iPod interface before the Microsoft patent application cited by the examiner was filed,
The new Lounge Poll, “What’s the highest price you would pay for a video-enabled iPod this year?” has launched in the left column below Ask iLounge. Early balloting suggests that a $599 or more expensive video device wouldn’t fly - what do you think? Cast your vote!
Complete results for previous Lounge Polls are available in the Lounge Poll archives.
Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Munster expects revenue from Apple’s 20 iTunes Music Stores to account for 5 percent of the company’s revenue in 2006.
“Assuming 133 million iTunes downloads in the June quarter and applying that across the reported 6.2 million iPod shipments, Apple is averaging 6.1 iTunes downloads per iPod (based on the entire iPod estimated installed base through Jun-05),” Munster writes in a research note obtained by iLounge. “If we apply this 6.1x ratio to our cumulative iPod installed base estimates through CY06, iTunes downloads for CY06 would be 1.365 billion vs. our current estimate of 877 million.”
Munster also notes that the Japanese iTunes Music Store is off to a fast start. “iTunes is off to a strong start in Japan, where customers downloaded more than one million tracks in the first four days following the launch of the service,” Munster said. “According to media reports, before the iTunes launch, the top music download service in Japan (Sony) averaged 450k songs sold per month. We see the successful launch in Japan as another indicator that pockets of untapped demand remain in the international market for digital music.”
Fashion designer Adrienne Vittadini has introduced a new iPod mini case that combines “the trend of portable music technology and elegance.”
The case is made of snake skin leather, and features gold plated hardware, a removable wristlet strap and flower charm. The Adrienne Vittadini iPod mini case comes in olive green, red, and black for $42. It can be pre-ordered now and will ship later this month.
The iPod “blows away mobile music challengers” in sound quality and usability, according to analysts at Strategy Analytics who compared the iPod to four leading music-enabled phones.
PodShow, a podcasting company recently launched by “The Podfather” Adam Curry, has received $8.85 million in financing.
Duke University has struck a deal with Public Radio International to provide digital audio files for classroom use.
Microsoft says that the iPod will face increased competition from new portable devices before this year’s holiday shopping season. The company is helping electronics makers such as Philips, Samsung and Creative Technology design and test digital music players that will take direct aim at the iPod.
“Come this fall there is going to be a number of devices that get close to competing with Apple’s iPod,” said Erik Huggers, the head of Microsoft’s Digital Media Division. By the second quarter of next year “there is going to be a whole lineup of products that can compete with Apple in industrial design, usability, functionality and features.”
Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg, however, says Microsoft has a steep uphill battle. “It’s going to take a lot to dethrone Apple,” said Gartenberg. “Apple won’t sit on its laurels and I expect we’ll see another iteration of the iPod for the holiday. Unless Microsoft is really willing to spend the time and effort to get behind a player or a select group of players, it’s not going to happen.”
Speck Products has announced Metal iPod Protection, a nickel-plated aluminum iPod shuffle case that features a removable metal USB cap. The case is available immediately, priced at $24.95.
“Sleek, ultramodern, ultra hip: Metal iPod Protection gives you full access to your iPod while keeping it out of harm’s way,” says Speck. “Machined from lightweight aluminum and finished with the eye-catching shine of nickel plating, the 2 part design with included Metal USB cap make it easy to synch and update your iPod. If you’re looking for Maximum Protection, this aluminiferous beauty will provide style and security for you and your iPod Shuffle.”
Real Networks has disclosed that its Harmony technology puts the company at risk of legal action from Apple. The company’s Harmony translation software enabled songs purchased from the company’s music store to play on iPods.
“If Apple decides to commence litigation against us in order to prevent interoperation with its products, we may be forced to spend money defending their legal challenge, which could harm our operating results,” the company said in an SEC filing this week. “Although we believe our Harmony technology is legal, there is no assurance that a court would agree with our position.”
Real also said Apple will mostly likely “continue to modify its technology to break the interoperability that Harmony provides to consumers” and that it “may no longer work with Apple’s products, which could harm our business and reputation, or we may be forced to incur additional development costs to refine Harmony to make it interoperate again.”
Apple is “lagging far behind South Korean rivals in the local digital music player market,” according to a recent survey. “When it comes to unit sales, Apple came in 13th place with a market share of less than 2 percent.”
“Podcast” has been added to the Oxford Dictionary of English. The definition reads: “A digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player.” [via MDN]
At the Music 2.0 conference, Sony BMG’s Thomas Hesse said that digital music is “expected to grow to 19-20 percent of the market by 2008. This is a fundamental transformation.”
iPodSubwayMaps.com is a website featuring subway maps for major cities scaled specifically for viewing on color screen iPods. The site currently has maps for New York City, Washington DC, Boston, and Hong Kong.
“Thanks to a favorite site of mine, Lifehacker.com, “I came up with the idea of sticking subway maps onto my iPod photo,” says creator Bill Bright. “By chopping up sections of the New York City MTA subway map into 220x176 pixel sections, I was able to carry a complete New York City subway map in my pocket at all times! Hopefully these will be just as helpful for you as they are to me. Soon I’ll be adding in an infrastructure which will allow this site to be more community-based—where you will be able to upload, download and rate user-submitted maps.”
Some Japanese musicians are trying to get their music on the iTunes Music Store, despite being under contract with Sony and other labels that haven’t signed agreements with Apple.
“At least one artist has already gone against his label to offer his songs on iTunes,” reports the Associated Press. “And a major agency that manages Japanese musicians said Wednesday it was interested in a possible deal with Apple, regardless of the recording companies’ positions.
Japanese rocker Motoharu Sano, who has a recording contract with Sony, said he is making some of his songs available on iTunes. “It is an individual’s freedom where that person chooses to listen to music. I want to deliver my music wherever my listeners are,” Sano said.
RadTech has announced the availability of Ice Creme 2, a new version of its solution for removing scuffs and scratches from devices such as the iPod. The company says that the new version works 5x faster than the original formula when restoring damaged surfaces.
“Ice Creme enables most anyone to quickly and easily remove the scuffing, scratching and abrasion that tends to occur on highly polished acrylic panels, like those used in several consumer devices and popular computers,” says Radtech. “It quickly restores scuffed-up acrylic and plated metal products to like new condition. Ice Creme works great for occasional touch-ups, or when selling used gear. A typical, moderately damaged iPod requires approx. 15-20 minutes to fully restore.”
Ice Creme is available in two versions—regular ($20.95) for acrylic and minor metal damage, and “Ice Creme M
Following a lengthy attempt of nearly three years, Apple has reportedly failed to patent the software interface of the iPod.
“The company’s patent application, which lists Apple VP Jeff Robbin and Apple CEO Steve Jobs as two of its primary inventors, received a final rejection last month from the United States Patent and Trademark Office,” reports AppleInsider. “Standing in Apple’s way appears to be a prior filing by inventor John Platt, who submitted a patent application for a similar software design for a portable device in May of 2002—just five months before Robbin submitted his claims on behalf of Apple.”
Platt’s application describes his invention as a system that “generates playlists for a library collection of media items via selecting a plurality of seed items, at least one which is an undesirable seed item,” according to the Apple enthusiast site. “The process by which the iPod’s software displays its own menu-based interface is very similar to the process Platt’s filing goes on to describe.”
The iTunes top 100 podcast ranking system appears to be easily manipulated: “It looks like iTunes doesn’t record how many people are actually subscribed to a podcast but rather how many times the button is pressed.”
Slate’s Timothy Noah, who seeks out hard-to-find customer service phone numbers, is on a mission to find a number for the iTunes Music Store.
Phillip Torrone of Make magazine writes: “We’re doing enhanced podcasts that not only have spoken word versions of articles in Make, but the full pages of the magazine in the podcast.”
Standard & Poor’s Equity Research says it’s possible that Nokia “could gain more market share if its planned launches of MP3 player-enabled handsets take share from iPods.”