Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says the iPod still has no equal, despite a number of new entries coming from CES this week. However, Creative is gaining the most traction with its Zen Micro, he says.
Apple is now offering a somewhat hidden free 13-song ‘iTunes New Music Sampler’ album to new iPod owners—or to those who restore their device or click on this link.
XM Satellite Radio says it has had discussions about a combo portable audio player and XM receiver with several companies, including Apple, but there are no current partnerships and no plans for an imminent announcement.
In addition to the PodBuddy, MacMice today announced the JamPod, a guitar amplifier for Apple’s iPod. “While working on our growing music product line this past year, we realized that it would be handy to be able to somehow play a guitar along with the songs stored on an iPod. The JamPod is our little answer to that big need,” said the company. “The JamPod just plugs into the top of any dock connector iPod, and lets you plug in your guitar, mix the level with the music from the iPod, and practice away as much as you like, through the iPod’s own earbuds.” The JamPod requires no batteries, features a top-mounted volume wheel, and works with any electric guitar, electric bass, or other instrument that sends a guitar-level output signal through a 1/4-inch instrument jack. It will begin shipping in February for $49.99.
ZappTek has released iPod Launcher 1.5, a new version of its software for automatically launching applications and scripts when you connect your iPod. This version adds the ability to select a minimum amount of time between launches, ensures that system resources are only used when an iPod is connected to your Mac, and a number of other minor enhancements.
MacMice today announced the PodBuddy, a new car connection system for Apple’s iPod. The solution consists of a high-grip cigarette lighter plug, connected to an adjustable cradle with built-in FM transmitter by a 6-inch length of flexible steel tubing. The mounting/charging cradle uses an adjusting mechanism to fit any model of iPod or iPod mini with dock connector. The FM transmitter automatically selects and displays the best available FM radio frequency. PodBuddy also includes a line output jack at the lighter plug end of the product, for direct connection to an appropriate car stereo system. The PodBuddy is offered in both white and Special Edition black versions, and will begin shipping in February for $99.99.
During a keynote presentation Thursday at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, a Motorola executive previewed a new iTunes-compatible mobile phone with an iPod-like interface. “It syncs with a computer and the iTunes Music Store like an iPod does, and incorporates the iPod interface for navigating and playing digital music, said Ron Garriques, a Motorola executive vice president. The phone is the first of many Motorola devices that will support iTunes this year, said Garriques. He didn’t provide product details for the phone or say when it would be available.” Motorola in July announced a licensing deal with Apple to bring iTunes to its mobile phones. Last month, an Apple executive said the phone was due in the first half of 2005.
Time Trax today introduced a new solution that enables users to automatically record satellite radio broadcasts—either XM or Sirius—onto their iPod for later listening. With the company’s recording software with scheduling features and its iPod docking station, users can create personalized programming of broadcasts and save songs (with the artist and title info). The product, which currently only works with Windows-based computers, will sell for $199. It will include the DockTrax cradle, TimeTrax software, and a receiver.
iPod and iTunes spokesband U2 can now buy songs from the iTunes Music Store in their home country. Apple has opened an iTunes Music Store for Ireland consumers. The Irish store offers the same features and €0.99 per song pricing as the other supported European stores. According to reports, Apple had originally planned to launch an iTunes Music Store for Ireland consumers alongside nine new international stores in October. The store was reportedly postponed at the last minute due to a disagreement with the Irish Music Rights Organization (IMRO).
In an attempt to counter the runaway success of the iPod, Microsoft said this week that it may pursue an alliance with Sony.
In an Irish Times interview with U2 on its endorsement of the iPod, the band said Apple has “single-handedly saved the music industry.”
Rio this week announced the Carbon Pearl, a new version of its 5GB digital music player in a familiar white casing.
In an interview with CNET News.com, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates commented on the success of Apple’s iPod.
Upbeat Audio has introduced the Boostaroo Revolution, a pocket-sized audio amplifier and two-way splitter that provides high-end headphones (greater than 60 ohm impedance) with high-definition 3-channel surround sound quality. “The Revolution has been scaled down to about the size of a disposable lighter to match the size of the new, smaller MP3 players and features the same durable, high-gloss white plastic housing as today’s popular iPods.” The Revolution, which will be priced “under $80,” uses two AAAA batteries (included) that will provide about 20 hours of constant use.
Compact Power Systems has expanded its Cellboost line of disposable battery/chargers for cell phones with a new device for the iPod. (The company also launched new models for smart phones, camcorders, and Nintendo Game Boy Advance SP and DS systems). The compact Cellboost is capable of bringing powerless or near-powerless iPods back to life without any external electricity, battery changes or significant charging time. The Cellboost units will also allow for users to continue usage while simultaneously charging their device. It can also be used in one charging session or several, and can be thrown away when its power is exhausted. The company said the iPod unit “delivers several hours of additional playback time” and did not provide pricing.
Altec Lansing today introduced a new inMotion model called the iM4 that works with any brand of MP3 or CD player, unlike the company’s iPod-specific models. The inMotion iM4 is a one-piece portable system with two speakers on either side of a 4.5” x 5” no-skid rubberized platform that holds a player of any size in place. The iM4 features a 4-watt Class D digital amplifier that powers four 1” neodymium micro drivers for “clear reproduction over the entire frequency range,” while Altec’s MaxxBass technology creates quality bass without a subwoofer. The iM4 can run on 4AA batteries or AC power. It will ship in February for $129.95.
OpenPeak, a leading provider of software enabling control of digital content, consumer electronics and systems in the Digital Home, today announced the company’s flagship Thinking Homes software will feature remote control support for iTunes. “Now, consumers using controllers powered by OpenPeak software can view and select play lists and songs without being tied to the PC that hosts the Apple iTunes library,” said Andrew Lona, OpenPeak’s Chief Marketing Officer. “This remote control software solution enables playback on an Apple AirPort Express with AirTunes or on a PC.” The full solution will be commercially available later this year.
TEN Technology today announced that it will be bundling its naviPlay Bluetooth Adapter for iPod with Hewlett-Packard’s Bluetooth Stereo Headphones with integrated wireless remote control. The bundle will be available starting February 1 from hpshopping.com for US$239.99. “The combination of HP’s headphones and TEN’s Bluetooth adapter allows iPod users to listen to their music completely wirelessly without compromising audio quality. The bundle combines the Bluetooth innovations of TEN and HP to let iPod users be totally untethered to their iPod for ultimate freedom.”
A displeased customer of Apple’s iTunes Music Store is suing the company, alleging it broke antitrust laws by allowing songs purchased from the store to only work with the iPod, shutting out competitors. “The suit was filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court in San Jose,” reports Reuters. “One antitrust expert called it a long shot, but Californian Thomas Slattery is hoping for unspecified damages for being ‘forced’ to buy an iPod. The key to such a lawsuit would be convincing a court that a single product brand like iTunes is a market in itself separate from the rest of the online music market, according to Ernest Gellhorn, an antitrust law professor at George Mason University. There is legal precedent for such claims, but courts usually conclude competing products as viable alternatives, Gellhorn said.”
Hitachi’s 1-inch Microdrive hard-disk drive, which is currently used in Apple’s iPod mini, will at least double in capacity before the end of 2005. “At present Hitachi’s most capacious Microdrive can hold 4GB of data, but the new drives, due in the second half of this year, will be able to hold between 8GB and 10GB, said Bill Healy, senior vice president of product strategy and marketing at HGST. In addition to offering more storage space, the drives will also occupy about 20 percent less volume than current models, said Healy. One of the biggest space savings will come from replacing the Compact Flash interface with a ZIF (zero insertion force) connector of the type favored by consumer electronics makers.”
Showtime Networks said today it has selected Apple gift cards and iTunes Music Store gift certificates for the company’s first quarter 2005 acquisition campaign. Qualified consumers who sign up to receive Showtime programing and subscribe for at least three months, will get a $25 iTunes Music Store gift certificate or a $25 gift card good at any of Apple’s retail stores in the U.S. The promotional period runs from now through March 31, 2005.
Audiovox is the latest company to announce an adapter to enable you to play an iPod through your car stereo system. The Audiovox iPod Mobile Interface Kit allows for a direct connection of the iPod to most factory car stereos, letting you operate the iPod with the stereo controls. The $200 accessory will also charge the internal battery of the iPod and offers steering wheel control support (if the car is already equipped). Since the Audiovox iPod Mobile Interface Kit is fairly easy to install (with a plug-in connection to the CD Changer port), the company is offering it as both a dealer installed and a do-it-yourself program.
Pioneer Electronics today introduced an adapter to allow users to play songs from their iPod through the company’s car stereos. The CD-IB100 adapter works with the IP-Bus system in more than three million Pioneer head units that were “sold during the past several years.” Pioneer stereos will be able display up to eight characters of text including album, artist and song names, with the ability to scroll additional information. Users will be able to operate their iPods with the stereo’s front panel controls. The CD-IB100 adapter, which will be available in March for $140, also takes full advantage of Pioneer’s audio enhancement capabilities such as Easy Equalizer (EEQ) and Bit Media Expander (BMX).
In addition to raising first-quarter estimates on Apple to earnings of 49 cents a share on $3.49 billion in revenue, J.P. Morgan analyst Bill Shope today increased his iPod shipment forecast to 4.5 million units from 4.06 million. Shope estimates shipments of 1.6 million iPod minis for the quarter. “We expect Apple to unveil a low-cost, flash-based iPod, which could dramatically expand the company’s available market opportunity,” Shope said in a research note to clients. “The potential launch of a new, low-cost iMac could represent a significant positive catalyst as well.”
iPik 1.0 is a new Windows program that enables you to synchronize a variety of data to your ipod, such as your Microsoft Outlook emails and contacts, localized weather reports, RSS (XML) newsfeeds, and the content of “practically any webpage.” iPik, which is priced at $5.95, also lets you transfer formatted text files, regular files and entire directories.