After being left in the dust by Apple’s iPod and iTunes, Microsoft is working harder than ever to become the “gatekeeper for the home video business of the future,” according to an LA Times article published today.
The software giant has taken rather large steps recently to persuade Hollywood that it is the right company to lead the next wave of digital media. Microsoft has already made pacts with Time Warner, Walt Disney Co. and News Corp., the Times reports.
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates says he vows not to play the victim in “Son of iPod.” After being humbled by Apple’s success with digital music, “we’re really having to work more closely with partners in the hardware industry and content industry, to really think through the whole end-to-end experience and make it better,” Gates said. “That’s where we’ve done our mea culpa. We are fixing that.”
The Times reports, however, that content creators “may stand pat, place their bets with multiple technology partners or choose someone other than Gates.” The paper says that “few in Hollywood would be shocked to see Apple founder Steve Jobs pull another rabbit out of his hat, unveiling a perfectly thought-out system for moving paid video to computers and portable devices.”
Make magazine’s Phillip Torrone has posted an excellent tutorial on how to create enhanced podcasts.
Indie podcasters say that iTunes 4.9 has brought them new listeners, but that Apple is heavily promoting big-name podcasts while leaving out the grass-roots shows.
iMojo has announced its shuffle Sweats, new armbands for the iPod shuffle made from absorbent, machine-washable cotton terry-cloth. Designed to be worn on the forearm, the armbands feature a silicone cable wrap for extra headphone cord and come in black or white 2-packs for $18.95.
“Unlike other armbands worn above the elbow, the iMojo shuffle Sweats don’t create any friction against your body when running or exercising, heralding an end to bicep rash,” says the company behind the product. “They are also fully compatible with all T-shirts—unlike other armbands, sleeves don’t get in the way of the shuffle controls or the cable.”
Rumors of a video iPod have gained further credence thanks to a report in Monday’s Wall Street Journal [paid sub. req.] that says Apple has recently held discussions with major recording companies about licensing their music videos to sell through the iTunes Music Store.
“The negotiations are a possible prelude to a version of Apple’s hit iPod that would play video, a widely expected gadget that Apple has told some entertainment-industry executives that it could announce by September,” the paper says.
The Journal reports that Apple has approached Warner, EMI, Universal and Sony BMG to license music videos which could go on sale as early as September for $1.99 each. Apple is already bundling music videos with select albums on iTunes.
In addition to the four major music companies, Apple has also had talks with media companies about licensing television shows, “though securing rights to sell television shows over the Internet is highly complex and is likely to take longer than other forms of video,” the paper says.
Less than two weeks since Apple announced its countdown to half a billion songs sweepstakes, the 500 millionth song has been purchased and downloaded from the iTunes Music Store.
While Apple has yet to release an official announcement telling who the winning customer is, or what track they purchased, the company has posted a large banner on apple.com announcing the milestone. “Thanks to all the music fans in 19 countries for making the iTunes Music Store the #1 music download store,” the banner reads.
The winning downloader will receive 10 iPods, a “gold” iTunes gift card for 10,000 free songs and an all-expenses paid trip for four to see Coldplay in concert. Those that bought winning songs at each 100,000 interval will get an iPod mini and an a 50-song iTunes gift card.
Update: Apple has now posted a complete list of winners and their purchased song.
Live from Cambridge in the United Kingdom, it’s the iLounge Week in Review, with your new host Bob Levens!
iLounge’s first podcasts launched as experiments last year, and we’ve been playing with a number of ideas since then to bring you a regular weekly offering of some sort. Because of the rapid pace of iPod news and updates to our site, we’ve decided to try this new Week in Review format - a single podcast to launch each Friday, helping you get caught up on what’s happened in the iPod, iTunes, and iLounge universes.
This edition is a test of the new format and will go through additional evolutions in the immediate future, with capsule summaries of reviews, tutorials and more to follow. As we continue to tinker with the podcast, your comments and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.
Tivoli Audio has today announced the iSongBook Portable iPod Music System ($329), a weather-resistant speaker and radio system built specifically for the iPod. Planned for a Holiday 2005 release, the white and gray unit measures 6.2” high by 11” wide and 2.2” deep, and promises high-fidelity stereo sound. It is capable of running off of AC or DC power, or using either alkaline or rechargeable batteries.
According to the company, the iSongBook is “built around our popular portable digital radio” and “introduces a number of firsts in a dedicated ‘Made for iPod’ product.” A flip-down docking station is found to the unit’s left, a detachable speaker to its right, and an backlit clock radio, alarm, and sleep timer are found as parts of its control console. Users can “Wake to iPod, radio, or tone” with the alarm, input from non-iPod devices, and output to headphones. The unit also includes a remote with Album and Playlist controls, integrated cable management, and a built-in charger for NiMH and NiCAD batteries.
FastMac has expanded its TruePower line of replacement iPod batteries with the addition of a battery upgrade for all fourth-generation iPods. The company is accepting pre-orders now for the $29.95 battery, which will ship next month with a 2-year warranty and necessary tools and installation instructions.
“TruePower upgrades replace the iPod’s original internal Lithium-Ion battery with a larger capacity and longer lasting advanced power cell,” explains FastMac. “The upgrade offers 20%-70% more capacity than the original (depending on iPod model) and up to 7.5 times as many charge cycles. This is accomplished through the use of TruePower’s patented nanoparticle technology, which significantly slows the degradation of the battery.”
AFX News Limited is the latest to report that Apple will launch an iTunes Music Store in Japan next month.
PBS tech pundit Robert X. Cringely is once again speculating about a video iPod and “iTunes Movie Store.” [via MDN]
There are now over 230 online digital music services worldwide, a recent eMarketer research report found.
American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu says that nearly half of the 6.2 million iPods Apple shipped last quarter were likely iPod shuffles.
iSkin today announced the availability of its Wild Sides protectors for the iPod mini. The distinctive silicone skins are available in three colors—Verve (bright green and white), Rebel (deep blue and white) and Diva (hot pink and white)—and have photo-luminous glow-in-the-dark stripes. The Mini Wild Sides also feature a colored screen protector, an iSkin REVOClip, and a swirl printed Click Wheel protector. They’re priced at $29.99.
iPod Access 2.4 from Findley Designs is the latest version of the Windows utility that enables you to copy songs from your iPod back to your computer. Version 2.4 adds iTunes 4.9 support, correctly shows playlists on all iPods, and features more robust file re-naming. iPod Access for Windows is available for $14.99.
This week in the iLounge Discussion Forums: with increased interest in Podcasts, our existing Podcast & Podcasting forum has now been promoted from a subforum to the main Forums page. Make sure to check it out!
We’ve also rearranged our iPod forums. Our old iPod photo forum has been converted to iPod (Color/Photo) to cover the updated iPod range, while all black and white (monochrome) iPod discussion can now be found in the renamed iPod (Black & White) forum. A similar reshuffle has taken place in the Problems & Solutions Discussion Forums.
Got a gadget habit? In a similar vein to the popular Workspace and Desktop threads, a member has asked for other Loungers to post their favorite gadgets. Share your obsession…
Finally, the question of how to delete Podcasts from your iPod after you have listened to them has been raised in the Podcasts Discussion forum.
Griffin Technology has announced the SiliSkins, a set of silicone skins for the iPod shuffle. Each SiliSkins package comes with three skins in three frosted colors: clear, pink and blue. The set is priced at $19.99.
“Shelter your iPod shuffle from scratches, drops, and bump,” says Griffin. “Pick a color to fit your mood or activity. Mix and match cap colors for a look all your own. SiliSkins are form-fitted and their see-through design allow for easy operation of the iPod shuffle.”
iLounge Contributing Editor Kirk McElhearn will be on The Tech Night Owl Live tonight. You can tune in to the broadcast from 9:00 to 11:00 PM ET to hear the show.
In order to better compete with the iPod, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates reportedly said that his company would work closer with Creative Technology. “The iPod has done great marketing and great design,
Matias has unveiled a new computer keyboard that features a dedicated USB 2.0 dock for the iPod shuffle (or other iPod using a USB cable).
The Matias USB 2.0 Keyboard, which was originally planned to be called the “iPod shuffleboard,” also features two USB 1.1 ports for other devices such as your mouse and joystick. It comes in two versions—a white, Mac-only version with Option Key symbols like the company’s OS X Keyboard and Tactile Pro Keyboard, and a black version that works with both Macs and PCs. They both sell for $39.95, or $49.95 with a mouse.
The iKeychain is a new machined aluminum iPod shuffle case that doubles as a keychain. The case is available in black, blue, gold, red, and polished aluminum for $29.95. Pure silver and gold plated versions are also available for $99.95.
“To test the strength of the iKeychain, we ran over it with a car five times and the case remained in tact,” says the manufacturer. “This durability can come in handy when using your shuffle while skateboarding, rollerblading, mountain biking, snowboarding, snowskiing, bungee jumping, skydiving…you get the picture.” [via TUAW]
“Apple is becoming a mass market company,” Merrill Lynch analyst Steven Milunovich said today. “The next perceptual change could be investor recognition that the company is building a sustainable consumer franchise. Although the current focus is music, look for Apple to go after video in the home with an emphasis on high definition.”
Shares of Apple surged today after the company reported its best quarterly profit ever and better than expected iPod sales. The company’s positive results also gave a boost to the companies that supply components for the iPod.
Daring Fireball’s John Gruber has written an interesting article on Apple’s fast adoption of podcasting, noting that speed was of the essence with incorporating the new technology into iTunes.
Sony has knocked Apple from the top spot of the flash-based MP3 player market in Japan with its new stylish devices. Sony’s share for flash memory players rose from 4 percent in March to 27 percent in June. Apple’s share with the iPod shuffle in Japan has fallen to under 20 percent.
Newer Technology is now offering a high-capacity 900mAh replacement battery for all iPod photo models and fourth-generation 40GB iPod models. The battery sells for $29.99 and ships with instructions and installation tools, though “professional installation is highly recommended,” according to the company. The replacement battery provides nearly 30 percent more capacity for iPod photo models and 50 percent more capacity for the fourth-generation 40GB iPod.
iPockets are stick-on plastic sleeves for the iPod designed to let you store items such as credit cards, money, drivers license or house key. They’re available in clear, pink, blue, green, orange, and red for the iPod ($3.99) and iPod mini ($2.99).
“iPockets are an inexpensive but valuable asset for your iPod,” explains the company behind the product. “They are a super thin and ultra light weight storage system that attaches easily to your iPod. Use them to store items you need to take with you while you’re on the go.”