Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg says that yesterday’s drop in price of the 4GB iPod mini is unwelcome news for Apple rivals looking to take a bite of the device’s market share. “What’s most important about the new announcements are the fact that Apple has lowered the mini to a $199 price point while preserving the magic thousand song storage mark,” Gartenberg says. “This is pretty bad news for the competition that was looking for ways to go after the mini. At this point, with a $50 price difference at most of the line (and $100 on the highest SKU) Apple now has the most complete product line at effective price bands to allow consumers join the iPod experience while not creating overlapping products. This is a good tactical move and will once again force their competitors to respond.”
The iStore is now offering the iPod2car auto interface for listening to music on your iPod through your car stereo. The $199 kit allows you to control your iPod’s Next, Previous, Fast Forward and Fast Rewind functions using your car’s radio. The iPod2car will work with all Dock Connector iPods (3G, 4G, and mini). “Compatible with many factory car stereos, iPod2Car retains the high quality audio by directly connecting your iPod to the CD changer input of the stereo, usually found in the back of the radio. Then you simply plug the cable into the Dock Connector on the bottom of your iPod or iPod mini. The one connection provides line audio output and charges your iPod.”
Analysts at IDC estimate that Apple makes a 35 to 40 percent profit margin on each iPod shuffle the company sells, and stands to make even more from expected drops in flash memory pricing. IDC said the iPod shuffle’s flash memory, made by Samsung, is the most expensive component used in the device. IdaRose Sylvester, a senior semiconductor research analyst at IDC, estimates that the 512MB chip in the $99 shuffle costs Apple around $37.50 for each player—about two thirds of the estimated $59 that the company spends on total materials needed to make each 512MB shuffle.
“Apple is making very, very good margins on the shuffle,” Sylvester says. “We based our cost analysis on fourth quarter production prices, which would have been when they sourced [the components]. At some point they’ll switch to cheaper flash and the margins will improve.”
In addition to its revamped iPod photo lineup, Apple today also announced the Camera Connector accessory, which gives users the ability to import photos directly from their digital camera for instant viewing and slide show playback on the devices. Apple did not give any further information or image of the iPod add-on except to say that it will ship in late March for $29.
Greg Joswiak, vice president of hardware marketing at Apple, revealed further details of the Camera Connector in an interview with CNET News.com. He said that it is a small white plastic device that is similar to a small docking station with a cable for connecting to the iPod and a USB port for connecting to a camera. Joswiak noted that pictures loaded onto an iPod photo directly from the Camera Connector will be able to be viewed immediately on the device. However, in order for the photos to be shown on a TV, the iPod Photo will need to be connected to a computer first.
Update: At an Apple press event in Japan to introduce the new iPod models, a presentation slide revealed what the new iPod Camera Connector will look like (see above-right).
iLounge is proud to present the new iPod mini 6GB (“1500 songs”) box opening photo gallery, with shots depicting Apple’s new packaging and the very modest cosmetic changes to the rear of the new hardware. Though it may not be fully apparent in the photography, the iPod mini’s new silver packaging uses predominantly metallic ink to represent the color of the iPod inside; blue, green, and pink boxes are also prominently colored with their own identifying tones.
Amusingly, Apple’s external list of disclosures and disclaimers includes the following line regarding the color of the mini’s anodized aluminum casing: “Like a fine pair of jeans, iPod mini colors may vary and may change over time.” The line is apparently a reference to earlier reports of color variations in 4GB iPod minis, particularly in the “pink” units, and the casing’s potential for gradual lightening when exposed to bright light.
What’s changed on the new iPod minis’ backs? They now feature 4GB or 6GB markings, and additional electrical and interference certification seals that did not appear on iPod minis released early last year. Spacing of the Apple and iPod logos has shifted a tiny bit, and the “small print” text at the case’s bottom regrettably no longer uses easy-to-read bold text for the mini’s serial number. On the front Click Wheel, the icons are now indicated in the same colors as the mini’s casing.
Click “Read more” for preview shots, or view the iPod mini 6GB gallery.
Merrill Lynch analyst Steven Milunovich said today that he expects Apple to ship 1 million iPod shuffles and about 3 million iPods and iPod minis this quarter, for a total of 4 million units. This number would be down slightly from the nearly 4.6 iPods sold during the holiday quarter. “Updating the iPod mini should help iPod units decline only 35 percent sequentially from 4.6 million to 3 million,” the analyst wrote in a research report given to iLounge. Milunovich also noted that today’s 25 percent price reduction on the 60GB iPod photo suggests that “demand has been less than spectacular since its October debut.”
U.S. President George W. Bush says artists on his iPod include Creedence Clearwater Revival, George Jones, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson, and Van Morrison.
The South Huntington Public Library in Suffolk County, New York, is loaning out iPod shuffles loaded with books on tape.
The $210 Louis Vuitton Monogram iPod case is “the most luxurious way to carry your tunes around.”
Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal says the iRiver H10 is the best of the iPod mini competitors, but that it still “doesn’t top the iPod.”
AllofMP3.com, the Russian digital music site offering song downloads for pennies apiece, is the target of a criminal copyright investigation by the local police.
The Special Deals section of Apple’s online store is offering the original iPod photo models at discounted prices following today’s announcement of updated models. The 40GB iPod photo is now priced at $379 (was $499) and the 60GB model is priced at $479 (was $599). Keep in mind that today’s iPod photos sell for $349 for a 30GB model and $449 for the 60GB model. However, the original iPod photos came with a number of accessories that today’s models lack—such as an Apple carrying case ($29 retail), photo Dock ($39), FireWire cable ($19), and AV cable ($19). Both the original and second-generation iPod photos ship with Apple earphones, AC adapter, and USB 2.0 cable.
This morning’s iPod updates will “widen the gap between Apple and potential competition,” Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said today. “We believe some will view the changes in the iPod product line as negative. Specifically, we expect to hear arguments that Apple is taking a hit to margins in reaction to competitive threats,” Munster wrote in a research note to clients obtained by iLounge. “We believe that Apple’s changes to the product line are more offensive than defensive. Apple clearly holds the leadership position on this market and we believe these changes will widen the gap between Apple and potential competitors that are trying to chip away at iPod market share.”
Apple has posted iPod Updater 2005-02-22, which includes updated versions of the software for use with various iPod models. According to the release notes, the update includes new software for the iPod mini (v1.3), iPod with Dock Connector (v2.3), iPod shuffle (v1.1), and iPod with Touch Wheel or Scroll Wheel (v1.5).
The iPod mini software update adds support for the newly introduced models and adds support for charging and syncing over USB with Mac OS X v10.2.8 or 10.3.4 or later.
The iPod shuffle software update adds support for the iPod shuffle Battery Pack and offers “increased software stability.”
The iPod software update for those devices with Dock Connectors, Touch Wheels or Scroll Wheels brings the Shuffle Songs and Music items into the Main Menu, and adds support for iTunes 4.7 or later.
Editors’ Note: Trivia buffs may be interested to know that Apple’s new 4GB and 6GB iPod minis come with an earlier “new” version of the iPod Updater, dated 2005-02-07, which differs from the company’s January 11, 2005 Updater only in that it contains version 1.3 of the iPod mini software. Was the 6GB iPod mini originally planned for release less than one month after the iPod shuffle?
In addition to updated iPod minis, Apple today announced a revamped iPod photo family, including a new “slim” 30GB model for $349 and a 60GB model for $449 - a $150 price drop from its previous level. Apple’s 30GB model loses 10 Gigabytes, $150, 0.5 ounces of weight and 0.12” thickness from the earlier 40GB iPod photo, while the 60GB model remains the same size. Both the 30GB and 60GB iPod photos are available immediately. Apple is also promising updated iPod photo software for a March release to include “new slideshow transitions” that can be picked “on the go.”
Both of the new models feature the ability to import photos directly from your digital camera via an optional new iPod Camera Connector for instant viewing and slide show playback on iPod photo. The Connector is expected to be available in late March for $29.
The new iPod photo models no longer include iPod photo Docks, iPod photo AV cables, or cases, and more surprisingly, Apple has also apparently dropped both FireWire cables and FireWire Power Adapters from the iPod photo boxes. Each iPod photo now includes only a single USB 2.0 cable and a USB Power Adapter, recently reviewed on iLounge, for wall power charging. Each of the other items is available separately.
On a related note, Apple has discontinued the 40GB fourth-generation iPod (previously $399) and the 40GB iPod photo ($499). The fourth-generation 20GB iPod remains at a $299 price point.
Apple today introduced the second-generation iPod mini lineup, reducing the price of its first-generation 4GB model to $199, while introducing a new 6GB model priced at $249. Both iPod mini models feature increased battery life of up to 18 hours, and retain the same black-and-white screen found in the initial model.
The 4GB and 6GB models of iPod mini for Mac or Windows are available worldwide immediately in a choice of silver, pink, blue or green. Each of the three latter colors is an updated, stronger shade of the previous iPod mini color, while gold - a color long tipped to be relatively unpopular - has quietly been discontinued.
Apple has also apparently dropped both FireWire cables ($19) and FireWire Power Adapters ($29) from the iPod mini boxes, and now includes only a single USB 2.0 cable - presumably for computer-aided recharging. The company now separately sells a USB Power Adapter ($29), recently reviewed on iLounge, for wall power charging.
Simultaneous with the release of the new iPod mini, Apple has also announced five new colors of its neoprene exercise Armband - orange, yellow, blue, pink, and grey - in addition to its previous black version. Each is priced at $29, and is an “Apple Store Exclusive.” A single iPod mini lanyard ($19) has also been introduced, and attaches to the mini’s Dock Connector. It is expected to ship in 5-7 weeks, according to Apple.
PocketSensei has announced the first VideoHound MoviPod module for the iPod—MoviPod Academy Award Winners. The software puts an extensive movie guide on your iPod. “MoviPod offers reviews of Academy Award winners from 1927 to the present day with witty reviews, comprehensive filmographical facts, and entertaining trivia questions. Additional features include: extensive hyperlinks, easy one-click navigation and even insider notes revealing behind-the-scenes fun facts. Additional modules based upon VideoHound categories bring VideoHound’s unique and entertaining collections to the iPod. Each MoviPod will contain hundreds of the top movies of each genre—or perhaps the worst stinkers.” Each MoviPod module costs $1.95. Academy Award Winners is the only title available now.
As more and more digital music players get color screens, companies will be adding more integrated photo capabilities, including the ability to connect directly with cameras and printers, according to Gary Johnson, CEO of PortalPlayer, which makes the chip that powers the hard drive-based iPods.
“There are already plenty of MP3 players on the market, including Apple’s iPod photo, that can show digital photos while playing music,” reports CNET News.com. “But soon, we are likely to see music devices that can download and display pictures directly, without using a computer as a go-between… Johnson was careful not to say whether it will be Apple’s player that does this, though. An Apple representative declined to comment.”
Kenwood has announced a number of new car audio products that will be released throughout the first half of 2005, in conjunction with the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the company’s auto division. Among the new gear is a Kenwood iPod adapter.
Kenwood said the KCA-iP500 iPod adapter will be available in April for $179. It will support all 2003-2005 Kenwood and Kenwood Excelon in-dash receivers, including mobile video receivers with External Media Control. The company noted that the adapter also charges the iPod when connected, and supports ID3 tags for single and dual line display models.
Piper Jaffray said iTunes Music Store downloads for 2005 could reach 513 million versus the current estimate of 387 million, and 2006 iTunes downloads could reach 1.0 billion versus the current estimate of 542 million.
“It’s really quite ridiculous how simple and effective the new iPod Shuffle is,” writes Scott Goldman of the Indianapolis Star. “This variation of the wildly popular digital music player again has launched Apple to the forefront of digital music technology.”
At the Costume Designers Guild Awards on Saturday, Jennifer Rade, who designed the costumes for Apple’s iPod silhouette commercials, was honored with an award. “Only fellow costume designers could appreciate how difficult a job that was,” Rade said.
Lift, a bar in Des Moines, Iowa, is now holding “PodJay Mondays,” a weekly night devoted to iPod owners. “People program a playlist with 15 minutes or so of songs from their music catalog, then hand their players over to bartender Clint Curtis who treats the entire room to their musical tastes.”
A recent job posting from Apple on Gamasutra, a recruiting site for the game industry, suggests that the company may be ready to expand the iPod’s bundled games. The posting seeks a programmer with “experience working with embedded systems” who would in part be “responsible for rapidly developing memory and performance optimized software solutions to complex problems.” The optional qualifications for the position include “ARM7 RISC processor experience,” “Flash [game] experience” and “2D or 3D graphics programming” knowledge.
Apple plans to introduce an iPod or accessory with Bluetooth wireless technology, according to Bogdan Nedelcu, automotive product manager at Motorola. In an interview on radio station France Info, Nedelcou reportedly said that Motorola is close to releasing a system that allows users to listen to music from their iPod through their car stereo speakers. He also said that users will be able to have hands-free conversations with their mobile phone through their car speakers.
At the [email protected]! conference in Scottsdale, Arizona earlier this month, Motorola showed off a forthcoming product called “iRadio.” According to the company, iRadio will “mobilize hundreds of commercial-free Internet radio channels and your personal music collection, letting you enjoy your favorite genres, artists, and tunes whether at home, in the car, or on the go.” Motorola went on to state that the service “uses a high-speed Internet connection, Bluetooth technology, and a mobile phone to offer listeners a continuous entertainment experience—you can start a song on your car radio at exactly the point where you stopped it on your living room stereo.”
iRadio is planned for launch “later this year.”
Marware has provided iLounge with an exclusive first look at the company’s forthcoming new iPod shuffle case. The silicone case, tentatively named “Sport Grip for iPod shuffle,” turns Apple’s new compact music player into a keychain. Marware’s Ed Martin told iLounge that the company is hoping to also include a carabiner and a lanyard with the case. The Sport Grip will be available in a rainbow of colors in either a 3-pack or 5-pack, according to Martin. Pricing was not disclosed.
Click “Read more” for photos of the Sport Grip prototype. And visit iLounge Backstage for a look at a Sport Grip/SportRope combo.
Toshiba corporate vice president Masashi Muromachi said Monday that his company is having trouble producing enough flash memory chips for Apple’s iPod. “When it comes to the supply-demand balance we are currently unable to satisfy all customer demands,” Muromachi said, noting in particular the launch of the iPod shuffle. “Demand created by this new device is so vast that our current capacity can in no way meet [Apple’s] needs,” he said.
Muromachi said Toshiba plans to boost spending on semiconductors by 13 percent this year in an effort to expand output of flash chips. He also said the company would move forward the production schedule at a new flash memory plant owned jointly with SanDisk.