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iPod demand down ‘only slightly’ from holiday quarter

Demand for Apple’s iPod is expected to only slightly dip from the record-breaking holiday quarter, according to Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Munster. Citing research from Apple resellers and unit shipment data from NPD, the analyst says that iPod demand may exceed his firm’s previous estimates. Munster says he expects Apple to ship 9.3 million iPods during the March quarter.

“Our checks with Apple specialist resellers last week indicated that they are not experiencing a significant slowdown in Mac sales,” Jaffray says in a note to clients, and “iPod availability is significantly better than it was during the December quarter, while iPod demand is only down ‘slightly,’ not ‘significantly’ from Dec-05 to Mar-06. Additionally, our preliminary analysis of iPod unit shipment data from NPD leads us to believe that Apple is on track to meet or slightly exceed our iPod unit assumptions.”

BusinessWeek: ‘iPod mania alive and well’ in Japan

BusinessWeek’s Ian Rowley writes that “iPod mania is alive and well in Japan—one of the most competitive consumer-electronics markets on the planet.” Apple’s ad campaigns, the launch of the Japanese iTunes Music Store, the opening of a brick-and-mortar store in Shibuya, and the iPod nano are all credited with the increased popularity in the country.

“Despite an array of well-entrenched Japanese rivals, such as Sony and Matsushita, the iPod had cornered 51.3% of the digital-music player market as of the end of 2005, up from about 32% in 2004, according to research firm BCN. Sony was a distant second with 16.2%, while Panasonic grabbed just 8.2% of the market,” Rowley reports. “For now, though, the iPod absolutely rules Japan’s digital-music player market—pretty amazing when you consider that Japan is home to some of the toughest competitors imaginable in the global consumer-electronics game.”

In addition to the BusinessWeek article, iLounge’s pictoral report from Tokyo, Japan is also available.

Mix: iTunes winner, Toxins bill, Steve Jobs, PC case

Alex Ostrovsky, the winner of the iTunes billion song contest, has commented on his winnings. He says he will keep the iMac and an iPod, and give family and friends the remaining iPods. As for the $10,000 iTunes gift card, “My sister has already called from New York to talk about divvying it up,” he said.

A newly introduced California bill would require manufacturers to stop using hazardous materials in making cell phones, iPods and other battery-operated devices.

Apple co-founder and chief executive officer Steve Jobs turns 51 today. Jobs was born on February 24, 1955.

Logisys Computer has introduced a new computer case that resembles an iPod. The ePod Soho case is white and has “several buttons resembling those found on the scroll wheel of an Apple iPod, as well as a blue LED light that gives the case a constant backlit glow.”

Winner of iTunes billion song contest announced

As reported earlier today, Apple’s iTunes Music Store sold its one billionth song a little after midnight Thursday. Apple has now revealed the name of the person who downloaded the track and what song he purchased.

The billionth song was “Speed of Sound” by Coldplay and was purchased by Alex Ostrovsky from West Bloomfield, Michigan. As the grand prize winner of Apple’s billion song countdown contest, he will receive a 20-inch iMac, 10 video iPods and a $10,000 iTunes gift card. In addition, Apple will establish a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music in his name.

“I hope that every customer, artist and music company executive takes a moment today to reflect on what we’ve achieved together during the past three years,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Over one billion songs have now been legally purchased and downloaded around the globe, representing a major force against music piracy and the future of music distribution as we move from CDs to the Internet.”

Analysts speculate on Apple event: Movie downloads, iTablet?

Following Apple’s teaser invitation to a special event next Tuesday, analysts are weighing in on what they think the company will introduce. Speculation ranges from new Intel-based Macs to a movie download service to a tablet-size iPod with HD video.

American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu expects an entry-level MacBook laptop and an updated Mac mini, but also says Apple could announce the availability of its first full-length movie downloads. “We believe there is a greater than 50 percent chance that Apple will announce its first, full-length feature films available for download on iTunes,” he says. Wu doesn’t believe the company will debut the so-called “true video iPod.”

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster thinks the event will be Intel-focused, but could also bring new iPods. However, he says it is less likely that Apple will release the rumored touch-screen iPod. “While it is difficult to predict exactly what Apple will announce next Tuesday, it is easier to predict what Apple will announce in the next 12 months,” which he says could include new iBooks and Power Macs, a larger-screen iPod, a new iPod shuffle, Airport Express for video, an Apple-branded cell phone.

Bear Stearns analyst Andrew Neff says a new video iPod is likely, though it could turn out to be “tablet-sized or HDTV-based.” “As speculation begins to build around what Apple could announce on February 28, we think—focusing on the adjectives ‘fun’ and ‘new’—the most likely products are either a tablet-size iPod or a larger HDTV-based iPod,” says Neff. “While more Intel-based products (new iBook or iMacs) or a phone are possible, neither strikes us as ‘fun’ or ‘new’.”

Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at the industry research firm Jupiter Research, reminds Apple watchers that no one really knows what to expect. “We’re talking about Apple, so it could be all of those things, none of those things, or something brand new,” says Gartenberg. Ross Rubin, an analyst at the market research firm NPD Group, said trying to speculate on what Apple might roll out at the event is a “fruitless guessing game.”

Mix: iTunes shows, Woz, NAND flash, Nano rip-off

Apple has added episodes of “Project Runway” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” to the iTunes Music Store.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says that iPods are distracting Apple from its focus on computing and should consider spinning off the business. “There’s a different group working on it anyway,

Thomas Pink tailors iPod nano tie

imageUK-based premium shirt maker Thomas Pink has introduced a new tie with a built-in iPod nano pocket. The limited edition Commuter tie is made of 100% silk and conceals the nano in a pocket on the reverse side. It also has a fabric loop to keep headphone cables out of sight. The Thomas Pink tie is priced at £49.

iTunes Music Store sells one billionth song

imageApple’s iTunes Music Store, which launched in April 2003, sold its one billionth song at approximately 12:40 a.m. ET on Thursday.

Apple launched its billion song countdown contest earlier this month. The grand prize winner who downloaded the billionth song will receive a 20-inch iMac, 10 60GB iPods, and a $10,000 iTunes gift card. In addition, Apple said it will create a full-ride scholarship in the winner’s name to a world-renowned music school.

Mix: Featured podcasts, NBC viewers, PortalPlayer, Burt Bacharach

PBS’ Mark Glaser looks into how Apple chooses the featured podcasts in its podcast directory on the iTunes Music Store.

NBC Entertainment Group CEO Jeff Zucker comments on releasing “Conviction” on iTunes early: “We believe we have a youthful and energetic cast that should appeal to a new audience increasingly comfortable with this downloadable format as a viewing option, and we want to reach out to these viewers.”

iPod chip maker PortalPlayer is looking to diversify its revenue stream by introducing a new LCD product for the outside of laptop computers.

PC World’s Harry McCracken got musician Burt Bacharach to autograph his iPod, and noted that Bacharach said it was the first he’d ever signed.

Podner iPod video app forced to change name

Splasm Software says it must come up with a new name for Podner, its Mac-only iPod video conversion application, following emails from Apple requesting a name change. Splasm is giving away free Podner registrations to those who submit one of the top five new names for the software.

“Twice in the last week, the kind folks at Apple Computer have asked us to change Podner’s name to something without the word ‘pod’ in it. We don’t see more than a passing family resemblance, but we can’t say we blame them,” the developer says. “Podner is an awfully popular iPod video conversion tool and if we were Apple we might circle the wagons round little bits and pieces of our trademark, too. When companies like Apple Corps can sue Apple Computer over a trademark dispute we think it might be time to saddle up and move along to a new name. C’mon now, who’s got the money to stand up and defend a cute cowboy hat?”

Griffin ships TuneFlex for iPod nano

imageGriffin Technology has announced that it is now shipping the TuneFlex (iLounge Rating: B+), its new car dock and charger for iPod nano. The TuneFlex features a flexible steel neck and rotating cradle, and plugs into your car’s 12-volt accessory outlet. It also has a 1/8

Apple to hold special event on Feb. 28

imageApple has sent out an invitation to select media, including iLounge, to a special event that will be held at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California on February 28th.

The invitation, which only features the iCal-like calendar image shown right, reads: “Come see some fun new products from Apple.” The special event begins at 9:00 a.m. at Apple Town Hall, Building 4.

iLounge has confirmed with Apple that this event will be taking place and is not a hoax like the email sent out last week purporting to be an Apple invitation to a special event on March 1st.

NBC offers ‘Conviction’ pilot for free on iTunes

NBC is offering the pilot episode of its new legal drama “Conviction” for free on the iTunes Music Store nearly two weeks before the show makes its network series premiere. NBC is also offering a music video by The Gabe Dixon Band and a behind-the-scenes look at the show. The hour-long show, currently being heavily promoted on air, will debut on the network on Friday, March 3.

“This is the stunning new drama from the creator of Law & Order, offering viewers a provocative look into the cases and lives of New York Assistant District Attorneys,” reads a description of the show. “They’re young and over their heads, pushing to prove themselves in the world’s biggest city and most tumultuous courtrooms. But whatever they lack in experience, they more than make up for in their passion to make their case.”

Mix: Amazon.com, Nintendo, Domokun, Podcast fans

Amazon.com has refused to comment on reports that it is planning to launch a digital music store and a branded portable MP3 player to compete with the iPod and iTunes.

Nintendo of America’s sales and marketing VP, Reggie Fils-Aime, admits in a column he wrote for Brandweek that his company’s approach with the DS and Revolution has drawn much from the iPod.

A Craftser.org member has posted directions on how to create your own handmade Domokun iPod case. [via TUAW]

In an article entitled “Invasion of the podcast people,” Chris Coomey of the Chicago Tribune looks at how podcasts swell in popularity and quickly gain “armies of loyal fans.”

Ricky Gervais cashes in on comedy podcast hit

Ricky Gervais, the English comedian behind the BBC’s and NBC’s “The Office,” is cashing in on his top-rated comedy podcast by signing a deal to sell future episodes through the iTunes Music Store and Audible.com. Seasons two and three of Gervais’s “The Ricky Gervais Show” will be sold for $1.95 per show or $6.95 for the entire season of at least four weekly episodes, plus a free sneak preview.

“The Ricky Gervais Show revolves around the comic dialogue of Gervais, his long-time creative partner Stephen Merchant and ‘hapless producer’ Karl Pilkington,” reads a description of the show. “First launched in December 2005, the show has quickly become a global phenomenon, having gained unprecedented popularity. The show averaged more than 260,000 weekly downloads in only its first month and was recently awarded the Guinness World Record for creating the world’s most-downloaded podcast, having reached 2.9 million cumulative downloads in just over two months”

MixPod DJ mixer for iPods introduced

imagePhonic has introduced the MixPod, a new DJ mixing console for iPods. Compatible with all dockable iPods, the MixPod features dual iPod cradles, iPod navigation controls, a 3-band channel EQ with gain control, phono/line inputs for additional devices, and USB 2.0 connectivity. Pricing and availability were not provided.

“The all new Phonic MixPod gives every Disc Jockey what they require: a way to stream their iPod’s music directly into a quality, no-hassle 2-channel DJ mixer,” says Phonic. “The MixPod’s features a single iPod cradle on each input channel, allowing for real-time streaming of audio to the corresponding channel… All-in-all, the MixPod is without a doubt the most useful tool any serious -– or amateur –- DJ could pick up this year.” [via Gizmodo]

PopXpress to open second London iPod shop

PopXpress this week will open its second iPod-dedicated store in Piccadilly Circus, London. “The company is attempting to build the first UK chain of iPod-dedicated shops. Its second retail outlet will open its doors at 166 Bond Street on February 24. The company intends opening 12 stores nationwide by the end of the year,” reports Macworld UK. “The new shop occupies two floors and features a minimalist design that’s in keeping with the Apple aesthetic. Stores carry all Apple’s iPod products and a vast array of third party kit.”

Podolock iPod mini security product announced

imageThe Podolock is a new product for the iPod mini that helps secure the device to prevent theft or unauthorized use. The Podolock consists of a hard case and cable system, provides full access to the iPod, and can be used with other iPod cases. It will ship next month for $20. Cables range from $10 to $20.

“Simple, quick and secure, Podolock frames your iPod in a beautiful, acrylic case,” says the maker of the product. “Insert a cable at the top, lock to a table at your office or dorm, or attach to your car’s steering wheel and your iPod is protected from theft. Any place your iPod might be left alone for even a brief moment of time, protect it with Podolock.”

iPod Access for Mac, Windows updated

Findley Designs has released updates to its iPod Access software, which allows users to transfer files from an iPod back to a computer. iPod Access 3.7 for Mac and iPod Access 2.7 for Windows both bring support for playing video files directly from the iPod, as well as an option for ID3 Tag transfer for WAV, video and iFM files. iPod Access sells for $15.

Tunewear debuts Icewear Ultra Clear for iPod nano

imageTunewear has announced the Icewear Ultra Clear, a new version of its high-density silicone case for the iPod nano. The new transparent case comes with the company’s protective Tunefilm and sells for $13.

“Just like the rest of the Icewear series, Icewear nano Ulta Clear utilizes high density silicone as found in diving masks and our patent pending Rib-Technology to protect your iPod nano, however, this time it is crystal clear.”

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