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H2O Audio ships waterproof housing for iPod nano

H2O Audio today announced that it has begun shipping its waterproof H2O Audio case for the iPod nano. The form-fit case is submersible up to 10 ft. and features the “Commander Scroll Wheel” for function of the iPod click wheel, LatchTight locking system, SealTight connector (compatible with standard 3.5mm headphone plugs), and Sport Armband. “Everyone from surfers, wakeboarders, water skiers, and swimmers to joggers and snowboarders can now strap on an H2O Audio for iPod nano using an armband or swim belt and take their soundtrack into their favorite activity regardless of environmental conditions,” says the company. The H2O Audio case for the iPod nano is priced at $80.

PortalPlayer vows to regain Apple’s iPod business

During a conference call with analysts after releasing first quarter earnings Tuesday, PortalPlayer CEO Gary Johnson said that the company would “fight back” to regain the lost iPod chip business at Apple. As reported late last month, Samsung was selected over PortalPlayer to supply the new processor chips in future flash memory-based iPods. According to a new report, however, the next-generation video iPod chip business still appears to be up for grabs. “Broadcom, PortalPlayer and Samsung are said to be competing for the next-generation, video iPod socket,” says the EE Times. “In other words, Samsung did not win the entire iPod business at Apple—at least for now.”

Mix: Trapped miners, Rockbox, Adobe promo, iAudioGuide

Two men trapped in a mine in northern Tasmania were given iPods to keep them entertained while they wait for rescuers to begin a new drilling operation to set them free.

CNET’s James Kim has reviewed Rockbox, the open-source firmware alternative for iPods which offers features like OGG and FLAC support, gapless playback, crossfading options, and a customizable interface.

RCA Dance Vault brings music out of storage and into iTunes

An effort by RCA’s music label is bringing “a feast of rarities” to the iTunes Music Store, according to a company executive. “A year ago, I looked for (Odyssey’s) ‘Native New Yorker’ on iTunes, and I couldn’t find it,” says Hosh Gureli, RCA Music Group vice president of A&R. “In fact, none of the classic (dance) stuff was up there.” Gureli said he found that most of the music was sitting in RCA’s Pennsylvania storage facility, and shortly after started working on the RCA Dance Vault project. Reuters reports that the vault’s initial iTunes offering includes previously non-digitized dance classics (“Native New Yorker”), promo-only extended mixes (Eurythmics’ 12-minute “Right by Your Side”), DJ tools such as a cappellas and bonus beats, and new material without traditional release options (Joe Bermudez’s remix of Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You”).

Report: French DRM law gutted

The French interoperability bill that would have forced Apple to open its FairPlay copy-protection technology used by the iPod and iTunes Music Store appears to have been gutted in committee. According to reports, most of the original provisions, which Apple said would result in “state-sponsored piracy,” have now been removed or rewritten. Ars Technica reports: “Previously, ‘information needed for interoperability’ covered ‘technical documentation and programming interfaces needed to obtain a copy in an open standard of the copyrighted work, along with its legal information.’ Now this has been changed to ‘technical documentation and programming interfaces needed to obtain a protected copy of a copyrighted work.’ But a ‘protected’ version of the work can’t be played back in a different player, which means interoperability won’t be attained with this clause.”

Marware Sidewinder iPod case now shipping

Marware has announced the immediate availability of its Sidewinder case for the fifth-generation iPod and iPod nano. The Sidewinder (iLounge Rating: A-) is a hard case featuring a retractable kickstand, “slide-and-hide” headphone cord wrap, and flip–open dock connector cover. The case comes in black or white and also includes Marware’s Multidapt belt clip system. The Sidewinder for the 30GB and 60GB iPod sells for $30, while the Sidewinder for the iPod nano costs $25.

Apple renews fixed-pricing deals with major labels [updated]

Despite a recent push for variable song pricing by some in the music industry, Apple has reportedly renewed contracts with the four major record labels to keep songs on the iTunes Music Store priced at 99 cents each. “The agreements came after months of bargaining, and were a defeat for music companies that had been pushing for a variable pricing model,” reports the Financial Times. Of the music industry’s big four record labels, executives at Warner Music, EMI and Sony BMG have all expressed their support for variable pricing. Apple CEO Steve Jobs last year famously called the record companies “greedy” for considering to raise song prices.

Update: Apple has released an official statement confirming the news. “We’ve renewed our agreements with the major music companies and we’re pleased to continue offering iTunes customers music at 99 cents per song from a library of over 3 million songs,” an Apple representative said in a statement.

Mix: ABC shows, MP3 players, French law, iTalk video

As expected, ABC has launched its free streaming video service offering full episodes of Desperate Housewives, Lost, Alias, and Commander-In-Chief. The shows contain ads and are in a Flash format that cannot be downloaded. [via Gizmodo]

The worldwide MP3 player market will jump from 140 million units in 2005 to 286 million by 2010, according to a new report by In-Stat. The firm says “drivers for this market include falling price points, the availability of legitimate subscription and pay-per-download online music sites, increasing Flash memory capacities and enhanced functionality.”

iPod nano to get video playback, Apple working on vPod battery life?

American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu believes that the next version of the iPod nano will gain more storage capacity and basic video playback features. “We continue to believe that the iPod nano is in need of a refresh with either an increase in storage capacities and/or price cuts to regenerate interest,” Wu said in a research note to clients. “Our most recent checks indicate that the current 2GB and 4GB models will see their storage doubled to 4GB and 8GB capacities. We are also picking up that basic video playback capability will likely be added to further differentiate against competitors. We anticipate these new nanos will become available in the September quarter and become top sellers, particularly if Apple keeps its price points low at $199 and $249.”

Napster returns to free music with ad-supported site

Facing Apple’s increasing dominance in the digital music world, Napster has shifted to an advertising-supported model that allows visitors to its website to listen to any of the 2 million songs in its catalog for free. But unlike the original Napster, which famously offered unauthorized song downloads, visitors can currently only listen to a song five times—after that, the track must be purchased for 99 cents or visitors must sign up for a subscription plan ($10-$15/month). “Napster clearly had to find something different,” says American Technology Research analyst P.J. McNealy. “But until the device market for non-iPods picks up, Napster faces an uphill battle.”

Free iPod Book 2.0 Contests - win Mac mini or Shure earphones

To celebrate the upcoming launch of iLounge’s Free iPod Book 2.0, we’re holding two big contests and giving away six pairs of Shure’s high-end E500 earphones and one brand-new Mac mini. In the “iPod 2010 Concept Art Contest,” we’re looking for the four best “future iPod” pieces of original concept art. A grand prize winner will get the Mac mini, while the most realistic, most creative and funniest entries will get a set of Shure earphones. Our “iPods Everywhere Photo Contest” seeks pictures taken of iPods in the car, in the home or on the go. The winner in each of the three settings will also win a set of Shure earphones.

Mix: iSchool, Sony player, Apple speakers, Royalties

Facing declining numbers in classrooms, the Vacaville school district in California has resorted to giving away iPod shuffles and iTunes gift cards to students with perfect attendance.

Sony plans to take on the iPod once again. Takao Yuhara, senior vice president of Sony, said the company is developing a new music player and a companion download service that will be released later this year.

Koyono offers new iPod-ready gear for Spring/Summer

Koyono has announced three new Spring and Summer jackets with integrated iPod controls. The new BlackCoat Sport ($225) is a button-up jacket made of waterproof nylon. It offers full iPod control and has five pockets. The BlackCoat Sport Surf Edition ($170; shown) is a short-sleeve hybrid shirt/jacket made of a breathable stretch cotton material with water repellant technology. It has several pockets, iPod connectivity, and “gives you a place to stow belongings you would otherwise have to drop in a bag or dangle off of you somehow.” The BlackCoat Work ($190) is a stretch cotton version of Koyono’s original jacket. Like the others, it has built-in iPod controls, and features a classic cut, waterproof coating and five pockets.

iPod lawsuits transferred, Apple vs. Apple decision due soon

Six lawsuits filed against Apple over iPod nano problems have been consolidated and transferred to the Northern District of California. The case will now be heard by Judge Ronald Whyte in San Jose. “Three lawsuits have been filed in California and one each in New Jersey, New York and Louisiana on behalf of customers who claimed their iPod nanos scratched excessively with normal use,” reports CNET News.com. “The suits also allege that Apple failed to disclose and repair the alleged defect and that Apple failed to abide by the warranty.” Meanwhile, Macworld UK reports that the judgement in the Apple Computer vs. Apple Corps case will take place on Monday, May 8. “Justice Edward Mann has been deliberating on the case since before Easter,” the publication notes. “At the ruling he will reveal if he has decided to grant an injunction barring Apple Computer from using its logo within iTunes.”

iTunes Music Store turns three

Apple launched the iTunes Music Store three years ago today on April 28, 2003. The store launched with over 200,000 songs and “groundbreaking personal use rights.” In addition to expanding the store to 20 other countries, Apple’s U.S. iTunes Music Store now offers over 2.9 million songs, 60,000 podcasts, 9,000 music videos, and over 70 television programs from ABC, NBC, CBS, HBO, MTV, ESPN and Showtime. More than 1 billion songs have been sold to date.

Future products, Disney plans discussed at Apple shareholders meeting

During Apple’s annual shareholders meeting yesterday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs described Apple’s upcoming products as “the best I’ve ever seen in my life,” and said that he had no interest in becoming an executive at Disney. While Jobs didn’t go into detail, he hinted at an Apple media center device and mentioned that an “exciting” television ad campaign would launch next week. Jobs said that after Disney completes the acquisition of Pixar, where he is also the CEO, he actually plans to spend more time at Apple. In response to a concerned shareholder question about his role at Disney, Jobs said “it’ll require less of my time than Pixar did.”

Tekkeon myPower now available in black

Tekkeon has announced a limited edition black version of its myPower rechargeable battery and portable dock for iPods. The all-in-one accessory provides more than 9 hours of extra video playback and up to 42 hours of extended music playback, according to the company. In addition to extra battery power, myPower features FireWire and USB 2.0 connections to sync your iPod with your computer, a line out for use with external speakers, and a 5V charging output to charge a mobile phone or other devices. myPower sells for $70 and works with 3G, 4G and 5G iPods and the iPod mini.

iLounge debuts massive Forums upgrade

After a successful upgrade yesterday evening, iLounge’s Discussion Forums today have a new look, new topics, and new features. Faster and easier to use than ever before, the Forums now benefit from expanded search capabilities, more efficient layout, and other design tweaks.

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Proporta intros color-changing iPod nano case

Proporta has announced its Color Change Silicone Case, a new protective skin for the iPod nano that gradually changes colors according to its temperature. The case is available in hot pink, deep blue and charcoal, and features a removable lanyard and access to all iPod controls and ports. “As the temperature rises, the case changes color (gradually getting lighter) allowing you to buy just one case but own a multitude of colors,” the Proporta says.

Mix: Blu-Ray, Ballmer, Airline music, Apple stores

Business 2.0 speculates that Apple could be asking Sony and other studios to include iPod-ready versions of movies on Blu-Ray disc releases alongside the full, high-definition versions.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says that the new generation of mobile phones will “outclass” today’s iPod as portable devices to play music. “Portable music is not just the iPod,” he said.

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