Flash memory card company SanDisk has quietly become the No. 2 seller of digital music players in America. “We want to be a strong No. 2 in the MP3 space,” said Eric Bone, SanDisk’s director of consumer product marketing. “There are people who, no matter what, will buy an iPod. All I want is for people to think there is an alternative.”
SanDisk, which began selling MP3 players in November 2004, used its strong presence at retailers across the U.S. to sell one million players during the recent holiday quarter. The company also reported a record $2.3 billion in revenues for 2005. “We already have the channels. We have the brand,” SanDisk Chief Executive Eli Harari said. “We are not Apple. We are not an iPod. But we have a highly respected brand.”
Through key patent holdings and a partnership with Toshiba, SanDisk gets its own source of flash chips at wholesale prices, allowing the company to sells its players at lower prices than other companies. SanDisk’s strategy is to sell MP3 players to those “beyond the middle class,” Harari said. “Our passion is to bring the cost of these devices down. It’s basically about creating new markets in which people can afford a product.”
The company’s current line of players range in price from $79 to $149 with capacities from 256MB to 2GB. SanDisk will release its new Sansa line next week, which consists of 2GB, 4GB and 6GB players and prices from $120 to $300. The high end model, the Sansa e200, will feature an iPod nano-like design, 1.8” TFT color screen, video and image playback, and a replaceable lithium ion battery. The player also supports Rhapsody, Napster and Yahoo Music.
R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe has released a charity EP exclusively on the iTunes Music Store that will benefit Hurricane Katrina survivors. The EP features six versions of the song “In the Sun,” including duets with Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Justin Timberlake, and will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. All proceeds will go directly to Mercy Corps, via the In The Sun Foundation, to aid those in the Gulf Coast affected by the tragedy.
“The news cycle has moved on and I don’t want the public to forget about those who were affected by Katrina or to believe that everything is fine now,” says Stipe. “Things are not fine. The storm is still impacting people’s lives in very real ways and many have been left desperate. I want to remind each of us that as humans, and certainly as Americans, it is our responsibility to help those in need.”
Kiwali has announced its NanoDeco adhesive covers for the iPod nano. Covering the front and back of the nano, each NanoDeco features “visually striking original designs that dramatically enhance the look and appeal of the iPod nano.” The initial collection features 10 designs, from the 60s-inspired Kung Fu-esque “Retro Fury” to the gothic “Magik & Lace.” The $15 covers are repositionable and provide protection from scratches and everyday use.
The Washington Post reports that digital music single sales grew by 150 percent last year, but may have resulted in fewer CD album sales in stores.
“As iPods and other MP3 players outsell CD players, sales of downloaded singles are booming accordingly,” the publication says. “Though sales of full-length albums were down 7.2 percent last year, the digital singles market grew by 150 percent, with 352.7 million individual songs sold online, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It was by far the highest figure for singles sales in any format since 1973, the first year for which Recording Industry Association of America shipment data are available for singles.”
“In late December 2005, weekly singles sales topped CD sales for the first time, as American consumers—many of them flush with holiday gift cards and loading new MP3 players—purchased 19.9 million digital tracks but just 16.8 million albums, according to Nielsen SoundScan.”
Digital Lifestyle Outfitters has announced the nanoShell, a transparent jewel case for the iPod nano. The nanoShell case is available in five colors—green, blue, purple, pink and clear—and provides full screen protection and click wheel access. The case also comes with two snap-on backs, smooth or with belt clip. The nanoShell is priced at $15.
Ben Silverman, an executive producer of NBC’s “The Office,” praised NBC for its willingness to “dive into its iTunes relationship quickly.” He credited the online downloads with boosting broadcast viewership.
The upcoming “Scary Movie 4” prominently features a giant iPod (“triPod”) as part of a plot parody for “War of the Worlds.”
Wired reports on “Podfading”: “Podcasting has drawn thousands on the premise that anyone can create an audio program, build an audience online and even vault to stardom. Less celebrated is the fact that untold numbers of shows just wink out just as suddenly as they started.”
VH1 has announced the addition of four new video podcasts—“Best Night Ever,” “Best Week Ever Daily,” “Best of VH1,” and “Flavor of Love.”
NextWorth today launched “The Great iPod Exchange,” a new service for consumers to sell their used iPods for cash. “While some wish to sell their used iPods themselves, The Great iPod Exchange streamlines the sales process, giving customers a better cash return than they might realize through alternative outlets (e.g. Apple Store, PodSwap, SmallDog Electronics),” says the company.
NextWorth describes the three steps to selling your iPod to them:
1) Complete form - Point your browser to http://ipod.nextworth.com, complete online form with details on the condition, model and components of the used iPod. NextWorth provides an instant “guaranteed value” quote for the unit. NextWorth ships the original owner a postage-paid return package.
2) Return - iPod Owner ships iPod and accompanying materials (disc, literature, peripherals) to NextWorth in pre-paid postage package.
3) Receive a check - After receiving and evaluating the customer’s iPod, NextWorth inspects and verifies the condition of the iPod. Within 2 weeks of their initial contact to NextWorth, the customer receives the check for the “guaranteed value”.
Showtime and Apple today announced that programming from the premium cable channel is now available on the iTunes Music Store. The first round of shows from Showtime includes the first seasons of “Sleeper Cell,” “Weeds” and “Fat Actress.”
iTunes now offers more than 50 TV shows available for $1.99 per episode. Apple also announced that more than 12 million videos have been purchased and downloaded since they were added to the iTunes Music Store in October 2005.
Apple today introduced a new 1GB iPod nano that offers the same features and form factor as the current 2GB and 4GB models for $149. The new lower-capacity nano, which was predicted by analysts, holds up to 240 songs or 15,000 photos. It is available immediately.
Apple also cut iPod shuffle prices by $30. The 512MB model now sells for $69 and the 1GB shuffle is now priced at $99.
“Now everyone can afford an iPod nano, with our new 1GB model starting at just $149,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide iPod Product Marketing. “The iPod is the world’s most popular digital music player with over 40 million sold, and now even more music lovers can experience the unrivaled combination of iPod and iTunes.”
[Note: iLounge’s comprehensive iPod nano review now includes new photos and details on the differences between the 1GB nano and its 2GB/4GB predecessors.]
Pacific Rim Technologies has announced the availability of its iCradle. The accessory allows any dockable iPod (3G, 4G, 5G, mini, nano) to connect to your home stereo. It comes with a wireless remote and can also be used to charge/sync your iPod. The dock has USB 2.0, audio jack and S-Video connections. The iCradle is available until February 14th for $35—it will sell for $45 afterwards.
Apple has quietly launched its countdown to a billion songs sold on the iTunes Music Store. “Music lovers like you in 21 countries around the globe have purchased nearly one billion songs from the iTunes Music Store. And as we count down to this massive milestone in digital music history, we’d like to thank you for joining us,” Apple says. “We’ve got one billion reasons to celebrate, and we’re starting with you.”
The company is giving away a 4GB iPod nano and a $100 iTunes gift card to the iTunes customer who purchases the winning song at each 100,000 interval. The grand prize winner who downloads 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.
Like it has with past milestones, Apple has posted a live song counter online to help users participate in the contest. The tally currently stands at nearly 960 million songs sold.
News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch said in a recent interview with Newsweek that he’s not impressed with the video iPod and that Apple’s agreements with networks like NBC and ABC are not ground-breaking.
“We’re not knocked out by iPod so far,” he said, adding that News Corp. has had talks with Apple, Google and others. “But how many people really want to get video on a tiny screen when they already have TiVo or a similar service from their cable company or DirecTV? How many will want to pay $1.99 on Monday morning if they missed ‘Desperate Housewives’ the night before? What’s been announced so far with iPod and Disney and NBC is very small-time at the moment.”
C6 Manufacturing has announced the availability of its carbon fiber case for Apple’s fifth-generation iPod. The case features genuine aerospace carbon fiber and aluminum construction with stainless steel screws. It also comes with a clear screen protector, stainless steel belt clip and assembly tool. The carbon fiber case sells for $50 and is available in two sizes for both the 30GB and 60GB iPod.
Dell has discontinued its Digital Jukebox MP3 player line. Dell will still sell the $99 flash memory-based DJ Ditty.
Google Video has a large collection of Super Bowl XL commercials, including several that are free downloads in iPod video format.
MTV Networks has been surprised that stand-up specials from its Comedy Central channel are outperforming better-known shows like “Laguna Beach” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
Apple is continuing to repair damaged iPod nano displays free-of-charge and has instructed its partners to do the same, according to an AppleInsider report.
Attorneys for Contois Music Technology and Apple will meet at a hearing on Wednesday to discuss the progress of the iTunes interface theft case and when it will be ready for trial. Contois filed a lawsuit against Apple over the user interface of iTunes in June of last year. The company is asking a judge to end the distribution of iTunes and is seeking unspecified damages and fees. Apple denies the allegations and is seeking reimbursement of its own legal fees.
“Apple has copied the invention,” reads the lawsuit. “Apple’s infringement has been and continues to be willful.” The complaint says that Contois showed its music software at industry trade shows in 1995 and 1996 in Nevada and California, and charges that Apple’s “current or future employees” viewed the software at those trade shows and later duplicated it. Contois filed for a patent on its software in 1996 and was granted the application in 1999.
USA Today has posted an article on iPod office etiquette, offering tips for listening to your iPod at work.
Apple’s iTunes Music Store won the “Grand Prix
The New York Times takes a look at the iPod accessory market today and provides a product breakdown and interesting dollar figures. The overall iPod add-on market is a $1 billion business, and for ever $3 spent on an iPod, at least $1 is spent on an accessory. Citing an NPD analyst, The Times says sales of iPod accessories totaled $850 million last year, not counting online sales.
The paper also claims that about 28 percent of all accessories are cases, about 30 percent of sales are for car chargers or FM transmitters and the remainder are speakers and docking stations. Retailer margins for electronic iPod products are reportedly around 25 percent, while cases offer 50 percent margins.
TuneCore is a new service that provides independent artists an easy way to sell their tracks on the iTunes Music Store and RealNetworks’ Rhapsody service. The company promises 100% of the money that the stores pay—without a contract or losing any rights or ownership to the music. TuneCore allows artists to upload their music via its website or mail a CD to them. The company charges a one-time deliver fee of 99-cents per song on each album, and a yearly maintenance and storage fee of $7.98 per album.
“TuneCore is a music delivery and distribution service that gets music you created (even cover versions) up for sale on iTunes and Rhapsody without asking for your rights or taking any money from the sale or use of your music,” explains the company. “You get 100% of what iTunes and Rhapsody pay. We take nothing, all the money goes to you. You keep ALL the rights and ownership of your music and master recordings. TuneCore is non-exclusive, so you’re never locked in.”
Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld will release a video podcast of his fall/winter ‘06 line through iTunes following the close of New York Fashion Week on Friday, February 10.
“The runway show will be taped in HD and edited on-site using Final Cut Pro editing software with Motion-based graphics added in a near real-time process,” explains the Lagerfeld fashion house. “This innovative process allows for not only HD output used at the event, but also for video podcasting of the show, which will be available for download via iTunes that evening. This will be the first time a designer has brought fashion and technology together in this revolutionary way.”
Lagerfeld is known as an excessive iPod fan with a collection of more than 70 various iPod models as of 2004.
Newer Technology has introduced the NewerTech Clean and Polish Kit, which is designed to remove scratches and restore color to used iPods, iBooks, and other plastic computer components. The $18 kit includes a Heavy Scratch Remover solution, Fine Scratch Remover solution, and Plastic Clean and Shine protection polish. A polishing cloth and step-by-step instructions are also included.
“The NewerTech Clean and Polish Kit utilizes advanced chemistry bonds to remove heavy scratches, abrasions, fine marks and delicate cuts from virtually all plastics and acrylic surfaces without unsightly filling,” says the company. “The scratch remover elements also restore faded and discolored plastic. A state-of-the-art, Level 3 plastic polish leaves a lustrous shine that resists fogging, repels dust, resists fingerprint marks, and eliminates static.”