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iMuffs wireless Bluetooth headphones offered

imageThe iMuffs from Wi-Gear combine a Bluetooth headset and adapter that enable users to listen to their iPod wirelessly from up to 30’ away. The behind-the-neck headphones feature controls for play/pause, volume, and next/previous track. The iMuffs also offer mobile phone integration. “When your Bluetooth phone rings, the iMuffs automatically pause your iPod and ring in the headphones, and let you talk through the integrated microphone,” says Wi-Gear.

The iMuffs work with any Dock Connector iPod (3G/4G, photo and mini). iLounge is awaiting pricing and availability information from the company. [via Engadget]

XtremeMac, Future Sonics partner on line of earphones

XtremeMac and Future Sonics have announced that they have teamed up to develop and market a new lineup of earphones and earphone products.

“These products will combine XtremeMac’s brand awareness and distribution in the digital multimedia and consumer electronics markets with Future Sonics’ strength in the professional audio, sound reinforcement and musical instrument markets,” the companies said in a statement. “The first product to be released will feature newly developed technologies for high-quality audio in a new earphone form developed jointly by Future Sonics and XtremeMac. These products will feature co-branding of both companies by using the ‘Powered by Future Sonics’ badge under the XtremeMac brand.”

Sonnet debuts PodFreq mini

imageSonnet Technologies has announced the PodFreq mini, an all-in-one device for the iPod mini that offers an integrated dock, case and FM transmitter. The PodFreq mini lets users charge/sync their iPod or listen to their music with any nearby FM radio (88.1 through 107.9 MHz supported).

It features FireWire and mini-USB 2.0 ports, and a clear plastic top half that protects the display, but leaves the Click Wheel accessible. The PodFreq mini includes a car charger, car cradle, USB 2.0 cable and soft carrying pouch. Like the original PodFreq, the new device also features a telescoping antenna and digital display. The Sonnet PodFreq mini will be available in July 2005 for $99.95.

RipDigital offers iPods loaded with purchasers’ music

CD-to-MP3 conversion service RipDigital today announced that it is now selling iPods pre-loaded with customers’ CD collections.

“By combining the leading digital music player and leading CD conversion service, RipDigital has created the easiest and fastest way to make the jump to digital music,” the company says. “Since RipDigital originated the CD conversion service in 2002, the company has saved thousands of people countless hours converting CD collections. Now, RipDigital is offering an irresistible customer experience for anyone that wants join the world of digital music but would rather have someone else handle the legwork. New iPods are delivered to RipDigital customers loaded with all their music and ready for listening.”

RipDigital’s conversion service costs approximately $1 per CD. iPods will be “priced in line with Tekserve’s in-store pricing” (a 20GB iPod with 200 CDs preloaded sells for $499).

Jobs biography details birth of iPod, iTunes

The Sydney Morning Herald has published an interesting excerpt from “iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business” that details the birth of the iPod, iTunes and the iTunes Music Store. The excerpt touches on the choice of a music device over a PDA, battery issues with the iPod, and more. Apple recently pulled all tech books from the publisher of “iCon,” John Wiley & Sons, because Jobs was reportedly unhappy with the biography. It will go on sale June 1, 2005.

“Jobs stayed close to the project all the way, his brilliance as a marketer and his flawless taste in design shining through in his rigorous-as-ever demands for the highest standards. PortalPlayer’s Ben Knauss recalls, ‘Steve would be horribly offended if he couldn’t get to the song he wanted in less than three pushes of a button.’ Because of the impossibly short schedule, there wasn’t any time for custom-designed computer chips.”

“Unlike in the past Apple’s design chain now relied on off-the-shelf components elegantly integrated. Critical pieces such as the digital-to-analog converters were selected from a manufacturer’s catalogue. Even the hard drive was standard Toshiba hardware. How many companies could tackle a project in a new category, create a ground-breaking widget that looked great and worked better than anyone else’s and do it all in under a year? It only happened because of Steve Jobs cracking the whip.”

Vaja unveils leather iPod shuffle case

imageVaja has introduced its new AP11 flip-top iPod shuffle case. Made from the Argentine leather, the case features “play-through” access to the control pad, and has an opening for the headphone port and slider switch. As with Vaja’s other iPod cases, the AP11 case is available in a rainbow of colors via the company’s customization options. The Vaja AP11 leather iPod shuffle case is priced at $34.90.

Monster iCruze now available

imageMonster has announced that its iCruze direct-connect iPod car audio solution is now shipping and is available from multiple nationwide retailers such as Best Buy, Comp USA, Good Guys, Ultimate Electronics, and Tweeter.

Monster iCruze enables the connection of an iPod directly to a factory-installed or Alpine M-Bus car stereo through the CD changer port. It can access different playlists and songs through existing controls and also charges the iPod while driving. The main iCruze unit costs $249.95 and the optional display sells for $99.95. “Additional interface connecting cables that match specific car models may also be required, which range in price from $30 to $160 depending on the complexity of the OEM stereo,” notes Monster.

DVForge kills PodBuddy, blames DLO [updated]

imageDVForge has decided to halt production of its PodBuddy FM auto connection cradle due to a patent conflict with another major iPod accessory maker.

“We are not going to be able to launch and sell our PodBuddy product, because of a disagreement with Netalog, Inc. D/B/A/ DLO (Digital Lifestyle Outfitters) over a patent that they hold for their TransPod iPod car holder/transmitter,” DVForge’s Jack Campbell says in a note on his company’s site. “We have been informed by DLO that they consider our PodBuddy to be an infringement of their company’s U.S. patent #6,591,085, and, that they will file suit against us, if we launch the PodBuddy.”

“We disagree with DLO’s claim, and, we believe that our PodBuddy is so utterly different from their company’s TransPod product that there can be no question of infringement,” Campbell continues. “But, we are not able to fund the sort of protracted legal battle that would be required to prove our point in court. So, we are forced to kill the PodBuddy.”

Update: DLO has provided iLounge with the following statement regarding DVForge’s claims: “Our DLO TransPod is a very popular product that people use and enjoy every day. In fact, the newly released black TransPod is one of our fastest selling products ever. This all-in-one car solution contains one of the best sounding and most convenient iPod Transmitters in the world and eliminates the need for any additional wires or chargers.”

“Available in Best Buy, CompUSA, Circuit City, Target and most other iPod accessory outlets, the DLO TransPod is a very relevant product and worthy of defending its Intellectual Property as recognized by the United States Patent & Trademark Office. We have and will continue to defend our awarded patent to the fullest extent of the law. The DLO TransPod and its future iterations will continue to be extraordinarily important to DLO and iPod owners everywhere.”

Merrill Lynch offers possibilities for iTunes video

With the recent addition of video support in iTunes, Apple is in good shape to partner with record companies to sell music videos or to offer a subscription video service, according to one Wall Street analyst.

“The music industry doesn’t have an outlet to sell music videos and likely would cooperate with Apple,” Milunovich said in a research note obtained by iLounge. “In addition, Netflix said that given Apple’s recent hiring and lease of space, the company has designs on subscription video of some kind. And Apple has expressed interest in high definition video.”

Like many others, the analyst said the videos could hint at a video iPod. “Selling videos may be a precursor to a video iPod,” Milunovich said. “The new features within iTunes allow users to download full versions of Quicktime music videos. We previously speculated that iPod video capability for short clips could be available by Christmas.”

Mix: Pepsi codes, GarageBand, Sports stars, Commencement

imageFree song codes from the Pepsi-iTunes promotion must be redeemed by 11:59:59 p.m. PT today.

Online music community GarageBand.com has announced GarageBand Podcast Studio, “the world’s first Web-based tool to record, mix and publish a podcast.”

CBC Sports asked several sports stars such as Brett Hull, Chris Bosh, and Jennie Finch about their iPods—how long they’ve had one, how often and when do they use it, and their top five songs.

Merritt Island Christian School (Florida) graduates received free iPods. At their commencement, Rev. Byron Cutrer defined “iPod” as an acronym for “individuality,” “passion,” helping “others” and a lifetime of “doing.”

U2’s Bono: Apple ‘more creative than a lot of rock bands’

The Chicago Tribune has an interesting interview with U2 frontman Bono about the band’s ties with Apple.

When asked if associating a song with a product such as the iPod is a good idea, Bono said: “Our being on TV, I don’t have a problem with that—we should be on TV. But OK, associating our music with a product. You’ve got to deal with the devil. Let’s have a look. The devil here is a bunch of creative minds, more creative than a lot of people in rock bands. The lead singer is Steve Jobs. These men have helped design the most beautiful object art in music culture since the electric guitar. That’s the iPod. The job of art is to chase ugliness away. Everywhere we look we see ugly cars, ugly buildings… ugly objects in the work place. Everywhere. And these people are making beautiful objects.”

Bono said being in the Apple commercial helped get their new single heard by new music fans. “We looked at the iPod commercial as a rock video. We chose the director. We thought, how are we going to get our single off in the days when rock music is niche? When it’s unlikely to get a three-minute punk-rock song on top of the radio? So we piggybacked this phenomenon to get ourselves to a new, younger audience, and we succeeded. And it’s exciting. I’m proud of the commercial, I’m proud of the association… But we have to start thinking about new ways of getting our songs across, of communicating in this new world, with so many channels, with rock music becoming a niche.” [via Cult of Mac]

Jobs discusses phones and Yahoo, ribs Gates

In addition to showing off podcasting support in a beta version of iTunes 4.9 at the D: All Things Digital conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs discussed the cell phone industry’s move towards digital music, Yahoo’s new subscription service, and even ribbed Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. The Wall Street Journal has the complete story (paid subscription required).

Jobs said downloading music from mobile phone carriers would be “a lousy buying experience” and likely to be two or three times as expensive as iTunes, adding that “it’s hard to see their customers as that stupid.”

The Apple chief also said that Yahoo’s $60-per-year music subscription plan was “substantially” below the company’s costs and would soon be raised. Jobs said Apple employees have a betting pool on when Yahoo will raise the $5-a-month rate. He said he put his money on five months from now.

And finally, Jobs took advantage of Gates being in the crowd (he spoke today). During his talk at the conference, Jobs asked everyone in attendance how many had iPods. After a number of hands went into the air, Jobs asked “Bill, do you have your hand up?”

DelaPod handbags feature integrated iPod pocket

imageDelarew Designs has introduced its DelaPod line of handbags for female iPod owners. The bags feature two headphone jacks and an integrated, transparent plastic window that holds an iPod and lets users control the device without taking it out.

“DelaPod bags remove the ‘struggle and juggle’ that female iPod users experience,

Mix: Motion remote, iPod Cafe, Discrimination suit, iPod SD

Peter Tyser, an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin, informed us that he has built an iPod remote control that responds to a users motion rather than touch.

Circuit City’s online store has added the iPod Cafe, a new section that features all of the retailer’s iPod accessories. [via Macsimum News]

A former Apple employee has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the company alleging that she was wrongfully terminated after complaining that her white counterparts were being paid more than she was.

iLounger Sukumar writes: “I have posted a concept hack called iPod SD conceptualizing how Apple could attack the smartphone market. Thought you and your readers may find it interesting.”

Forums: Families & iPods, In School, IceLink, iPod ‘switchers’

Some topics in this week’s look at the iLounge Discussion Forums include the iPod being embraced by all ages in a thread about parents, grandparents and iPods. Have you introduced your older family members to the iPod phenomenon?

Over in the iPods on Campus forum, readers are sharing their positive and negative experiences with iPods as educational tools. Come and add your experiences. Is the iPod being used in your school to help with your studies, or just something to fill in the time between classes?

The iPod-in-car installation skills of one forum member is highlighted in the thread “2003 Honda Accord with IceLink v. 1.1 installed!”. This installation took just over three hours with a little help from friends, showing that with a little time and knowledge a professional standard can be achieved at little extra cost.

If you’ve recently given in and joined the iPod club, you might enjoy reading how other forum members learned to love the iconic MP3 player and what triggered their purchases.

Belkin TuneStage Bluetooth solution to ship in July

imageBelkin announced today that its TuneStage Bluetooth wireless stereo solution for the iPod will begin shipping in late July. The $179.99 device, which iLounge first reported on in December, allows you to listen to the music on your iPod through your home stereo wirelessly. TuneStage consists of a small transmitter that connects to the iPod’s headphone port and a receiver that connectus via RCA or 3.5mm to your audio system. It works with all Dock Connector iPods and can transmit from up to 33 feet away.

“TuneStage delivers pristine, high-quality sound through a home stereo environment,” says Belkin. “Wirelessly connected through TuneStage, your iPod becomes the ultimate remote, giving you absolute control of your music. Since the unit draws power directly from the iPod, it needs no batteries or extra cables.”

Podcast support coming to iTunes [updated]

At the D: All Things Digital executive conference on Sunday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs demonstrated new podcast features in the next version of iTunes (presumably 4.9). Jobs said the new version of iTunes will be released within the next 60 days.

“He was slightly dismissive of populist podcasting, describing it as ‘Wayne’s World for radio’, and celebrating the arrival of professional radio stations into the market, but nonetheless, he was very high on the podcasting phenomenon, and the excitement that millions of users have displayed about it,” reports O’Reilly. “In the Q&A, Jason Calacanis of Weblogs, Inc. asked if there was any possibility of using the iTunes music store for paid podcasting. Jobs replied that for the moment they were only considering it as free content, but that he was open to looking into it.”

Update: The Wall Street Journal has further details (paid subscription required): “That will go away in iTunes 4.9, which Mr. Jobs demonstrated for conference attendees and said would be available within the next 60 days. ITunes 4.9 will integrate free podcasts as a menu item, allowing users to listen to podcasts and subscribe to them, with new podcasts they subscribe to downloaded to their iPods when the devices are synched to an iTunes-enabled computer.”

Coldplay featured in new iTunes TV commercial

imageApple took advantage of Coldplay’s appearance on Saturday Night Live this week to air the first of what appears to be a new style of iTunes commercials.

The 30-second spot, which is a vast departure from the company’s cartoon-like silhouette ads, features Coldplay performing their new single “Speed of Sound” in order to promote the band’s new album, X&Y, on the iTunes Music Store. It is not clear whether the commercial was created from original footage or if it was taken from Coldplay’s music video for the song, which has yet to debut on the band’s website, MTV, or on iTunes. The commercial ends with “Coldplay’s new album. Plus exclusive tracks on iTunes.” followed by the Apple logo and “iTunes.com.”

Unsurprisingly, Apple is heavily promoting the much-anticipated X&Y on the iTunes Music Store. “Pre-order Coldplay’s X&Y now and enjoy two exclusive tracks when the album is available for download June 7 (you’ll receive an email confirming the album’s availability),” Apple says. “Pre-ordering the album is the only way to get the exclusive bonus tracks ‘Proof’ and ‘Things I Don’t Understand.’” It is not known if Apple’s Coldplay/iTunes commercial was a one time deal to utilize the band’s SNL appearance or if it was simply the first of several ads to come featuring other artists.

The ad has yet to be made available for viewing on Apple’s website as of this posting.

Mix: Wooden cases, Music videos, Tesco, Yahoo vs. iTunes

Peter Kinne Design is selling iPod cases built with “wood from old hot tubs and tables, and stainless steel from salvaged bikes.” [via Boing Boing]

Charles Arthur of Netimperative thinks Apple would be smart to start selling music videos (insead of giving them away with songs) since it’s an untapped market. “We know that people like watching music videos. Ask MTV,” he says.

UK-based supermarket company Tesco will soon start selling iPods and other digital products in select stores.

In an article looking at Yahoo’s new subscription music service vs. iTunes, Jupiter Research analyst David Card says the iPod is a huge factor in the battle. “There’s only one device that matters, and you can’t use it with Yahoo’s music service,” he says. [via Macworld UK]

Tunewear offers aluminum clip add-on for iPod shuffle

imageTunewear has introduced its Clipwear holder for the iPod shuffle. Made from aluminum, the Clipwear “forms an external shell for rugged use” and features a clip that lets you attach your iPod shuffle to just about anywhere. Its open-face design allows for access to the control pad and headphone port, while an opening on the back of the Clipwear lets you use the shuffle’s slider switch. The $14.95 accessory can also be used with a lanyard (not included) or a shorter strap.

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