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Macworld: Hot on the 2005 Macworld SF show floor A-E

Altec Lansing has hot new items on the high and low ends: its new iM202 inMotion over-the-ear earphones are white, highly unique in aesthetic design, and intended to further proliferate the brand name made famous by its portable speaker systems. Simultaneously, it’s releasing a gorgeous brushed 12-driver (plus subwoofer) aluminum FX6021 speaker system under the InConcert name with “virtually no drop off” and 75 watts of power.

Battery Technology Inc. is one of two companies on our “hot watch” list. In addition to its first-of-class FM radio receiver for the iPod, which we exclusively reported upon yesterday, the company’s working on an under-$100 wireless iPod broadcasting system based on 900 MHz technology. More importantly, it’s mulling a name or brand change to reflect the fact that its products now span numerous important categories outside of batteries - a very good idea.

Belkin’s Bluetooth-based TuneStage iPod broadcasting system includes all of the features we’ve discussed in our previous reports, but now we’ve seen the physical design. It’s a white and silver mini-router with a white antenna, blue lights on its receiver and silver iPod transmitter, and no audio distortion that we could hear on the show floor. It’s planned for a March release at $169.99, and lets you listen to your iPod in your home with your iPod in your pocket.

Dension’s MOST>Link and Screen>Link add in-car iPod playback to industry standard audio systems and vehicles equipped with visual navigation systems, respectively.

Despite recent challenges, Eroch Studios’ new LiliPod mini emerged as the only true waterproof case on the market for the iPod mini, and the original LiliPod remains the only true waterproof case for the full-sized iPod.

Etymotic is developing wireless headphones, refreshes of its existing headphones, and a brand new lower-end headphone to match the iPod, none of which were on the show floor. The company is drawing the line on audio quality at the $100 minimum price point, and won’t sell its newest product unless it produces sufficiently clean sound with a great dynamic range. Look for big things from Ety in the year to come.

Macworld: Hot on the 2005 Macworld SF show floor F-M

Fujitsu Ten’s 307PA speaker systems, covered previously on iLounge but still not widely available in the United States, are amongst the most beautiful (and most expensive) we’ve seen. Retailing for $500 in Japan, the system is futuristically beautiful in a decidedly Griffin-esque way, with bubbly speakers and a unique metal and plastic amplifier.

Griffin’s AirTouch remote control, previously mentioned on iLounge, actually controls photo playback on the iPod photo, unlike Apple’s own Remote. And its BlueTrip Bluetooth audio system looks sharp, plus sounded pretty good on the show floor. Like most (but not all) of the Bluetooth accessories we’ve seen, it seems to be made mostly for use in a home or office.

JBL’s new Encounter speaker system ($199) evolves our favorite Creature speakers and promises even better sound in an equally alien, white rounded plastic body.

Macally’s ultraportable PodWave speaker system is being enhanced to respond to consumer demands for even more horsepower. The company also showed an impressive white and clear plastic modular three-piece speaker and dock system for the iPod mini: stack the speakers and dock on top of each other, separate two of the three, or separate all three. A very cool idea, visually executed well.

Macmice’s Podbuddy ($99.99) FM transmitter/gooseneck mount for vehicles is still in the works, and looked good on the show floor. More interestingly, its prototype JamPod ($49.99) will let you connect an electric guitar to the iPod and mix their audio signals through a headphone/stereo jack so that you can play along with your favorite songs.

iPod armor makers Matias showed iPod armor 4G and mischievously hinted at an upcoming iPod shuffle accessory that’s “not what you’d expect.”

Macworld: Hot on the 2005 Macworld show floor P-Z

Power Support has a likely must-have product in the 3D Wheel Film and a stunningly beautiful Japanese fashion case in the iPod & iPod mini Cloth and Leather Case, which it will distribute for Kyoto-based Miyavix. The Japanese companies, which have long produced some of the iPod’s very best accessories, are continuing to expand their offerings in ways that we love. 3D Wheel Film for the first time adds center button coverage to the company’s great transparent Click Wheel protectors for iPods and iPod minis, closing the loop on complete iPod protection for many iPod cases.

Speck’s Tough-Skin ruggedized 4G iPod case is certain to be a winner with people who worry about dropping their iPods. It adds chunky plastic coating to the iPod in just the same way as the recent generations of pre-ruggedized tablet computers, and has a flip-open transparent plastic Click Wheel shield.

Shure’s new E4C iPod-matching headphones ($299) look, feel, and sound great. At consumer request, the company’s upped the bass response from its popular E3C.

Sonance’s iPort is tackling the iPod’s highest-end market - people who want to physically integrate the iPod into their homes. With a base price point of $599 for a unique white or black iPod dock that’s actually mounted inside a home’s wall, Sonance says the iPort “turns your home into an iPod accessory” in the same way as BMW’s car adapter transforms your car. A low-end installation of iPort with simple in-wall speakers, a control system, and the Dock will set you back roughly $1000 in total, with ultra high-end options adding up to prices that all but the wealthy will find staggering. Most impressive was a LCD remote control panel that mapped the iPod’s controls onto an iPod-esque touch screen.

Ten Technologies is on iLounge’s “one to watch” list. With a goose-neck iPod mini mount called FlexDock mini (and a 4G version on the way), a highly impressive Bluetooth stereo kit called NaviPlay and a new super-charged remote control system called NaviPro EX, Ten has awakened from its 2004 slumber with serious force. Numerous companies at the show are integrating Ten’s remotes into their systems, and the company has partnered with HP to offer impressive quality Bluetooth headphones in a bundle with Naviplay. We really liked what we saw at this booth.

Japan’s Tunewear showed off its entire line of recently-announced iPod and iPod mini cases, with an intriguing mix of precision-cut rubber, hard plastic, and metal products, as well as whimsical fashion pieces. Having created two sizes of iPod-holding wallets, the company is now exploring the option of distributing a line of iPod-friendly clothes - but isn’t sure about market demand. Its new WaterWear cases are cleanly and impressively designed, but only water-resistant - not water-proof.

Apple reports record earnings as iPod sales soar

Apple on Wednesday posted its highest quarterly revenue and net income in the company’s history thanks to strong holiday sales of iPods. Apple greatly exceeded Wall Street expectations with a net profit of $295 million, or 70 cents a share, for its fiscal 2005 first quarter ended December 25, 2004. Revenue for the quarter was $3.49 billion, up 74 percent from $2 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Along with its record earnings, Apple released several iPod and music sales details. The company reported that it sold more than 4,580,000 iPods during the quarter, representing a 525 percent increase in iPod units compared to this time last year. All iPod models brought in more than $1.2 billion in revenue for Apple during the quarter. Apple’s music division, which includes the iTunes Music Store, iPod services and accessories, accounted for $177 million of the first-quarter’s revenue, a 277 percent increase year-over-year.

Apparently in response to the release of these financial results, Apple’s stock (Nasdaq:  AAPL) is up an impressive 11.82% to 73.20 in after-hours trading.

Macworld: Griffin rolls out the Bluetrip Wireless Transmitter

pic Griffin Technology today announced the BlueTrip, a wireless transmitter/receiver for broadcasting audio from an iPod to a home stereo. Using Bluetooth technology, BlueTrip consists of a Bluetooth transmitter that connects to an iPod along with a stylish Bluetooth receiver that hooks to your home stereo via RCA, mini jack, or optical audio cables. BlueTrip is expected to ship in the first quarter of 2005 at a price of $149.

iPod & iTunes Garage book updated

Kirk McElhearn, author of the book “iPod & iTunes Garage,” announced today an update to his popular book. The update adds a 3-page iPod shuffle “cheat sheet” that aims to help readers “grasp the basics of this hot new device; that is, to help them determine what it is, how it works, and how it differs from other iPod models.” The update is available immediately as a PDF download from his weblog.

Macworld: BTI debuts first iPod FM Receiver [updated]

picBattery Technology Incorporated (BTI), maker of iLounge’s 2004 Accessory of the Year The iPod Battery, today announced March 2005 availability of a fan-requested product: a three in one iPod FM radio receiver, transmitter, and remote control cable. The new accessory will retail for $79 and permit real-time tuning of five preset radio stations, connecting through the iPod’s headphone port.

For photos of the prototype unit, click “Read more” below. The final shipping hardware will change dramatically in physical appearence, including a glossy white plastic front that’s more resilient, and will include an impressively simple way for the iPod to receive FM radio broadcasts… without having to install software on your PC or Mac.

BTI also showed The iPod Battery 3 ($59), which adds 8-10 hours of playback time to an iPod with 4 replaceable AA batteries. March availability is planned, and the company may well rename the Battery 3 before shipment.

iPod shuffle lacks AIFF, Apple Lossless support

iLounge has discovered that Apple’s newly announced iPod shuffle does not offer support for high-quality AIFF or Apple Lossless audio files. According to Apple’s technical specifications page for the iPod shuffle, the tiny player only plays AAC, MP3, MP3 VBR, Audible and WAV, unlike the iPod mini, 4G iPod and iPod photo models. This omission joins the player’s lack of screen, Dock Connector port, and accessory port. It is not currently known if the iPod shuffle was intentionally crippled by Apple to not allow users to play these two high-quality formats, or if the technology inside the device simply not capable of handling them.

Mix: iPod shuffle warning, SkyPod, HP Tattos, Green Day

Apple’s iPod shuffle product page, which compares the size of the device to a pack of gum, features a rather humorous warning: “Do not eat iPod shuffle.”

Gizmodo has uncovered a new XM Satellite Radio trademark that should raise some eyebrows—”SkyPod.”

Artists and creative types are being invited to show-off their skills by designing HP Tattoos for the iPod. A UK website that sells pre-printed Tattoos, has provided an upload area where budding designers can preview and submit their designs.

Green Day plan to donate all their iTunes royalties they make with their current single, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” to the American Red Cross to help with tsunami relief.

Merrill Lynch: iPod shuffle could take top spot in flash market soon

In a research note to clients on Wednesday, Merrill Lynch analyst Steven Milunovich said Apple’s new iPod shuffle could take the top position in the flash-based MP3 player market in the next few quarters. “If Apple can ramp up production, Apple could take the No. 1 position in the flash market in the next couple of quarters. If Apple hits 5 percent share this quarter, that could be 300,000 units,” Milunovich said. “If it takes off, the number could be much higher, possibly passing the 1million mark.”

Milunovich pointed out that Apple currently has 65 percent of the total digital music player market, compared to flash’s 29 percent share. According to research from IDC, the flash player market has three times the units as the hard-disk drive-based (HDD) music player market, but about the same revenue ($2.3-2.5 billion). “Now that 4.5 million HDD iPods were sold last quarter (possibly 2 million in December), it was time for Apple to attack the next market with a lower cost flash-based iPod shuffle,” the analyst said.

Milunovich dismissed the notion that consumers will balk at the lack of a display on the iPod shuffle. “Some have indicated that the lack of a display will be an issue, but we are less concerned,” he said. “The $99 version holds 120 songs and the $149 holds 240—does one really need a display with that few songs? We believe this is a better option than a 60-song version with a display for $149. If a display is need then one needs to move up to he HDD iPods at $249+. We believe this also ensures that cannibalization will be limited while snaring more in the iTune/iPod net.”

Macworld: PodFreq now available for iPod photo

Sonnet Technologies has announced the PodFreq photo, a new version of its FM transmitter designed for the larger 40 and 60GB iPod photo models. Based on the current PodFreq for 4G iPods, PodFreq photo broadcasts music through any nearby FM radio with “unmatched clarity and signal strength.” The $99.95 accessory encases the iPod photo in a durable, translucent shell to provide added protection. It has access to controls and the headphone jack, and features FireWire and mini-USB ports that enable syncing and charging without having to remove the iPod. PodFreq photo requires no batteries and ships with a car charger.

Gadget Accessories intros new 4G iPod cases

pic Gadget Accessories has introduced two new cases for Apple’s 4G iPod. Its Crystal Clear case ($8.99) is a durable plastic case that features an ultra clear body with cutouts for the click wheel, headphone jack, hold switch and dock connector. The company also announced a new silicone skin ($9.99) in three translucent colors. The form-fitting case is available in white, blue and pink.

Replay Music records streaming music

Applian Technologies has introduced its new Replay Music, which records streaming music (from both subscription music services and online radio stations), splits songs into individual MP3s, and tags each file with the artist, title, genre and album name using Gracenote’s MusicID song recognition technology. Replay Music, which is only available for Windows users, is priced at $49.95.

Macworld: Day 1 photos posted

A huge new collection of photos (140+) from the first day of the San Francisco Macworld Expo has been posted to the iLounge photo galleries, including photographs of hitherto undisclosed iPod accessories and other amazing stuff on the show floor. You can see the gallery here. Stay tuned for more photos of Day 2 thru 4 of the Expo.

Apple’s Jobs gives update on iPod iTunes Sales

During his keynote presentation at today’s Macworld Conference & Expo, Apple CEO Steve Jobs revealed that more than 4.5 million iPods were sold in the December quarter—500 percent growth year over year. Jobs said the total number of iPods sold to date now stands at over 10 million units, with 8.2 million of those being sold in 2004. He said the 10 millionth iPod was sold on December 16, 2004.

Jobs also said that more than 230 million songs have been purchased from the iTunes Music Store worldwide since it was launched in April 2003. He said that Apple is now selling approximately 1.25 million songs a day and that the company is on pace to sell nearly half a billion songs a year. Jobs also noted that over 1 million pre-paid iTunes cards have now been sold.

Apple posts iPod shuffle ad

Apple has posted a commercial for its newly announced iPod shuffle, which features the song “Jerk It Out

Made for iPod: the safety badge we’ve hoped for?

picWhile potentially a mundane topic to some of iLounge’s readers, Apple today introduced the “Made for iPod” certification, a badge that iPod accessory developers can display to differentiate their Apple-authorized accessory products from unauthorized ones. The Made for iPod badge addresses a subject of increasing concern to iLounge in recent weeks - the proliferation of certain low-quality and potentially dangerous iPod accessories that may harm your hardware, even when used as advertised and intended. Currently, it appears that vendors receiving the badge are only those whose products interface electronically with the iPod, rather than case makers.

According to some vendors on the show floor at Macworld San Francisco, Apple’s motivations behind the Made for iPod program may be equal parts financially driven, marketing driven, and consumer protection driven, perhaps in that descending order of importance. iLounge was told that the Made for iPod badge was originally proposed as a potential royalty stream for Apple - a means by which the company would collect revenues from sales of “authorized” accessories, and suggested that vendors might be able to charge even more for officially sanctioned accessories. Key to the program is Apple’s continued interest in licensing its proprietary male Dock Connector plugs and female ports - now also called the “iPod Connector” - while warning iPod owners about the dangers of insufficiently tested accessories that may create electrical disruptions in iPod hardware.

Like other company seals - such as Nintendo’s once-famous Seal of Quality - the Made for iPod program may have benefits for consumers, or may just be an opportunity to increase company licensing revenues while offsetting marketing costs. As iLounge has itself witnessed and heard external accounts of peripherals that wreak havoc with iPods and their batteries, but remains concerned about the slowly upward-creeping price of iPod accessories, we will continue to closely monitor this story in the months ahead.

Macworld: iSkin shows off mixed

pic At Macworld Expo in San Francisco today, iLounge spotted new iSkin mixed color silicone eVo2 cases with additional new twists: a plastic pop-in Click Wheel control protector, and co-branding with famous recording artists such as the Chemical Brothers and numerous professional sports teams, including the entire NBA. These special edition eVo2 cases will be offered in team colors and feature team graphics on their Click Wheel protectors.

iSkin also previewed a new version of its eVo case, featuring an exclusive anodized aluminum clip system that integrates beautifully with the rubber case body. Better yet, the company has reengineered its upcoming case bottoms to permit easier Dock Connector access, addressing a key iLounge concern in past reviews, and plans to roll out legitimately improved plastic belt Revoclips for upcoming eVo cases as well.

Shure unveils E4c sound isolating earphones

pic  Shure has announced the its E4c sound isolating earphones, the latest addition to its line of premium audio accessories. Like the others products in the company’s consumer line, the E4c earphones utilize Shure’s sound isolation design to “prevent ambient noise from compromising the listening experience and to deliver the ultimate in audio quality.”

Shure said the new isolating earphones incorporate the same components used by professional musicians to monitor their performances on stage, and feature high-definition drivers with Tuned-Port technology for an ultra-wide frequency soundstage with brilliant highs and extended bass. The E4cs are also the lightest in Shure’s family of E Series earphones and are a good match for iPod users.

Shure is showcasing its roster of audio accessories at Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco all this week.

DLO offers free BoomBag

Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO) today announced a special offer: everyone who purchases an iBoom Boombox at dlodirect.com during the Macworld Conference & Expo—which runs Jan. 11 through Jan. 14—will receive a free Boombag. The Boombag, a carrying case made specifically for the popular iPod iBoom accessory, features a shoulder strap, pockets for storage and padded neoprene for protection. The DLO BoomBag is also on sale separately for $29.99 (normally $44.99).

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