To coincide with the announcement of the Disney-Pixar deal, Apple has added 10 of Disney’s animated short films to the iTunes Music Store. Among the $1.99 shorts are “The Tortoise and the Hare,” “Ferdinand the Bull,” “The Three Little Pigs” and “The Ugly Duckling.”
“Laugh along with Mickey, Donald, Goofy and a host of other classic Disney characters in this magical collection of celebrated animated shorts,” says Apple. “All Academy Award nominees or winners, these ten wonderful Disney cartoons are now available for download exclusively on iTunes.”
The Walt Disney Co. today announced that it is acquiring longtime partner Pixar, the animation studio headed by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. As part of the $7.4 billion deal, Jobs becomes Disney’s largest shareholder and will take a position on the company’s board.
“Disney and Pixar can now collaborate without the barriers that come from two different companies with two different sets of shareholders,” said Jobs. “Now, everyone can focus on what is most important, creating innovative stories, characters and films that delight millions of people around the world.”
Since word of the possible deal leaked last week, several analysts and industry pundits have weighed in on what the agreement will mean for Apple. It is widely believed that Jobs will use his powerful new position at Disney to offer more content for the video iPod. The media conglomerate owns a bounty of potential offerings, including the ABC and ESPN network channels, Touchstone Pictures and Miramax Films, among others.
Following success with the “Stanford On iTunes” initiative, Apple has expanded its iTunes U service in recent months with partnerships with several schools, including Duke University, Drexel University’s School of Education and the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.
Apple describes iTunes U as “a free, hosted service for colleges and universities that provides easy access to your educational content, including lectures and interviews 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.” The service is based in iTunes and is navigated and used just like the iTunes Music Store.
While most of the participating universities are just getting started with content for students, Stanford says it is now offering nearly 500 tracks, such as lectures and lessons, that are available to anyone for free. “One of Stanford’s primary missions is to educate the public,” says Scott Stocker, director of Web communications. Allowing the public to access the content “just felt like the right thing to do,
While Apple’s iTunes Music Store continues to dominate the legal digital music market, far ahead of a handful of competitors, the majority of online music sellers are struggling. There are some 355 digital music retailers, according to a report by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry released last week, and most of them may be forced to shut down or consolidate.
“I don’t imagine all these services can last. Some will go out of business or be consolidated,” said Gabriel Levy, head of music in Europe for RealNetworks, home of the Rhapsody subscription service. Barney Wragg, senior vice president of Universal Music Group’s eLabs unit, shares the same view. “The market keeps growing, and there will be winners and losers,” said Wragg. “The fact that there are 355 retailers—are they all economically viable? Clearly the market is adjusting all the time.”
Because of its market leading position and pricing, many in the music industry are brazen in their wishes for a more powerful rival to iTunes. “It’s inconceivable that others wouldn’t come in (to challenge Apple),” said EMI Chairman Eric Nicoli. “To talk about dominance this early in the game is short-sighted. It’s not a five-year game, it’s a 30- or 40-year game.”
Many in the music industry are concerned that the iTunes Music Store’s flat rate pricing has done lasting damage to profitability and are adamant that Apple will be forced to move to a variable pricing structure. Music industry executives are taking swipes at Apple at this week’s Midem music trade show in Cannes.
“I’m hearing that the artists aren’t happy, the publishers aren’t happy. Someone other than Apple needs to be happy for this industry to grow,” said Amit Shafrir, president of AOL’s premium services arm.
Record companies say Apple’s 99-cent per song pricing has set the benchmark too low, but have failed to persuade the company to switch to variable pricing, which would allow popular songs to be sold for more.
“For the time being we all must work with Apple and make the most of iTunes,” said Eric Nicoli, chairman of EMI Group PLC, the world’s No. 3 record company. “Single pricing is almost unique to the music industry,” Nicoli added. “If you look at any other consumer category—including things like iPods—they sell at different prices.”
Avanquest Publishing recently announced that it has partnered with four iPod software developers to bring their Mac and PC titles to retail locations in North America. The initial software titles in the new line include Lionhardt Technology’s WebPodStudio ($50; produce audio and video podcasts), ThinkFree’s PodPresenter ($30; create, view and share slide presentations from the iPod), Laridian’s iPocketBible ($40; listen to and read the bible on the iPod) and Memeo’s iExtend ($30; back up music, photos and files on the iPod).
An ABC executive said today that the company’s deal with Apple to offer its hit TV shows for download was a perfect fit because the video iPod and iTunes “is the best cutting-edge technology there is” and “a great consumer experience.” However, the latest iPod still needed ABC’s shows like “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” to make a real splash, according to ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson.
“He needed the content. It all starts with the shows,” McPherson said, referring to Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “There’s all these platforms out there that are incredibly, incredibly exciting. But you have to be careful. I think there’s a little of technology kind of wagging the dog,” he said. “We look at our franchises and our shows, and we look at them across all platforms and all products in terms of how we can grow them to complement the mothership.”
Proporta has announced an aluminum case and adhesive film protector for the fifth-generation iPod. The case is made aircraft grade aluminum and features neoprene lining, a removable belt clip, and access to all controls and ports. It’s available in black or silver for $44. Proporta’s Advanced Full Device Screen Protector is made from “an advanced high clarity plastic and silicone material…near invisible protection from scratching without any bulk.” The two-piece kit (front and back) sells for $10.
ABI Research said today that Apple’s announcement last year that it would sell videos on the iTunes Music Store triggered the online video “big bang.” The firm also said it believes that the premium online video market will grow 89 percent annually through 2010.
“While the push to online video had started well before the launch of the video iPod, the online video ‘big bang’ started with Apple’s announcement and continued through the Consumer Electronics Show,” ABI said. “At this year’s CES, gadgets took a backseat to the bevy of announcements by large online and content players. The flood of online content announcements from Google, Yahoo and others shows that after years of hesitation from the larger media players, the market for premium content online is finally beginning to take shape.”
Scooterworks is offering a do-it-yourself iPod integration kit for Vespa Stella and P-series scooter models. The stereo kit includes an iPod cradle and adapter, two 4-inch Alpine speakers with amp, and a replacement glovebox door with pre-cut holes for the speakers. The Vespa kit is priced at $300. [via Engadget]
Google has retaken the top spot on the list of the world’s most influential brands, beating out Apple which came in second globally, but first in the U.S.
Following the success of its iDog speaker toy targeted at iPod users, Sega has released a similar creation called the iFish.
MyCityMate has released a number of its city guides for the iPod. The travel guides are “comprehensive and up-to-date with unprecedented levels of convenience and personalization.”
iAttire has announced the release of its Valentine 2006 attire for iPods. The romantic wardrobe line includes: Negligee ($24), Corset ($24), Boxer ($24), Briefs ($32), Undershirt ($32), Underwear Set ($50), and Boxer Set ($60).
“Garments for the romantic iPod put you and your iPod in the mood,” says the company. “Feminine garments are a French satin corset cinched with black lacings or a sheer red negligee with black chiffon ruffle. For the masculine iPod, is it boxers or briefs? Cotton boxers are available in red stripe, red hearts, or white dots on red. Cotton briefs offer a free-moving ease, a blue waistband, and a perfect fit. A coordinating undershirt is made of the softest cotton.”
Targus has expanded its line of iPod accessories with a new case for the iPod nano. The case features a leather exterior, scratch-resistant lining, flip-up cover, polyurethane screen and click wheel protectors, and belt clip. The $25 iPod nano case comes in a variety of colors, including orange, pink, red, light blue, and black. We are awaiting photos of the case from Targus.
AppleInsider claims that Apple will introduce an iPod boombox accessory that was originally planned for last week’s Macworld Expo at a special media event in the near future.
Macsimum News notes that “Apple’s iPod sales embarrassingly crushed the Xbox this Christmas.” More than 14 million iPods sold, compared to 600,000 Xbox consoles.
In a story on Disney and Pixar (Steve Jobs’ other company), The Times mentions in passing that Apple is “working on the next generation of iPods, which would have the ability to connect wirelessly to the internet.”
Reuters reports on TVMyPod and the legality of selling iPods that come pre-loaded with movies and TV programs already on them.
Mercury Software has announced the release of four new iPod nano cases in its iTabi line. The new case are crafted from suede and Japanese inden, the preferred body armor of the 17th century samurai. The iTabi cases include: embroidered pink cherry blossoms (sakura) on black Japanese suede ($30); embroidered gold cherry blossoms (sakura) on black suede ($30); Japanese leather with dragonfly (tombo) lacquer (urushi) motif ($40); and leather with cherry blossom (sakura) lacquer (urushi) motif ($40).
Apple sent out an email today to iTunes podcasters announcing revised and expanded podcast specifications. The email also pointed out an Apple-hosted forum exclusively for podcasters.
“Since you’ve got an active podcast listed in iTunes, we would like to let you know about a few valuable new resources,” the email reads. “First, the technical spec has been revised and expanded. Check here for all questions or problems related to your podcast, or if you’re interested in enhancing the appearance of your listing with iTunes-specific tags. There is also an Apple Discussions Forum exclusively for podcast producers. If you have a question or a problem that the technical spec cannot answer, the community of iTunes podcasters there should be able to provide valuable guidance.”
Nielsen//NetRatings reports that traffic to Apple’s iTunes website and use of the iTunes application has “skyrocketed 241 percent over the past year, from 6.1 million unique visitors in December 2004 to 20.7 million in December 2005, reaching nearly 14 percent of the active Internet population.” The researcher also noted age and gender differences, and what brands iTunes users tend to prefer.
Nielsen said that teens are nearly twice as likely to visit the iTunes website and use the application as the average internet user. iTunes users are also more male—traffic is 54 percent male and 46 percent female. According to the study, iTunes users’ favorite car maker is Volkswagen, followed by Audi and Subaru. In terms of beverages, their alcohol of choice is hard cider, followed by imported and domestic beer. Favorite magazines include Wired, Rolling Stone and FHM, while they prefer Cartoon Network, HBO and BBC on TV.
Following Apple’s announcement of record earnings and revenue yesterday, the company held its quarterly conference call with press and analysts. Below are the highlights pertaining to Apple’s music business, which accounted for 59% of the quarter’s total revenue.
- The iTunes Music Store had an 83% share of the US market of legally downloaded music during the month of December.
- There are now over 2,000 different iPod accessories.
- Apple said it did “very well” in sales of both Apple-branded and third-party accessories. The company sees the accessories as a “recurring revenue stream.”
- The iPod gross margins in the December quarter were above 20%.
- The iPod is now sold at more than 35,000 outlets, although not every retailer sells all iPod models.
- Stock of the 4GB iPod nano is still “lean” in certain areas, following tremendous holiday demand.
- The iTunes Music Store operated “above break even” during the quarter for a slight profit.
- There is more downloadable content on the way for video iPods.
- iPod Radio Remote sales are doing “well.” Apple said it is “currently not meeting demand” for the device, but it is “working really hard” to try to do so.
RhinoSkin has introduced a new hard case for the fifth-generation iPod and iPod nano. The new case is made of transparent, polycarbonate plastic with an aluminum back. It also comes with a a white stretch lanyard, removable post and belt clip, Stuffbak protection label, and provides access to the click wheel, dock connector and headphone jack. The RhinoSkin Aluminum HardCase for the nano sells for $30, while the 5G iPod cases, available in 30GB and 60GB sizes, are priced at $35.
XtremeMac has announced the availability of new Iconz cases for 5G iPods featuring Major League Baseball teams and pop culture characters. The rubber cases have a play-through design, clear screen protector, and are currently available in 10 designs featuring MLB teams such as the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, and Chicago Cubs as well as pop icons such as Superman, Speed Racer, Homer Simpson, Tweety Bird, Darth Vader, and Batman. They sell for $30 each.