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MTV, Microsoft teaming to launch ‘URGE’ digital music store

imageIn what could be the stiffest competition yet for the iTunes Music Store, MTV Networks and Microsoft announced today that they have joined forces to develop a new digital music service called URGE. Set to launch next year, the service will be integrated into a forthcoming version of Microsoft Windows Media Player. Music pricing was not announced.

“The collaboration unites MTV Networks’ music DNA, marketing strengths and powerful MTV, VH1 and CMT brands with the technology leadership and consumer reach of Microsoft,” the companies said. “URGE will offer rich entertainment programming and innovative tools designed to guide musical discovery and connect fans to the artists and music they love. Offering more than 2 million songs from the major labels and thousands of independents, URGE will encompass all musical genres, from alt-country to zydeco. In addition to a broad catalogue of music choices, URGE will deliver a deep well of exclusive MTV Networks programming and original, hand-crafted content.”

Edmunds offers free automotive videos on iTunes

Edmunds.com today announced that 21 of its automotive videos are now offered as free podcasts on the iTunes Music Store. Sponsored by Nissan, the video podcasts feature road test reports on vehicles such as the Lexus IS350, the Honda Civic Si, the Nissan Titan and the Porsche Boxster S. In addition, vehicle comparisons include the BMW 330i vs. the Audi A4 and the Mazda MX-5 vs. the Pontiac Solstice.

SwitchEasy intros Capsule case for iPod nano

imageSwitchEasy has introduced its “Capsule Accessory System” for the iPod nano. The duo-toned polycarbonate case, made from ultra tough GE LEXAN plastic resin, features a color tinted screen protector, a color coordinated lanyard, and a custom printed reusable click wheel protector made from static cling plastic. The Capsule line comes in five colors—black, white/clear, red, orange, and green/yellow. Each sells for $20.

Mix: 8GB mini, Five rules, Music biz, Conan clip, World Cup

iLounger Jason Parry says that he has successfully upgraded his 4GB iPod mini to 8GB with a Seagate CF+ II Photo Hard Drive.

The Age’s Harris Collingwood has posted what he considers Apple’s “five rules of cool” that make it a successful company.

BusinessWeek says that Apple may be holding back the music industry. “Critics say Apple’s proprietary technology and its refusal to offer more ways to buy or to stray from its rigid 99 cents a song model is dampening legal sales of digital tunes.”

MacTV has posted a clip from Late Night with Conan O’Brien featuring a humorous video iPod ad parody.

German iPod site iPodFun.de has posted a World Cup soccer schedule that can be downloaded and transferred to your iPod.

Pelican Products i1030 iPod case available

imageDr. Bott has announced the availability of the Pelican Products i1030 iPod case. Compatible with 3G/4G/5G iPods and iPod minis, the watertight case features a rugged polycarbonate shell, a molded rubber main compartment, and storage for a USB or Firewire cable, earphones and AC adapter. It also has a detachable light-reflecting nylon strap and an automatic pressure release valve with a one-way membrane that equalizes air pressure at high altitudes and keeps water molecules out. The i1030 is available in white or yellow and retails for $40.

XtremeMac debuts Shieldz Collector Series iPod shuffle cases

XtremeMac has announced the availability of its Shieldz Collector Series cases for the iPod shuffle. Featuring officially licensed movie and cartoon characters and major league baseball team logos, the $20 cases protect your shuffle while personalizing it with your favorite character or team design. Eight designs are currently available: Batman, Darth Vader, Yoda, SpongeBob SquarePants (two designs), New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and St. Louis Cardinals.

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“Shieldz Collector Series are clip-on shields made of strong, impact resistant plastic that feature full-color artwork from MLB teams, movies, and TV shows. The secure snap-on design protects the front and sides of the iPod shuffle while allowing easy play-through access to the music player’s controls and earbud jack. Furthermore, Shieldz provide additional protection against accidental loss by securing iPod shuffle to its neck lanyard or the XtremeMac SuperHook.”

iPod mini still a popular choice

While the iPod nano and new video iPod are receiving all of the attention this holiday season, Apple’s discontinued iPod mini is still at the top of many Christmas lists and is fetching top dollar at online stores and auctions.

“Patrick McHenry of Eerie, Pa., for example, just bought a pink 4GB Mini, which holds 1,000 songs, on eBay for $275. That’s $76 over the original $199 price tag,” reports CNET News.com’s Michelle Meyers. “But it’s also less than McHenry would have paid at Compu-America—one of the few electronics retailers with the Mini in stock. The store is selling the same model for $349. And sellers on Amazon are listing prices for the 4GB Mini at more than $400.”

eBay spokesman Dean Jutilla said that about 36,000 minis have sold on eBay in the past three months, with an average of 15 to 16 bids per auction. Jutilla also noted that the average price per mini—whether 4GB or 6GB—has gone up from $173 to $229.

ezGear intros ezArmor for iPod nano

imageezGear has announced the ezArmor nano case for Apple’s iPod nano. Made from anodized aircraft grade aluminum, the case features a clear screen protector, access to all controls and ports, a neoprene-lined interior, and comes with a removable belt clip and a removable neck strap. The ezArmor nano comes in two models—Standard Aluminum and Onyx Black. Both are available immediately for $30 each.

iPod tops holiday shopping searches

Apple’s iPod appears to be the hottest holiday gift this year as widely expected. According to new research from comScore, the iPod was the most searched for product in November, beating the highly anticipated Xbox 360 and other popular items. The research firm said that consumers made more than 6.6 million iPod-related searches last month. Following the iPod was the Xbox 360 (5.0 million searches), Harry Potter items (4.8 million searches), Star Wars (2.5 million searches), Barbie-related items (2.1 million searches), and PlayStation (1.9 million searches).

“While high consumer interest was expected this holiday season for items such as the Apple iPod, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation, the intense amount of search activity observed to-date demonstrates how popular these items are with consumers,” said Gian Fulgoni, comScore chairman. “It’s also clear that search has become a mainstream way for consumers to research products, irrespective of whether their ultimate purchase will occur online or at a retail store.”

iLounge Dashboard Widget updated

imageWe’ve updated the iLounge Mac OS X Dashboard Widget, which provides quick access to our news and reviews, plus a panel for recent FAQs and help, and an easy full-site search feature. Version 1.5 of the widget displays a rotating gallery of photos from the iPods Around the World Photo Galleries and checks our server for the latest version for download. Stay tuned for an update for the iLounge Konfabulator Widgets.

iHome clock radio for iPod now available in black

imageThe iHome iH5 clock radio is the latest iPod accessory to be offered in a black version to match the latest iPods. The iH5—which lets you wake up to music from your iPod, an AM/FM radio or buzzer—features a built-in iPod cradle, stereo speakers, a backlit LCD screen and line-in to connect non-docking iPods and other audio players. The $100 device also charges your iPod while docked. It works with any dockable iPod, including the fifth-generation iPod and iPod nano. In addition, previous owners of the white iHome can now order cradle inserts ($6) for the iPod nano or cradle cushions ($3) for the 5G iPod.

iPod accessory market booming

While it’s no surprise to see the iPod accessory market doing great, analysts and industry insiders have recently tried to put a dollar figure on the overall “iPod economy.”

NPD Group, a marketing-analysis firm, estimates that iPod owners will spend $500 million in 2005 on accessories, not including speakers and headphones.

Gavin Downey, a director of product management at Belkin, says that sales come in at more than $300 million annually. Downey said that sales of iPod accessories are actually growing faster, on a percentage basis, than the iPod itself. He noted that in the early days of the iPod there was a relatively low “attach rate” with the device. For every 15 to 20 iPods sold, one accessory was sold. Today, it’s at almost a one-to-one ratio.

Jobs, nano make BusinessWeek ‘Best of 2005’

imageApple CEO Steve Jobs and the iPod nano are featured in this month’s BusinessWeek “Best of 2005” issue. Jobs was named among the best business leaders of the year, while the nano is listed among the best products of 2005.

In the “Best Leaders” category, the magazine says: “No one in techland had a better year—or a broader impact—than Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs. Apple continued to set tech’s fashion agenda in 2005 with products such as the iPod nano and the video iPod, as well as the Mac mini, Apple’s cheapest computer ever.”

In its list of the best products of 2005, the magazine says: “Welcome to Apple’s take on the flash memory MP3 player: There’s no question it’s an iPod, but it’s impossibly thin—and expensive. The 4-gigabyte model, the world’s first 4GB flash player, holds about 1,000 songs and costs $249; the 2GB version is only $50 cheaper. It has a big color screen for your photographs. And, man, is it thin.”

SendStation giving away 1,000 PocketDock iPod adapters

imageSendStation Systems has announced that it is giving away 1,000 free FireWire PocketDock adapters. The tiny PocketDock lets you connect a standard 6-pin FireWire cable to the dock connector of any iPod, enabling you to sync/charge your iPod with a FireWire cable or use older iPod accessories. The offer is available while supplies last or until December 24, 2005 and is limited to one PocketDock per person.

XtremeMac debuts TuffWrap case for 5G iPod

imageXtremeMac today announced its new TuffWrap silicone cases for the fifth-generation iPod. Available in two sizes to fit the 30GB and 60GB iPod, the TuffWrap cases offer ribbed sides and slip-resistant finish, access to all controls and ports, and screen and click wheel protectors. The TuffWrap is available in translucent white for $20 or in color-coordinated 3-Packs for $35. The 3-Pack is available in either red, white and black, or gray, orange and green. The cases are available now from XtremeMac’s website and will be shipping in one to two weeks.

Mix: Wireless iPods, 5G demand, AutoPod, iBoxer

A Citigroup analyst is speculating that iPods will have wireless capabilities in 2006. He notes that iPod part supplier PortalPlayer is looking to acquire a small company with a wireless technology portfolio.

Demand for Apple’s fifth-generation (video) iPod is on par with the company’s iPod nano, and may be proving more popular in some retail locations, according to a Bear Stearns retail survey.

Digital Lifestyle Outfitters has lowered the price of its DLO AutoPod Car Charger for iPod, iPod nano and iPod mini to $20 (from $30)

If you like to rock out in just your underwear, the iBoxer might be for you. It’s a $22 men’s knit boxer with an integrated front pocket for an iPod.

More Duke classes to use iPods this spring

While iPods were distributed to students more sparingly this year, more classes at Duke University will incorporate the use of the devices. According to the AP, 42 classes will require the use of iPods next sememster, up from about 20 classes last spring. Last year, Duke gave iPods to all 1,600 incoming freshmen, but this year the school limited distribution to students whose professors required them. Approximately 1,200 students will get iPods in the spring semester.

“Most classes that have used iPods previously have been foreign language, engineering, music or documentary studies classes. University officials said the list is broadening to include math, biomedical engineering and even dance,” reports AP. “A history course called Digital Durham and the New South will use iPods as students record data from archives such as court records. From course materials, students may also create podcasts, or online presentations to which people can subscribe for automatic download.

PodGear offers HouseParty speaker system in black

imageUK iPod accessory maker PodGear has announced a black version of its HouseParty speaker system to match the new black iPods. “The PodGear HouseParty turns your iPod into a mini stereo system, pumping out 2x6W of crisp stereo sound,

iPod Express checkout at Apple retail stores

In an effort to streamline the busy holiday shopping season and handle more iPods sales, Apple retails stores have implemented a new iPod Express area and EasyPay checkout system. Located at the existing iPod display tables, the area is staffed with employees equipped with new hand-held POS (point of sale) devices. The system, which appears to be only for the holidays, is said to speed up checkout times dramatically for those looking to quickly buy an iPod and be on their way.

Burton Audex jacket offers iPod, cell phone connectivity

imageMotorola and Burton Snowboards today announced the Audex jacket, which offers connectivity for iPods and Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones. The $600 jacket features a removable control panel located on the left-hand sleeve, allowing for “simple and easy access to your incoming and outgoing calls, and music selections.” Cell phones connect to the panel wirelessly via Bluetooth, while an iPod is hooked up via “hidden, unobtrusive wires within the jacket.” It offers playlist, artist, album and track navigation, volume up/down and play/pause/stop via a click wheel style button. Speakers and a microphone are located in the hood for taking and making calls as well as listening to music. The Audex jacket works with any 3G or newer iPod.

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