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Report: New international iTunes Music Stores Thursday

Apple this week may use the second anniversary of the iTunes Music Store to launch new versions in Australia and a handful of European countries.

Actor/musician Russell Crowe told listeners to a radio station that an Australian iTunes Music Store would open on Thursday, April 28. Crowe said that the store would sell his new solo music offerings, and that songs would cost AUD$1.80 a track.

Meanwhile, German site Music.ch reports that Apple will also use Thursday to debut iTunes Music Stores in Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway.

Mix: Sirius, Vending machines, Creative, iPod mugging

Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin said he’s still interested in getting his satellite radio technology into iPods. “One day maybe [Apple] will be interested in putting in a satellite radio,

iPodResQ improves iPod services

iPodResQ has upgraded its iPod repair service to allow customers to send two iPods in for repair or extended-life battery upgrades at the same time. The price for the service remains at $29, but customers sending in two iPods will not be charged for the additional iPod. iPodResQ’s same-day battery upgrades also remain at $79 for a single iPod, but the company now offers an option to send in two iPods for battery upgrades for $119 — a savings of $40.

Pixelgirl Shop offers hand-made felt iPod cases

imagePixelgirl Shop, which specializes in hand-made items, is offering two new felt iPod cases. “Summer Sky” (shown right) and “Fishes” are made by Emily Sessions, and are available for 4G iPods ($20) and iPod minis ($18).

“Made of wool/acrylic blend felt, with acrylic felt appliques and velcro closure. Clear vinyl covering for screen and click wheel, designed for full usability of both. Hand sewn, with hand applique. Designed for accessibility of locking switch, headphone jack, and USB plug.”

Apple could unveil new iPod ‘as early as June’

Banc of America Securities expects Apple to introduce a new iPod “as early as June” to help increase demand which is expected to slow this quarter. The firm forecasts that iPod shipments will decrease to 4.8 million units in Apple’s fiscal third quarter ending in June from 5.3 million units last quarter.

In a research note to clients, Banc of America Securities said that its model incorporates “some seasonal softness,” and with flat revenue guidance from Apple’s last financial conference call, “we imagine that investors are looking to flat to slightly down MP3 sales, and strength in CPUs.”

Jobs defends Apple’s environmental efforts

imageAt Apple’s annual shareholders meeting Thursday, chief executive Steve Jobs defended his company’s environmental efforts after being questioned about recycling policies.

While activists picketed outside Apple headquarters, Jobs said inside that the company takes its environmental responsibilities seriously and noted that the company accepted more than 1,500 tons of old products in 2004 through its recycling program.

The activists — including one who dressed up as an iPod with the words “My trendy toy turned toxic trash today” — focused on the iPod and the device’s hard-to-replace battery. “Most consumers are just going to throw it away and get a new one,” said Sheila Davis, director of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.

Jobs said that consumers often throw old batteries away, and pointed out that tens of thousands of iPod owners have already gotten their batteries replaced through Apple’s $99 program and that the company properly disposes of the old ones.

Jobs also admitted that the iPod contains a small amount of lead, but that much more is found in other computer and conusmer electronics products including cathode-ray tube (CRT) monitors.

Mix: Color display, Libraries, Wal-Mart, Colleges

In yet another sign that the iPod photo will soon become the standard iPod model, Apple has renamed the PDF manual for the device to “iPod_with_color_display_User’s_Guide” from “iPod_photoUserGuide”. iLounge has been noting the de-emphasizing of the word “photo” from the product’s name for months. The iPod photo’s packaging was changed in February to reduce “photo” to a small badge, and in March Apple referred to the devices as “iPod with Color Displays” in an iPod Software Update.

Michael Stephens has written an interesting article for Library Journal on how libraries across the U.S. are using iPods.

Analysts say not to expect to see Apple products in Wal-Mart stores any time soon because Steve Jobs “likes to keep tight control over how and at what prices Apple products are sold, while Wal-Mart largely dictates terms to its suppliers.”

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore of The Christian Science Monitor has written an excellent article on iPod use in colleges.

Apple to sell Mobility Electronics power adapters

Mobility Electronics has announced that Apple online and retail stores will soon start offering its iGo EverywherePower 3500 power adapter with an interchangeable tip for use with an iPod. The company said the adapter will be bundled with the iGo DualPower accessory and an iPod iTip, which allows the adapter to power/charge an iPod plus a second low-power mobile electronic device simultaneously. Apple also plans to offer the EverywherePower 6500 combination AC/DC power adapter (formerly known as Juice). It will come bundled with an iPod iTip, as well as the DualPower accessory.

iPodStyles adds black silicone case to lineup

imageiPodStyles today announced the release of a limited edition black silicone case for the 20GB 4G iPod. The $9.99 case features full access to all controls, an open top for better use with accessories, and a bottom opening for charging/syncing your iPod without removing the case. It ships with an optional belt clip, hand strap, and neck strap.

Speck announces dock for iPod shuffle

imageSpeck Products has introduced the Speck Shuffle Dock for charging and syncing your iPod shuffle with your computer. The $24.95 dock — which is $4 cheaper than Apple’s iPod shuffle Dock — works with both the 512MB and 1GB iPod shuffle models, and will begin shipping on May 6.

“Dock your Shuffle on your desk! The Speck Shuffle Dock provides a convenient and stylish stand and docking station for your iPod Shuffle. The perfect solution if your Shuffle won’t fit directly into your USB port — or if you’re just looking for an easier way to sync.”

Motorola CEO: iTunes mobile phone still coming

Motorola’s iTunes-compatible mobile phone will see the light of day in the next few months, the company’s chief executive, Ed Zander, said Wednesday. During Motorola’s first quarter financial conference call, Zander confirmed that the phone is still coming out despite questions that arose after the company cancelled the introduction of the phone at the CeBIT conference in March.

“There has been some speculation that Motorola might delay the launch of its music-playing mobile phone because of lack of enthusiasm among US network operators,” reports The Financial Times. “Zander sees innovative mobile phones, such as the sleek and successful Razr, as the key to competing with Nokia, the market leader.”

Mix: Coldplay, iPod Socks, Florida Marlins, iPodSync

Capitol Records is using the iPod as part of its extreme security measures for media playbacks of Coldplay’s upcoming new album X&Y. “Journalists are required to listen to the set on an iPod locked inside a clear case, with a security guard perched outside an open door,” reports Billboard.

Apple’s iPod Socks are good for more than keeping your iPod warm — thieves apparently don’t realize there’s an expensive device inside them and leave behind the iPod when robbing people.

Florida Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis is the latest MLB iPod fan. “How did I survive without this?” asks Willis as he plays with his iPod in the visiting clubhouse at Shea Stadium. “Carrying around all those CDs… man, how did I live like that?”

Mediafour has announced a special offer for Windows iPod users: Buy XPlay before May 1, 2005 and receive iPodSync for free. You must use discount code “XPLAYSYNC

Kensington debuts new FM transmitter/charger

imageKensington has announced its new FM Digital Transmitter/Auto Charger for listening to your music collection on your iPod through your car stereo. The $79.99 device transmits tunes from an iPod to any FM frequency on your car radio (unlike the company’s FM Transmitter/Auto Charger, which only offers eight channel options). The all-in-one device plugs into a car’s cigarette lighter outlet to charge your iPod simultaneously.

The Kensington FM Digital Transmitter/Auto Charger is compatible with any Dock Connector iPod or iPod mini, and features Aerielle wireless technology, a blue back-lit LCD display, three station pre-set buttons, and a safety fuse that protects against power spikes.

Report: Apple paid tech editor $15K to praise iPod

NBC “Today” show tech editor Corey Greenberg has admitted to charging $15,000 to Apple and other companies to talk about their products on television, reports the Washington Post. In July, Greenberg praised the iPod on the show, saying it was “a great portable musical player… the coolest-looking one.” He said, “This is the way to go.” Greenberg has also appeared several times on CNBC touting Apple products including the iPod photo.

However, Greenberg says he was never paid to promote products on national TV — only local news. “I have never accepted payment to place a product on NBC News,” Greenberg says. “I have never accepted payment to say nice things about a product in any venue.” He says companies hired him as “a spokesperson who could talk credibly and understandably about consumer products,” but that he would no longer accept payment for appearances on local news shows.

The financial relationships Greenberg and another man, Child magazine’s Technology Editor James Oppenheim, separately have with companies was first reported yesterday by the Wall Street Journal, as noted by iLounge Backstage. Further details about the dealings can be found in that article.

Verizon, Sprint balk at iTunes phone

BusinessWeek reports that Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and Cingular will introduce new services for downloading digital music directly to mobile phones later this year, and that the first two companies have already turned down carrying the Motorola iTunes phone because of their upcoming offerings. The wireless carriers want to be able to charge customers to download songs over the air, instead of allowing them to freely transfer music from their computer to their phone.

“The two sides also have very different perspectives on how digital music stores should work,” notes BusinessWeek. “Verizon, Sprint, and Cingular are expected to charge about $2 for wireless downloads when they introduce their services, or twice the 99 cents per song on iTunes. They figure they can charge a premium for the convenience of getting songs anytime, even though customers most likely won’t be able to listen to those songs anywhere but on their phones, at least initially. One knowledgeable source close to Apple says the operators are simply being unrealistic if they expect customers to pay $2 or $3 for a song, especially with restrictions.”

Mix: White Stripes, Playlist Club, Sock Puppet, Martha Stewart

The iTunes Music Store has added new exclusive tracks, including “Speed of Sound” from Coldplay’s upcoming album X&Y, and “Blue Orchid,” the first single from The White Stripes’ new album, Get Behind Me Satan.

London’s Playlist Club will hold an event on Saturday, April 23, at Progress Bar (admission free; 9:00 p.m.). In the US, April 25 sees Philadelphia’s Khyber Club open at 7:30 p.m. for a night of free entertainment, sponsored by iLounge with a selection of great prizes.

Make magazine’s Phillip Torrone has created an iPod Sock Puppet. “It had to be done,” he said.

During a press conference explaining her new deal with Sirius satellite radio, Martha Stewart claimed that her daughter listens to radio on her iPod.

PodGear intros JumpSuit Shuffle silicone case

imageUK iPod accessory maker PodGear today announced the JumpSuit Shuffle for Apple’s iPod shuffle. The “high quality super thin” silicone case enables iPod Shuffle users to protect their iPod shuffle “from everyday scrapes and scratches while not adding bulk or hiding its great looks.” It features an embossed area over the device’s control pad allowing it to be easily operated through the casing. The JumpSuit Shuffle comes in packs of two in four different color combinations for £9.99.

XtremeMac goes iPod only, sells Mac business

In a decision to focus solely on the booming iPod accessory market, XtremeMac today announced that it has sold its line of Mac server products to Gizmac, a new company headed by XtremeMac co-founder Tim Cave. Gizmac, which will not be associated with XtremeMac, assumes full control of the XrackPRO and XtroVERT products for Apple’s Xserve, and will now manufacture and market them.

XtremeMac CEO Gary Bart explained to iLounge why he elected to sell off the Mac peripheral business. “As a company we have been operating under the premise that it makes greater economic sense for XtremeMac to build iPod accessories versus pro products, consequently, the pro products have not seen continued advances and improvements from a product development standpoint,” Bart said. “This short changes the pro customers and is not in keeping with the level of dedication and support we like provide.”

Bart said the move also allows XtremeMac to dedicate its efforts to bringing out the best iPod add-ons possible. “We believe a dedicated focus, company wide, sends a clear message to our employees, customers, media, Apple and others that our product line supports our goal of being the number one iPod accessory manufacturer,” he said.

The XtremeMac CEO went on to say that the deal will benefit both founders because they each had separate visions for the company. “Additionally, Tim Cave and I had different goals for the company’s direction, and our parting ways allows us each to accomplish our individual plans,” Bart said.

Because XtremeMac now only manufactures and sells iPod products and no Mac gear, iLounge asked Bart if there will be a name change in the future. There won’t — Bart said he will continue to use the current name. “We believe we have built strong brand equity over the past three and a half years and changing now would dilute that,” he said.

iPod shuffle ‘Wrappers’ available

imageWrappers are embroidered slip-on covers for the iPod shuffle that provide surface protection and easy access to the player’s controls and ports. They’re available in more than 40 different designs with prices starting at £8.00.

“Every Wrapper is an original, hand-made, limited edition, embroidered work of art,” explains the company behind the Wrappers. “The most complex designs have over 25,000 stitches — which works out at over 400 stitches per square centimeter — with up to ten colors. This gives Wrappers a knitted, tactile feel in your hand which you’ll love after years of shiny plastic.”

DVForge halts JamPod production, plans new version

imageDVForge said today that it has stopped production of its new JamPod electric guitar iPod accessory due to quality issues. DVForge CEO Jack Campbell told iLounge that his company created two versions of the JamPod — a cheaper version that cut corners to keep the price down, and a higher-grade version that would cost more to manufacture and sell.

“The simpler design could be sold for about $30. The more sophisticated design would have had to sell for about $50,” Campbell said. “We showed the $50 piece at Macworld Expo, and saw a surprising resistance to the price among showgoers. Based on the feedback from the show, we decided to take the less expensive version to production, we began accepting pre-orders about 3-weeks ago, and, we began shipping the product this past Thursday,” Campbell said. “We began getting comments back from many of these customers expressing concern about the sound quality and the fit and finish of the product.”

Based on the complaints from customers, Campbell said DVForge is halting production of the cheaper design and will soon offer the higher quality version for a higher price. He also said that his company would offer refunds to those unsatisfied with the JamPod.

“We decided on Sunday to simply trash the entire first production run of the JamPod, refund product and shipping costs for any dissatisfied customer, and, to take the earlier (higher performance) design to production,” Campbell told iLounge. “We will be rereleasing the JamPod in approximately 8-weeks at a retail price of $49.99. It will be the version that we showed at Macworld Expo, with the impeccable fit and finish, and the strong audio performance that our more demanding customers have requested.”

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