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Mix: TechTool Protogo, Apple probe, Nano noise, iPod phone

Micromat has released TechTool Protogo, a Mac OS X application that lets a user “easily turn an old iPod, a flash drive or other similar device into a bootable diagnostic tool that contains several of Micromat’s utilities.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple’s internal investigation into backdated stock options focused on two former executives—former CFO Fred Anderson and former general counsel and board secretary Nancy Heinen.

A number of second-generation iPod nano owners are complaining of high-pitched whining or buzzing sounds coming from the players. Owners of all models—2GB, 4GB and 8GB nanos—have reported the noise.

According to a recent survey by Solutions Research Group, an iPod phone could have the “potential to increase Apple’s customer footprint substantially. Currently just over 20% of Americans 12+ (about 50 million) own an Apple product—within 18 months of the introduction of a new iPod phone, Apple’s footprint can increase to over 30%.”

Apple sued over Nike+iPod Sport Kit

In its quarterly report filed with the SEC last week, Apple disclosed that it is facing a lawsuit over the Nike+iPod Sport Kit. Apple said PhatRat Technology filed a lawsuit in October alleging patent infringement. The company claims Apple’s product is infringing on several patents held by PhatRat, including: U.S. Patent number 6,499,000 entitled “System and Method for Determining Loft Time, Speed, Height and Distance,” U.S. Patent number 6,885,971 entitled “Methods and Systems for Assessing Athletics Performance,” U.S. Patent number 6,963,818 entitled “Mobile Speedometer Systems and Associated Methods,” and U.S. Patent number 7,092,846 entitled “Systems and Methods for Determining Performance Data,” as well as allowed U.S. Patent Application number 11/358,508 entitled “Shoes Employing Monitoring Devices, and Associated Methods.”

‘George’ sound system for iPod introduced

Chestnut Hill Sound has introduced George, a new high-end tabletop iPod sound system. George features a built-in iPod dock, an AM/FM radio with bandless tuning, and an alarm clock system. The system has a removable front panel LCD screen that serves as a wireless remote with full iPod functionality, including the ability to browse music on your iPod by artists, albums, songs and playlists. George will be available next week for $549. A charging stands and a consumer-installable, no subscription HD radio tuner will also be sold separately.

Apple: ‘The first 30 years were just the beginning’

Apple has posted an intriguing new welcome message on the home page of Apple.com. The fresh graphic features a backlit Apple logo with the text, “The first 30 years were just the beginning. Welcome to 2007.” While the message could simply be a harmless New Year’s greeting, it will no doubt stir up much anticipation before Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote at next week’s Macworld Expo.

Happy New Year and Thank You from iLounge

Heading into 2007, the entire staff of iLounge would like to take a moment to thank all of you in our community for this spectacular 2006. The year that’s passed has been full of memorably great moments, and we can’t wait to top them in the year to come.

Happy New Year, and again, thank you from iLounge! The comments thread below is continued from our holiday gift comparison thread - feel free to continue the discussion.

iPod vending machines performing well

ZoomSystems says that its iPod vending machines have been very successful for the company since launching them last year. Anita Leopold, a Zoom executive, said the company’s first two machines at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta have performed especially well. “We’ve done about $55,000 in a month in gross sales just for the one on Concourse A,” she said. Zoom’s Mark Mullins said the company now has machines, which dispense everything from skin-care products to batteries, in more than 300 locations nationwide—but that iPods are the big sellers. “We put in some iPods and found we couldn’t keep them in stock,” he said, “We found no customer resistance to swiping a card and buying a $300 item from a machine. We’re selling thousands (of iPods), and the machines at the Atlanta airport are major contributors to that.”

DLO intros new iPod nano-matching Action Jacket

Digital Lifestyle Outfitters has announced new versions of its Action Jacket in colors to match the second-generation iPod nano. The new Action Jacket for iPod nano is now available in green, blue and pink. The “workout safe” accessory features a protective, cushioned case with secure armband that provides play-through access to the player’s controls. The armband adjusts “to fit any arm size from toothpick to python.” The Action Jacket for iPod nano retails for $30.

Apple restates past earnings, stands by exec team

Following an independent investigation into the backdating of past stock option practices, Apple today restated past earnings, but cleared current executives of misconduct. Apple said it will record a non-cash charge of $84 million to compensate for improperly handled stock option grants made between 1997 and 2002. The company said after-tax profits would be lowered by $10 million for 2004, $7 million for 2005 and $4 million for 2006.

In delayed filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said a special committee of its board found that while Apple CEO Steve Jobs and other managers recommended or were aware of certain inaccurate grant dates, they did not financially benefit from them. Apple said it has “complete confidence” in the executive team.

“The special committee, its independent counsel and forensic accountants have performed an exhaustive investigation of Apple’s stock option granting practices,” said Al Gore, chair of the special committee, and Jerome York, chair of Apple’s Audit and Finance Committee, in a joint statement. “The board of directors is confident that the company has corrected the problems that led to the restatement, and it has complete confidence in Steve Jobs and the senior management team.”

Fox Sports to offer full-length BCS games on iTunes

Fox Sports has announced that full-length games from the 2007 Tostitos Bowl Bash—which includes The AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, The FedEx Orange Bowl, The Allstate Sugar Bowl and The Tostitos BCS National Championship Game—will be available online from several digital download sites, including iTunes, beginning December 28th. The college football content includes full-length games, condensed games, preview shows and highlights. Full-length games will cost $2.99. Preview and highlight shows will be priced at $1.99 each. Fans can also get all of the preview shows, every Bowl Bash full-length game and the “Best of the Bowl Bash” highlight package for $19.99.

MSB promises ‘audiophile iPod’ with iLink

MSB Technology has announced the iLink, a new iPod docking system that aims to produce true CD-quality sound. To use the iLink, a fifth-generation iPod must be modified to bypass the DAC (digital-to-analog) converter, enabling bit-perfect CD quality digital audio output. Your music must also be encoded in the Apple lossless format.

“iLink is the world’s only iPod docking station that offers a true digital audio output,” the company says. “This is done by modifying the iPod to allow digital audio to be sent to the iLink and output via Toslink optical, coaxial or balanced AES/EBU format. With this output, audiophiles can transform their iPods into a high-end source and achieve sound reproduction on a par with a good CD transport.” The iLink also comes with an RF transmitter, and charges the iPod when docked.

The iLink system and iPod upgrade service are sold together for $1,995. The upgrade service for additional iPods is $199 each. You can also buy an iLink system and a new, upgraded 80GB iPod for $2,349.

New iPod owners, gift cards overwhelm iTunes Store

A huge increase in new iPod owners and iTunes gift card holders overwhelmed Apple’s iTunes Store over the holiday, prompting error messages and slowdowns. The AP reports: “Frazzled users began posting urgent help messages Monday and Tuesday on Apple’s technical forum for iTunes, complaining they were either not allowed into the store or were told the system couldn’t process their request to download songs and videos. It was not immediately clear how many people were affected by the slowdowns, and Apple would not immediately comment Wednesday on what caused the slowdown and whether it had been fixed.” Analysts said the problems were likely due to the large amount of consumers receiving new iPods and iTunes gift cards as Christmas gifts.

iTunes visits surge 413% on Christmas Day

Hitwise today reported that visits to the iTunes website were up 413% on Christmas Day this year versus Christmas Day 2005. The increase is attributed to new iPod owners flocking to Apple’s site to download iTunes. In addition, visits to the online Apple Store showed an increase of 110% when comparing Christmas Day 2006 to the previous year. The Apple Store was the fourth most visited website in the Hitwise Retail Index on Christmas Day 2006.

Model photos of iPod-inspired building revealed

The first photos of a scale model for the iPod-inspired residential tower in Dubai have been posted online. The 23-story tower, due to open in 2009, will be built on a “docking station” at an angle of six degrees. It will include more than 200 homes and offices. The tower is being designed by Hong Kong-based James Law Cybertecture, an award-winning architecture firm focused on futuristic projects and “intelligent” buildings.

Report: Apple falsified stock options documents

Federal prosecutors are investigating stock option documents at Apple that were reportedly falsified by company officials, according to a report by Law.com. The report also says that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has hired his own legal representation to deal with investigators from the SEC and Justice Department. The article does not say which documents were allegedly falsified, but Apple previously stated that “stock option grants made on 15 dates between 1997 and 2002 appear to have grant dates that precede the approval of those grants.”

Tune Belt intros Open View Armband for 2G iPod shuffle

Tune Belt has introduced its Open View Armband for the second-generation iPod shuffle. The neoprene armband features a protective clear mylar window and a cord management flap that secures excess earphone cord. The Open View Armband is adjustable to fit arms from 8-18 inches. It sells for $15.

Discovery Channel airs ‘Inside Story of the iPod’

The Discovery Channel has begun airing a documentary chronicling the history of the iPod. “The Inside Story of the iPod” will have its next broadcast at 12:00 p.m. ET today. The Discovery Channel briefly describes the documentary: “The iPod Revolution goes behind the scenes to uncover how Steve Jobs brought Apple back from the grave to create one of the most popular electronics devices ever made: the iPod.”

Nike issues New Year’s Challenge

Just in time for New Year’s resolutions, Nike has announced a new feature on its Nike+ website that lets users post challenges to other runners, and the consequences of those challenges if their goals aren’t met.

“Visitors to nikeplus.com can watch runners who did not live up to their challenges bob for lobsters, have their nose hairs plucked and be duct-taped to a bucking mechanical bull named Helga,” says Nike. “Beginning now, runners can issue challenges to themselves and to their friends at nikeplus.com, the Nike+ system which helps track miles, pace, time and calories burned. After January 31st, Nike will begin posting the consequences of those unaccomplished challenges on the site as shared by the runners themselves.”

The most publicized challenge will come from tennis superstar Maria Sharapova and be directed at NBA All-Star LeBron James. If Sharapova runs more miles than James in January, the basketball star will act as a ball boy during a match of Sharapova’s choice. If she fails, the tennis star will serve as James’ personal water girl at a game of his choice.

Mix: Shuffle utility, Apple Stores, Nike+ TV ad, iPad

Apple has released iPod shuffle Reset Utility 1.0.1 for both Mac and Windows. The software restores a first-generation shuffle and fixes several known issues. No information was provided for this small update to the utility.

According to a new report from Bernstein Research, Apple retail stores sell more per square foot than many large retailers. Apple’s stores have brought in annual sales per square foot of $4,032, compared with Best Buy’s $930, Neiman Marcus’ $611, and Tiffany & Co.‘s $2,666.

Nike has begun airing a new TV commercial promoting the Nike+iPod Sport Kit and Nike+ running shoe line. The 30-second features “Here It Goes Again” by OK Go.

A real estate developer in Dubai is planning to build an iPod-inspired residential tower called the iPad. “The 23-story building, which is scheduled to bring more than 200 units onto the market in 2009, was designed by Hong Kong-based architects James Law Cybertecture International. The tower will sit atop a docking station angled at six degrees to give the exact look.”

Mogopop lets users create, download content for iPods

Mogopop has been announced as a new free online service and website that lets users create, publish and download content for iPods. “Mogopop is a free web-based service where members and visitors can create, publish and download multimedia content for iPod,” the company explains. “This content that can incorporate audio, video, pictures, podcasts, text—whatever our members’ minds can imagine, they can create. Mogopop downloads are like mini-Websites for iPod that anyone can enjoy.”

Alive-Style debuts Popalive LCD remote for iPods

Alive-Style has announced the Popalive Remote, a new wireless remote and dock set for iPods. The remote, which features a 1.5-inch color screen and built-in rechargeable battery, allows users to view and navigate the contents of their music folders directly on the Popalive Remote. The remote communicates with the Popalive Dock via bi-directional RF connectivity for use through walls, ceilings and floors. The dock also has mini stereo audio out and S-Video out, and charges a docked iPod. The Popalive Remote works with fourth- and fifth-generation iPods, and is due for release in January 2007 for $149.

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