Slim Devices today introduced Squeezebox2, an updated version of its network audio device that streams music from your computer to another room where it can be played through your stereo. Squeezebox2, together with SlimServer 6, supports a large number of audio formats, including AAC (unprotected), MP3, FLAC, Apple Lossless, AIFF, WMA, WAV, and Ogg Vorbis.
Features include: a 24-bit Burr-Brown digital-to-analog converter; optical and coaxial S/PDIF outputs; built-in support for 802.11g; a larger 320 x 32 vacuum fluorescent display; an improved search feature; the ability to connect to SqueezeNetwork for “always-on” access to Internet radio streams; and an option to automatically import existing playlists from iTunes.
The Squeezebox2 is available in two colors—Basic Black and Triple Platinum—and will ship on March 31. The Wireless version will sell for $299, while the Squeezebox2 Wired will be priced at $249.
Engadget reports that Virgin Electronics “failed to receive additional funding from parent Virgin Group and that they’re quietly discontinuing all of their product lines (mainly MP3 players and portable speakers).”
AppleMatters has published an article explaining how to make a cardboard case for your iPod shuffle.
In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, the Joy of Tech is giving away three copies of “iPod & iTunes Garage” by Kirk McElhearn, iProp propeller beanies, and a choice of some of their other iPod-related gear.
ex24, an auction-based online stock trading system, has announced that it will give away a free iPod shuffle to new members who open an account and begin trading.
Logitech today announced its first iPod product—the mm22 portable speaker system. The system, which can be powered by either batteries or an included AC adapter, features four neodymium micro drivers that produce “rich, smooth sound with tremendous depth for their size.” The mm22 portable speakers can be folded into a small traveling case when you’re on the go. The traveling case holds the speakers, power adapter, two speaker cables, and also has enough room to store the iPod. The Logitech mm22 speaker system comes with three cradles to fit any hard drive-based iPod. It will be available for $79.99 later this month.
Steven Milunovich of Merrill Lynch said today that Apple has little to worry about in terms of competition from new flash memory-based players and subscription music services from its rivals.
In a research note provided to iLounge, Milunovich said that Sony’s three new flash MP3 players will be the most likely to challenge the iPod shuffle in the coming months. “We believe these are likely to be solid sellers, but they don’t support iTunes and do not have the cache of an iPod,” he said.
Milunovich noted that the Sony players do have a small screen, but that they use AAA batteries as compared to the iPod shuffle’s rechargeable internal battery. “We view Sony as the most serious competitor, but since Apple will be supply-constrained on shuffles it will be difficult to assess the impact in the near term,” he said.
The analyst also said that Napster’s $14.99 a month subscription service could be easily matched if Apple wanted to. “We don’t see a big impact on Apple because (1) we are not big believers in the subscription model where consumers pay indefinitely to listen to their favorite songs, and (2) if we’re wrong, Apple can establish a subscription service with few barriers to entry,” Milunovich said. “Record label executives we spoke with believe the market could be bimodal with the majority people choosing to purchase and a niche for subscription services.”
Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO) has quietly introduced its VoiceNote voice recorder for iPods. The $39.99 add-on “lets you record meetings, lectures, thoughts, ideas, conversations, or whatever you want through its built-in mic or external lapel microphone (both included).” It features adjustable level settings, a built-in speaker for playback of your recordings, and requires no extra software. DLO said VoiceNote is available now for pre-order, and is expected to ship in 2-3 weeks. It will presumably only work with third and fourth generation iPods.
A recent survey of 30 Apple retail stores found that iPod shuffle demand is “unprecedented,” and that meaningful supply of the device has only been available at most stores within the last 10 days. The average iPod shuffle supply per Apple Store is currently 30 to 50 units, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said today in a research note provided to iLounge. “Apple is selling every shuffle it can produce,” he said. “We believe this demand will carry forward into the June quarter and beyond.”
In addition, Munster said that iPod shuffle demand is also “very strong” at Apple specialist resellers. After speaking with 20 of the resellers, he said that they were (unsurprisingly) having a hard time getting enough of the devices from Apple. “While the resellers had many complaints about their inability to receive sufficient supply of iPod shuffles from Apple, they also indicated, on average, that they expect the quarter to be at or above plan,” he said.
In an effort to compete with the iPod shuffle, Sony has announced a new line of flash memory-based digital music players.
At IBM’s PartnerWorld conference, Steve Welch used iPod-based software to save his crashed ThinkPad. The unannounced software is IBM One-touch Rescue & Recovery On Linux.
In addition to an iPod guide, the SXSW conference is offering a BitTorrent file (2.6GB) of more than 750 songs of participating bands.
Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish Pubs Directory lets you view hundreds of pubs, descriptions, ratings and more on your iPod.
The Iconfactory has announced the release of “iPod, Therefore I Am”—a new collection of freeware icons from Dave Brasgalla. The set of 8 icons will “let you give your iPod the icon it deserves in popular ‘World of Aqua’ style, and it won’t even cost you .99 cents!” The collection includes the 4G iPod, the special edition U2 iPod, the “more vibrant” colored iPod minis, the iPod shuffle, and the iPod photo. The new set is available for Mac, Windows or as a Pixadex iContainer.
Yahoo plans to launch a new digital music store and player, aiming to compete more directly with Apple’s iTunes.
Avinesh Pillay, product manager at Sony Ericsson, says that his company’s new Walkman music phones and iPods are “complementary product categories”—the phones will “fill a spontaneous listening space” for times when you don’t have your iPod with you.
Apple’s Danika Cleary says that “people attribute all sorts of personalities to their iPods,” and has heard “lots of stories of people naming their iPods—Not just ‘Danika’s iPod,’ but ‘Bert and Ernie,’ for people who have multiple (iPods) in the family.” What’s your iPod’s name?
CitizenPod has released SXSW4Pod, an interactive schedule listing for the 2005 South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival & Conference created specifically for iPods.
“Never before has SXSW been so easy to navigate. With our free download, CitizenPod puts the entire SXSW lineup on your iPod and into your hands. Access the festival as easily as navigating through your iPod! Using the built-in Notes feature of your iPod, you can search the SXSW Music Festival by band, venue, showcase, and genre. Search the Film and Interactive Festivals by event and location all with the simplicity of using an iPod.”
SXSW4Pod is the first of CitizenPod’s guide4Pod service. The company plans to partner with festivals, trade shows, record companies, night clubs, restaurants, museums and others for future guides.
Editor’s Note: iLounge publisher Dennis Lloyd will be at SXSW next week to discuss ways to trick out your iPod. He will be on a panel with other digital music experts on Tuesday, March 15, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Merrill Lynch analyst Steven Milunovich says he now expects Apple to sell 4.5 million iPods this quarter and 20 million for the year. Milunovich was previously looking for the company to sell 4 million devices in the March quarter. “Although iPod competition is strengthening, we believe demand for the iPod shuffle continues to outstrip supply,” Milunovich says in a research note obtained by iLounge.
Milunovich also said that digital music subscription services do not appear to be an immediate threat to iTunes. “We believe Napster’s results show that online music purchases continue to grow. We do not see the small rise in absolute number of subscribers (now at 270,000) as taking share from Apple’s iTunes,” he says.
Gracenote, the company behind the CDDB, has come under fire for keeping records of which CDs you access information on, despite their claim that no personal information is kept.
Following its Smart Guide for the US Comedy Arts Festival, Talking Panda has released a guide for the 2005 CUE conference that can be read on your iPod.
The University of Amsterdam has initiated a research project titled “Digital Sounds” that aims to assess the use and perception of MP3 players in general and more specifically the iPod.
Kamen Entertainment Group has launched a new Podcact that features fitness programs by Nationally acclaimed fitness motivator and recording artist Marina.
UK-based PodGear today announced two new iPod speaker systems, including the first for the iPod shuffle.
The Shuffle Station portable speaker system (£34.99; shown right) for the iPod shuffle is powered by four AAA batteries or from an AC adapter (included), and will also charge the device over USB. It has line-in and line-out, and offers 3W rated output, 4 ohm resistance, and a frequency range of 100Hz-20Khz.
The PocketParty “micro” speaker system (£24.99; shown left) works with 3G/4G iPod and iPod mini models. The PocketParty plugs into the the headphone port of the iPod and runs for up to 10 hours from a single AA battery. Weighing 38 grams, the accessory offers 1W of stereo output from its two tiny speakers. A version of the PocketParty for the iPod shuffle will be released in April, according to the company.
Apple’s iTunes Music Store is facing its strongest challenger in subscription services from Napster and others. At least one analyst says that subscriptions will outpace downloads within the next five years.
“Subscriptions are a great thing for real fans because you get access to a lot of music. The appeal is it’s on-demand. As long as you keep paying, its all there,” Jupiter Research analyst David Card says.
Many believe Apple CEO Steve Jobs will change his stance on subscriptions (he says they won’t succeed because consumers want to own, not rent) if iTunes and the iPod are challenged.
“The only reason they have iTunes is to sell iPods. If it turns out subscription services are important to sell iPods, they’ll probably get into that business,” Card says.
Update: Today at the iHollywood Forum Digital Living Room conference taking place in San Mateo, California, RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser said that one day Apple CEO Steve Jobs will have to move iTunes to subscriptions. “The day that they introduce subscriptions is the day that Steve Jobs has the brilliant revelation that subscriptions are a good thing,” Glaser said.
Speck Products is now shipping its SkinTight iPod shuffle skin. Made of form-fitting Kraton polymer, the case “provides protection without adding bulk,” and features a two-piece design for easier synching/charging. The SkinTight is available immediately in clear, black and pink for $19.95. Speck said that red, blue, and green would ship on March 30.
Motorola is expected to announce its first handset with iTunes integration on Thursday, March 10, according to a Newsweek article. While not noted by the publication, CeBIT 2005, an electronics event considered to be the largest in the world, will kick off in Hannover, Germany, on Thursday. Previous reports have said the flagship iTunes phone will be called “ROKR.”
“The music phones to be launched this month will allow customers to play their existing iTunes songs, and presumably buy new ones, on their Motorola phones,” writes Newsweek’s Brad Stone. “The problem for Motorola and Apple is that wireless operators like Sprint are interested in setting up those stores themselves.” Motorola CEO Ed Zander argues that consumers will “demand brands like iTunes but concedes that the carriers will ultimately get the first shot at selling songs on phones.”
A stand-alone iPod store has opened up in San Luis Obispo, California. Shane Williams, owner of the iPod Shop, said it’s the first such store in the country. “We were originally selling the iPods out of our Mac store [the Mac Superstore in San Luis Obispo], and when they became all the rage, we found that we didn’t have enough room for them and all of their accessories,” Williams said. The iPod Shop, which averages about $4,000 per day in revenue, offers 14 iPod models, more than 100 accessories, and “a comfortable chair in the middle of the room to listening stations along the walls.”
Apple has recently been confronted by two companies that say Apple is infringing on their patents with its popular iTunes and iPod products.
A Hong Kong-based company called Pat-rights claims its holds a patent on the digital rights management (DRM) process that Apple uses in the iTunes Music Store and iPod. The company is demanding 12 percent of Apple’s gross revenue from iTunes and iPods. Pat-rights said it will file a lawsuit on March 21 if the company and Apple do not reach an agreement before then.
Meanwhile, Illinois-based Advanced Audio Devices, has reportedly sued Apple, claiming that the company’s iPod violates one of its patents. A Chicago Tribune article is scant on details, but the paper does say that Advanced Audio told Apple in December that the iPod infringed on its “Music Jukebox” patent. Apple “ignored [Advanced Audio’s] attempt to seek a business resolution,” the federal suit said.
iSkin has provided iLounge with a first look at two upcoming cases for the iPod shuffle and fourth-generation iPod. The iPod shuffle skin will totally enclose the device in silicone, and will feature a covering for the controls in a complimentary color, and a hole for a lanyard or keyring. The new iSkin Duo case for 4G iPods is made of colored silicone and silver metal, and features an integrated metal plate in the rear that includes a new high performance belt clip. iSkin said the finished products may vary from the illustrations.
Click “Read more” for full-size pictures of the new cases.
A recent consumer survey found that the average iPod owner in the U.S. spends about $150 on accessories—on average half of the value of the device. The study by market research firm Envisioneering Group averaged the price of an iPod at $300 and was taken before the introduction of the iPod shuffle.
“This is an amazing uptick in iPod accessory sales and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down,” Richard Doherty, research director at the Envisioneering Group, told the Mac Observer. “The iPod is a different phenomenon among electronic products. Music is a reflection of our soul and the iPod is becoming an emotional extension of people.”
Doherty said iPod accessory sales could go higher than $150 per device sometime in 2005. “I don’t think you’ll see the average hit 200% of each average iPod sold of $300, but it will creep up a little,” he said. “Demand will stay strong, for sure.”