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Winners announced for Book XL, Photo Contests

Winners have been announced for iLounge’s most recent contests: Blog the Book XL and iPods Around the World #4000. Winning the first place Geneva Lab Model XL speaker system ($1075) is James Oliver, United Kingdom, with Leopold Plassart of Nantes, France winning the second place prize of a Geneva Lab Model L speaker ($599). A third place, randomly selected winner, Johnathon Schlemmer of Overland Park, Kansas, also won a Model L speaker, all courtesy of Geneva Lab.

Our second contest awarded a custom-colorized iPod nano to the person who submitted the 4000th photograph to our iPods Around the World photo gallery. The winning photo was submitted by Nathan Wong of Taipei, Taiwan, who sent in a photo of a 4G iPod in Los Altos, California, birthplace of Apple Computer. Nathan picked a jet black body with Ferrari red click wheel.

Congratulations to all of our winners! Our 100,000th validated forum member countdown is still underway, with a winner to be announced in the near future.


Analyst: iTunes movies, iPhone ‘almost certain’

Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster has put together a new report ranking the certainty of current Apple rumors. The analyst outlined potential products into three categories and expected release dates: almost certain (in the next 6-12 months), likely (in the next 9-18 months), and a stretch (in the next 12-18 months). Munster ranks the likelihood of both feature-length films on the iTunes Music Store and an Apple iPhone to be “almost certain.” Munster said he expects iTunes movies by the end of 2006, and an “iPod with cellphone capability” within the next 12 months. Under his “likely” rumors, Munster lists the “real” video iPod, which he expects as early as this holiday season. Finally, Munster calls speculation of both in-flight iTunes and advertisements in iTunes “a “stretch.”

Microsoft considering free replacement of iTunes songs?

As part of the launch for its forthcoming iPod rival, Microsoft reportedly plans to give consumers free, compatible versions of songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store. The ploy would allow music fans to make the switch from the iPod and iTunes to the Microsoft player and Windows Media-based online store without losing previously purchased music. “This way you won’t have to pay twice for your music, which is a huge barrier for Microsoft to attract users to their service,” Gizmodo reports. “If you’ve got $1000 worth of music in your iPod, why would you change to something that required you to buy it all again? This move makes sense.” Also, like the recently announced MusicGremlin device, Microsoft’s offering is said to let device owners wirelessly connect to another owner’s player and share music. Meanwhile, Microsoft remains coy. “The stories you are seeing are based on speculation and rumors and, as such, we didn’t participate,” Microsoft said in a statement. “We don’t have anything to announce at this time.”

Analyst: Wireless 6G iPod to counter Microsoft device

One analyst believes that Apple will introduce a wireless sixth-generation iPod this Fall to counter the debut of the much-rumored portable Microsoft device. “Apple has stated that ease of use is a key element of the iPod, so wireless functionality is an obvious next step for the product line,” Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said in a research note provided to iLounge. “Apple has also stated that the pace of iPod innovation will not change. Historically, that pace has been about two new iPods per year, but Apple has yet to release a new iPod this year. Based on these two factors, we expect a new wireless iPod this Fall.” As reported earlier, Microsoft is reportedly prepping a wireless audio and video player, which is expected to be out before Christmas. “Microsoft is rich with resources to compete with Apple. We do not believe, however, that the yet-to-be-seen Microsoft offering will be a worthy opponent for the iPod,” Munster said.

iPod blamed for teenager’s lightning strike

A 17-year-old Colorado teenager blames his iPod for being struck by lightning while mowing the lawn. Jason Bunch says the current from the strike traveled through the headphone wires of his iPod, burning his ears, cheeks and side. The Denver post reports: “The wounds follow the line of his iPod, from his ears down his right side to his hip, where he was carrying the device. The iPod has a hole in the back, and the earbuds dissolved into green threads. Bunch and his mother believe the iPod acted as an antenna, drawing the lightning to him. There were tall pine trees nearby that didn’t get hit.” Weather experts, however, say that is unlikely. “There is no scientific evidence to show that lightning is ‘attracted’ to items like an iPod. However, if someone wearing earbuds is struck, current may travel along the wires into the ears,” said Gregory Stewart of the Denver-based Lightning Reference Center. “There are documented cases of lightning traveling through wired telephones and killing the users.” [via Gizmodo]

Kiwali offers Deco covers for 5G iPods

Kiwali has announced a new collection of its Deco adhesive covers for the fifth-generation iPod. Covering the front and back of the iPod, each 5G Deco cover is printed on Naster polypropylene in one of eight designs. The $12 covers are repositionable and provide protection from scratches and everyday use. “The Kiwali Deco for 5G iPods is an easy and affordable way to accessorize the video iPod to reflect personality, mood, or taste,” says the company.

Apple sued over stock option grants

Apple has disclosed that two derivative lawsuits have been filed against its current and former officers and directors relating to the company’s awarding of stock option grants. The suits were filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California and the Superior Court for Santa Clara County. Last week, Apple proactively announced that it had discovered irregularities in the issuance of certain stock option grants. The company is conducting an independent investigation into the matter and said it is currently evaluating its response to the lawsuits.

National Semiconductor employees told to return iPods

Laid-off employees at National Semiconductor have been asked to return the iPods given to them last month as part of a company-wide reward. On June 12th, National Semiconductor announced that it was giving each of its 8,500 employees a 30GB fifth-generation iPod for having an exceptionally profitable year. The Star-Telegram now reports: “Last week, the company laid off 35 employees at its Arlington plant. To the surprise of some at the plant, the laid-off workers were asked to give back their high-tech toys… One of the 35 laid-off workers said many employees at the Arlington plant were under the impression that the iPods were theirs to keep. Some had sold them or given them as gifts, according to the caller. Employees who leave the company can return the device or pay ‘fair market value’ for it.” [via CNET]

Apple, Creative ‘open to settlement’ of suits

Apple and Creative Technology said in court documents that they “remain open to the possibility” of ending their legal battles over patent infringement. In a July 3rd joint court filing, the two companies said they were in negotiations for the licensing of Creative’s patent to Apple six months before the suit was filed and were “open” to reaching an agreement. “The parties will remain open to the possibility of settlement,” the joint report said. “No specific settlement discussions are planned.” As previously reported, Apple and Creative are suing each other in California, Texas and Wisconsin over various patents relating to the iPod and Zen audio players. The International Trade Commission is also investigating complaints made by each company.

Report: Wireless Microsoft iPod rival due by Christmas

Bloomberg News has uncovered new details of Microsoft’s forthcoming iPod rival and iTunes Music Store clone. The Microsoft-branded portable music and video player will reportedly be out by Christmas, featuring a wireless Internet connection to download music without a computer. Bloomberg says the device is being developed under the supervision of Xbox executives Robbie Bach and J. Allard. In addition, Microsoft is said to have hired music industry executive Chris Stephenson to meet with music and Hollywood companies about licensing content for the Microsoft digital media store. Bloomberg says Microsoft has already met with EMI Group, Universal Music Group, NBC, Fox, and CBS.

Mix: WSJ primer, Universal Music, iPod designs, Cool Gorilla

The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg and Katherine Boehret have penned an informative digital music primer. “Many folks—even some who own iPods and other players—are still confused over how legal digital music works,” they write. “So here’s a quick-and-dirty guide to the digital music world, in question-and-answer form. We’ve included the questions we are asked most frequently, plus a few other topics.”

Universal Music says it plans to price back-catalog CDs in line with their digital versions. The Guardian reports: “Universal is to split its CDs into three price and product ranges in Europe to revitalise a format that accounts for more than 90% of record sales. The most significant change is the introduction of a ‘basic’ CD for older recordings, such as the Killers’ Hot Fuss, that will wrap the album in a card case with no sleeve notes.”

iLuv debuts i180 iPod video recorder

iLuv has unveiled a new device that allows users to record videos directly to a fifth-generation iPod from from any video source (TV, DVD player, camcorder, etc.). The iLuv i180 iPod dock features four recording time settings—30 min, 60 min, 120 min, 180 min—and basic record/stop and timer buttons. After a video is recorded, it can be found and played on the iPod under Videos > Video Podcasts > iLuv. The i180 also charges a docked iPod and has composite AV (RCA) and S-Video connections. The i180 is expected to be available in mid-August for $200.

Apple revamps podcast categories on iTunes Music Store

Apple has updated the iTunes Music Store’s podcast directory with a new set of podcast categories. In an email sent to podcasters, Apple said the revamp will affect the way a podcast is listed in the directory, and that podcast feeds should be updated to match the new category structure. “Today we launched a revised set of categories for podcasts listed in the iTunes Music Store,” Apple said. “We’re sending you this email to let you know how to change your podcast feed to accommodate these changes. The revised categories and subcategories are listed at the bottom of this message. Please take the time to change your podcast feed as soon as possible. Please note that we will support the use of the old category names for the next few months, so there is no immediate deadline for making these changes.”

HandStands announces iSnug Accessory Case

HandStands has announced the latest addition to its iSnug line—the iSnug Accessory Case. The new case offers protection for cables, the iPod power brick, and popular iPod accessories like Griffin Technology’s iTrip. Like the original iSnug, the $20 case features a hard outer-shell and interior EVA foam padding. The iSnug Accessory Case is available immediately.

Apple continues iPod factory investigation

Despite word from Foxconn that Apple has completed its audit of the Chinese iPod factory, Apple says it continues to investigate the working conditions. “We are still investigating the working conditions at Foxconn’s manufacturing plant in Longhua,” said Apple spokesman Steve Dowling. “This is a thorough audit, which includes employee working and living conditions, interviews of employees and managers, compliance with overtime and wage regulations, and other areas as necessary to insure adherence to Apple’s supplier code of conduct. Apple’s supplier code of conduct sets the bar higher than accepted industry standards and we take allegations of noncompliance very seriously.”

Mix: NAND flash, Blade, Dead iPods, Scratched iPods

Last week’s news that Apple may delay the release of new iPods has memory chip makers worried that the NAND flash market could take a hit.

The premiere episode of Spike TV’s Blade: The Series is available from the iTunes Music Store as a free download.

Neuros Recorder 2 update offers clearer iPod-ready videos

Neuros Technology has released a firmware update for its MPEG-4 Recorder 2 that delivers sharper video for fifth-generation iPods. “This upgrade doubles the bit rate of shows and movies recorded for playback on an iPod, offering video that is comparable to material on the iTunes Music Store,” according to Neuros. The Recorder 2 records iPod-ready video from any source (TV, satellite, DVRs, etc.) onto a flash memory card (Memory Stick Duo/Pro Duo or Compact Flash) that is inserted into the device. It comes with a remote control and provides three resolution settings and four quality settings.

Target now selling pink ColorWare iPods

Target is now selling special two-tone pink edition iPods produced by ColorWare. Target is selling the pink iPods for $80-$90 over retail—the store is offering 1GB ($230) and 2GB ($280) iPod nanos and 30GB ($390) and 60GB ($490) fifth-generation iPods. The pink iPods are available online only. As previously reported on iLounge, ColorWare offers custom painted iPods and other electronics. The company allows customers to pick between 24 standard colors and several color combinations. iPod nanos are available directly from ColorWare for $65 over retail, and 5G iPods for $75 over retail.

France adopts toned down iTunes interoperability law

French lawmakers on Friday adopted a toned down version of the controversial law that could force Apple to open up its iPod and iTunes copy-protection technology. The law, which aims to make content from digital media stores compatible with all portable devices, could tempt Apple to shut down the iTunes Music Store in France. “In its initial form, the bill would have forced online stores like iTunes to drop barriers that prevent songs it sells being played on portable MP3 devices and computers designed to work with another music store,” reports Reuters. “But after amendments introduced in the Senate, the law allows companies to argue that measures to restrict the technical compatibility of songs or films sold online were undertaken at the request of the authors.”

Apple adds Nike Sport Music area to iTunes Music Store

Following yesterday’s Nike-ready iPod and iTunes software updates, Apple has added a new section to the iTunes Music Store with several offerings designed to enhance the Nike + iPod experience. The new top-level iTunes area, called “Nike Sport Music,” features Nike+ Workouts (continuous-play music mixes with voice-over coaching instructions), Nike video podcasts, Sport iMixes put together by iTunes customers, and Athlete Inspiration playlists featuring music picks from the likes of Lance Armstrong, Vince Carter, Ronaldo, Landon Donovan, and others. Also, as part of the launch of the Nike content, electronic group The Crystal Method created an exclusive 45-minute sport mix featuring original tracks and new remixes of their old songs.

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