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Monster cuts iCruze retail pricing

Monster has announced that its iCruze direct-connect iPod car audio solution is now available at a new low price. The main iCruze unit now retails for $70, the optional display is now $40, and additional interface connecting cables and/or interface modules range in price from $10 to $30.

“This means that a customer can put together a complete iCruze package for only $150 (that is a $280 price reduction for a complete iCruze system as compared to the previous pricing),” says Monster. “It also means that some customers who only need an iCruze and an Interface Cable, and who choose not to purchase the LCD Display can own iCruze for as low as $80.”

Monster is still running a special sale on a complete iCruze package. You can buy the kit—which includes the iCruze main unit, the LCD display module and necessary cables—for $99 directly from the company.

NASCAR offers free Daytona 500 preview on iTunes

NASCAR has made a free preview of Sunday’s Daytona 500 available on Apple’s iTunes Music Store. The 20-minute video “takes you inside the world of NASCAR and the Daytona 500 in a way that’s never before been experienced,” according to the description. Interestingly, the preview is listed under a new iTunes section called “NASCAR 2006 Races,” hinting that this season’s race events could also be offered on iTunes.

“‘NASCAR Daytona 500 Preview’ delivers something for everyone. You’ll see never-before-seen footage from full-restored historical film to a first-hand look at the 2006 Daytona 500 test cars. You’ll watch exclusive interviews of veterans and rookies as they look ahead to the upcoming season. You’ll go on the track and inside the garage, where you’ll see and hear behind-the-scenes sounds from drivers and crew chiefs. And you’ll relive some of the greatest triumphs and tragedies in the host of ‘The Great American Race.’”

Mix: SigmaTel, iTunes disdain, Sprint, News Corp.

SigmaTel, which makes the chip that powers the iPod shuffle, is hopeful that it will win bigger contracts from Apple in the second half of the year.

iTunes “makes music disposable. It makes it a faceless impulse item. It steals its soul,” Victory Records founder Tony Brummel said. “Apple/iTunes do not care about independent labels or, for that matter, the record industry. Without the music industry, their site and their iPods are useless.”

In the four months since the Sprint Music Store debuted, more than 1 million tracks have now been sold. In comparison, the iTunes Music Store sold the same amount in less than a week when it launched in May 2003.

CNN/Money’s Paul La Monica looks at News Corp.‘s digital content moves and notes that it “has yet to strike an agreement with a major tech firm for video content online” and that its Fox channel is “the only one of the big four networks to not do so.”

GEAR4 announces IceBox X-Clip case for iPod nano

imageGEAR4 today announced the IceBox X-Clip, a clear hard case for the iPod nano with the ability to use special clip-on accessories. The case is currently available in two versions: the IceBox X-Clip ($22), which is the basic model with belt clip attachment, and the Ice Box X-Clip Splitter ($29), which comes with both the belt clip attachment and an interchangeable headphone splitter. GEAR4 said that it expects to deliver 10 or more X-Clip accessories during 2006, including remotes, sports armbands, battery backup packs and speakers.

iTunes phone upgrade to remove song cap? [updated]

imageOne of the biggest complaints with Motorola’s iTunes-enabled mobile phones is their 100-song cap. But Apple has apparently been listening and appears to be planning to allow users to upgrade their phone to remove the software-imposed song limit.

References in the code of the iTunes 6.0.3 update reveal a link to a hidden page on the iTunes Music Store that says: “Want more music on your mobile phone with iTunes? Upgrade now.” The upgrade process is not yet active, as several ROKR and SLVR phone owners were unsuccessful in getting their song limit raised. It’s not clear whether Apple plans to charge for the upgrade.

Update: Engadget has confirmed with Apple that “the upgrade screen exists for non-US customers, some of whom initially had caps as low as 25 songs, and brings their phones up to the 100-song limit.”

Amazon plans digital music service, branded player

Amazon.com is planning to launch a digital music service and Amazon-branded MP3 players, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. The online retailer is currently finalizing deals with the major music companies and could launch the service and portable devices as soon as this summer.

“Amazon is in advanced talks with the four global music companies about a digital-music service with a range of features designed to set it apart,” reports the Journal. “Among them: Amazon-branded portable music players, designed and built for the retailer, and a subscription service that would deeply discount and preload those devices with songs, not unlike mobile phones that are included with subscription plans as part of the deal.”

The article claims that music executives “privately welcome Amazon’s plans, which they see as one of the only credible challenges to Apple’s hegemony in both digital music and portable players. Now the question is whether Amazon’s massive customer base is enough to offset a long delay in entering the online music business.”

“Amazon’s online music plans would take advantage of the company’s strong position in selling CDs and portable music players,” the Journal notes. “The online retailer sells an estimated 10% of digital music players in the U.S., including iPods, and the pending deal could hurt its relationship with Apple. If Amazon’s competing offering presented enough of a threat, Apple could even stop selling iPods on the site.”

Apple releases iTunes update

Along with updates to its other Mac-only iLife applications, Apple today released iTunes 6.0.3. According to the release notes, the update “includes stability and performance improvements over iTunes 6.0.2.” A detailed list of changes was not provided. The update is available from Apple’s website for Windows and Mac users, and via the Mac OS X software update preference pane for Mac users.

Apple adds comedy genre to iTunes Music Store

Apple has updated to the iTunes Music Store with a new Comedy genre. While the company has been adding individual comedy items to the store for some time, there’s now a dedicated section that highlights comedy albums, TV content, and Audiobooks. Highlighted comedians currently include Dane Cook, Mitch Hedberg, Ron White, Chris Rock, Larry the Cable Guy, and more.

Apple confirms AIDS-related special event invite a fake

Contrary to an earlier report, Apple will not be holding a special event on March 1. An Apple representative has confirmed to iLounge that an electronic invitation—marked with indicia of a benefit for AIDS—is an elaborate fake. The sender was apparently taking advantage of recent speculation that Apple would introduce a red iPod as part of Bono’s Product RED initiative. iLounge apologizes for any confusion this may have caused.

Companies including American Express, Converse, Gap and Giorgio Armani have all joined the project and plan to release specially-designed red products with a portion of the profits going to the Global Fund to support AIDS programs in Africa. The U2 frontman was reportedly overheard mentioning that Apple would be joining the initiative by introducing a red iPod.

Mix: RealNetworks, Aussie warning, Tesco, Parentcasting

RealNetworks says it has doubled the number of paying customers for its music subscription service in the past year—1.4 million at the end of 2005, up from 700,000 a year before.

Following the death of an Australian woman, police in the country have warned that cyclists should never listen to an iPod while riding. “If you’re a cyclist and you want to stay alive, I wouldn’t wear an iPod under any circumstances,” Assistant Commissioner (Traffic) Noel Ashby said.

UK-based supermarket Tesco has launched its first dedicated section for selling iPods and Macs. The first store is located in Milton Keynes, about 50 miles northwest of London.

USA Today reports on parents creating podcasts for other parents. “Parents, it turns out, are eager to download programs created specifically for them that would have been unlikely to air on a traditional broadcast radio station.”

iBikeMount for iPod nano announced

imageThe iBikeMount is a new iPod nano accessory that allows you to quickly and securely mount the device to the handlebars of bicycles, exercise machines, and strollers. It attaches to a variety of handlebar sizes (22 mm–26 mm) and requires no tools to install. The iBikeMount is priced at $30 and will begin shipping on March 15, 2006.

“The new mount eliminates the inconvenience of digging the iPod out of a pocket, removing it from an armband, or bringing a dangling lanyard up to the face in order to make selection or setting change.  iBikeMount keeps the Nano safely in plain sight and within easy reach by securely attaching it to the handlebars.”

Pod2Go Windows beta released

Kainjow has announced the release of the first public beta of Pod2Go for Windows. Previously only available for Mac OS X, the software lets you put a variety of content on your iPod, including news feeds, weather forecasts, movie showtimes, driving directions, lyrics, stock quotes and more. The beta download is free and requires Windows 2000 or XP. You can register now for a discount on the final version.

EvolutionTV gets real-time video compression for iPod

Miglia Technology today announced the release of a free software update for its EvolutionTV digital video recorder for the Mac. The version 2.6 update adds real-time video compression for the fifth-generation iPod as well as the Sony PSP. “EvolutionTV is the only digital video recorder to offer real-time iPod encoding,” says Miglia. “Real-time encoding removes the need to go through a software export step, a very lengthy operation.”

Mix: Screech, Sony Bean, AKG K27i headphones, iPod love

Apple has added 90’s TV show “Saved By the Bell” and early segments from “Schoolhouse Rock.”

Another iPod casualty: Sony said that its Bean MP3 player, which was launched at the end of last August, will be discontinued in April.

Earphone Solutions is offering a free pair of AKG K27i headphones ($70 value) with the purchase of the UM2 earphones. Add both to your cart and enter the coupon code FREEK27ILOUNGEUM2.

USA Today’s Laura Vanderkam writes: “Modern youth culture’s love affair with the iPod may explain why this holiday will be lonelier for many people of my generation.”

Warner Music Group sees strong digital sales

Warner Music Group’s quarterly profit nearly doubled thanks to stronger sales of digital songs during the holiday season. The company said net income for its holiday quarter rose to $69 million, from $36 million.

Warner Music said digital revenue rose to $69 million, up 30 percent from the fourth quarter, and nearly triple that of a year earlier, due to an increase in online music sales at services such as Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Revenue from the company’s recorded music business fell 2 percent to $920 million during the same time.

“Our digital revenue was up dramatically year-on-year, especially after MP3 players went live on December 25th,” Chief Financial Officer Michael Fleischer said. “The naysayers of digital music on the Street have been proven wrong.”

Toy makers creating more iPod-friendly products

Following the success of iPod-friendly toys like the i-Dog and iZ, toy makers are releasing several new products aimed at iPod-toting pre-teens. The toys, being shown at this week’s American International Toy Fair trade expo, include electronic musical instruments, chairs with built-in speakers, and new interactive products.

imageBlue Box, known for its military toys and preschool products, is coming out with a line of Apple-like white electronic musical instruments that allow children to jam to music on their iPod. The toy collection includes a stage mike, mixer, drumsticks and guitar.

MGA Entertainment is releasing a new kid’s chair under its popular Bratz brand that doubles as an iPod speaker. The company is also introducing palm-sized Petz—a rabbit, pig, frog, and cat—that can be connected to an iPod and respond to the music by moving and lighting up.

imageCorgi has announced the iCar, a 1:24 scale model car that rocks to the music from your iPod. It’s available in two models—a Cadillac Escalade and a Nissan 240SX—and also features “colored lights that illuminate the wheel wells, rims, undercarriage, engine and trunk areas, and the high-quality speaker pumps out the sound.”

Spin Master has introduced two iPod-friendly toys—the iDrum and iMix. The toys are plastic cases for the iPod that also allow kids to enhance their tunes. The iDrum features a small drum pad on the back of the case, enabling a child to create beats and rhythms, while the iMix lets them create scratching DJ sounds over the music.

For those with younger children, Baby Einstein Co. has introduced a rocking chair that connects to an iPod, and Emerson Radio has an iPod-compatible SpongeBob SquarePants speaker system. And the list goes on. “The iPod is the No. 1 toy. My view is why fight them? Why not join them?” said Isaac Larian, chief executive of MGA.

GEAR4 debuts PocketParty V2 micro speaker system

imageGEAR4 has announced the PocketParty V2, an updated version of its micro speaker system for iPods. The PocketParty V2, which connects via the dock connector port instead of the headphone jack, puts out 1 watt of stereo sound from its two tiny speakers and plays for up to 10 hours using a single AA battery. It is available in black or white and sells for $39.

“The PocketParty is ideal to break the silence when lying in the park or on the back of a bus; sharing your music with friends has never been easier,” says the company. “The newest member of the PocketParty family offers improved sound appreciation on its predecessors after a painstaking amount of work went into getting the most from its two tiny speakers. The PocketParty is ultra-simple to use, you just plug it into your iPod, switch on and get rocking.

Mix: Swimsuit videos, Aussie death, Walkman phone, 7-Eleven

Apple’s iTunes Music Store this week will begin selling eight specially produced Sports Illustrated swimsuit videos for $1.99 each.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports: “An Australian woman was knocked off her bike and killed in a London street, possibly because she couldn’t hear traffic noise because of her iPod music device, friends say.”

Sony Ericsson has introduced the new W950i Walkman phone, which features 4GB of built-in flash storage, Symbian OS, Bluetooth and AAC and MP3 support.

IFO Apple Store has posted a photo of iPods being sold at a 7-Eleven in Japan. The display includes 5G iPods, iPod nanos, iPod shuffles, and iTunes Music Store gift cards.

RIAA warns consumers of selling pre-loaded iPods

The Recording Industry Association of America is warning consumers that it is illegal to sell a used iPod that is pre-loaded with digital content. “Selling an iPod pre-loaded with music is no different than selling a DVD onto which you have burned your entire music collection,” the RIAA said in a statement to MTV News. “Either act is a clear violation of U.S. copyright law. The RIAA is monitoring this means of infringement. In short: seller beware.”

Andrew Bridges, a lawyer who specializes in copyright and trademark law, says the law is not so clear. “It really depends on the individual circumstances,” he explained. “I’m not sure the law is settled. If I’m a college student and I want to supplement my income by buying 100 iPods and taking my CD collection and putting it on those iPods and selling them at a significant premium, that’s probably not going to fly. But if I’ve had my iPod Shuffle for two years and I’m tired of it and I go out and buy a 60 gig video iPod and want to sell my old Shuffle, but don’t want to purge the music first, that’s probably legal.”

“There is very clear provision in the statute that says that if you are in possession of a copy that has been lawfully made, you can distribute that copy without violating the copyright holder’s copyright,” said Bridges. “That seems to suggest that there shouldn’t be a case against a casual user disposing of copies they made for personal use when one is getting rid of one’s own iPod.”

RIAA President Cary Sherman disagrees. “Unlawful reproduction or distribution is infringement.” he said. “There is no fair use when someone is getting a complete copy of a work, especially a creative work and especially when it could have an adverse impact on the marketplace for selling or licensing that work. When you buy a CD, you have it for personal use on your computer or iPod, but you can’t give it away and keep it for yourself. That’s having your cake and eating it too. If everyone did that, [record labels] would only sell one CD.”

Sumo Tough Love Valentine contest ends tomorrow

The iLounge/Sumo Tough Love Valentine contest ends tomorrow night at 11:59 p.m. But there’s still time to win your sweetheart a unique trip that they won’t soon forget. Just tells us your tough love story—gaining or losing an important love—and you could win a trip for two to the US Sumo Open in Los Angeles. You’ll get airfare, tickets, two Sumo nano flip cases, and a one night stay at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. 100 runner-up winners will receive their own Sumo nano flip case.

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