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Microsoft taps Xbox exec to fight iPod

imageMicrosoft CEO Steve Ballmer has tapped Senior Vice President Robbie Bach to revamp the company’s digital music offerings in an effort to keep up with Apple. Bach, who is also the head of Microsoft’s Xbox unit, has been called a “rising star” in the tech industry for his work on the video game console.

“Bach is expected to be given the authority to push for a range of changes, such as setting up a team focused solely on digital music, reorganizing product groups, or acquiring companies,” The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. “One immediate mission for him will be to make Microsoft’s new Xbox a hub for handling digital music.”

Ballmer reportedly assigned Bach to the new music role after an executive retreat in which his team privately showed the new Xbox 360 and marketing plans. “Later, executives talked about how they might employ lessons learned from Mr. Bach’s group,” the paper notes. “The retreat included a brief analysis of rival Apple’s music strategy.”

Microsoft insiders say that Bach plans to work more closely with certain media player makers to aid them in building better devices. “It would be an extension of the PlaysForSure branding program Microsoft started last year that subjects partners’ music players and services to a battery of tests to assure they will work smoothly with music services,” the paper reports.

Mix: Apple’s Brand, South Korea, Fraudsters, Walkman

Apple is the fastest growing brand in the world, according to marketing consultants Vivaldi Partners and Forbes. Apple has increase its brand value by 38% in the last four years thanks to the popularity of the iPod.

Apple reportedly said South Korean citizens will not be eligible for compensation in its iPod battery settlement.

iPods have “become the tool of choice for some fraudsters who use them to download vast quantities of corporate information either to sell to rivals or to support their own start-up operations,” reports The Guardian.

An inventive iPod owner created a case for his device out of an old cassette Walkman. The procedure required a special “dock-pinout-to-headphone-jack hack” because of the tight fit.

Update on Apple vs. Thought Out dispute

Thought Out’s Mike Talmadge provided iLounge with an update regarding the ongoing trademark dispute with Apple over the use of his company’s iPed name.

“We understand Apple’s request in protecting their trademark of the ‘iPod’ name, but we feel we are being singled out,” Talmadge said. “We pointed out to Apple that many other companies use the iPod/Pod name and variations of it in their products such as i_od or Pod this or that. We have been told by Apple as excepted, (in so many words) that this is not of your concern, and that Apple is, has, will be addressing them too.”

“We have been making every effort to come to terms with Apple in regards to the iPed name with out any major legal battle,” Talmadge said. “Apple and Thought Out plan to meet in the near future to discuss further actions for our iPed name.”

iH5 alarm clock radio for iPod announced

imageThe iHome division of SDI Technologies has announced the iH5 clock radio, which lets you wake up to music from your iPod, an AM/FM radio or buzzer. With its built-in iPod cradle, the iH5 charges your iPod while docked, and sports a backlit LCD screen, and line-in to connect non-docking iPods and other audio players.

The iH5 also features “Gentle Wake and Gentle Sleep,” which “gradually increases and decreases Alarm/Sleep volume for a more relaxing beginning and end to each day,” and utilizes Reason8 speaker technology to create “sound quality that has outstanding depth, clarity and power.” The iH5 works with the 3G/4G iPod, iPod mini and iPod photo. iLounge was told the iH5 will be available in August for $99.99, and that a website for the product will go live later this week.

AudioOutfitters offers clearCase for iPod photos

imageAudioOutfitters has introduced the ezGear clearCase 60, a new version of its clear, hard case for larger iPods such as the iPod photo. The clearCase is made of ultra-clear acrylic, has openings on the top and bottom for access to all ports, and an opening for the Click Wheel. It covers the iPod’s screen completely to prevent scratches, and comes with a detachable clearClip and a lanyard. The clearCase 60 works with the iPod photo 30GB, 40Gb and 60GB models and the 40GB fourth-generation iPod. It sells for $19.98.

Weak iPod shuffle sales may affect flash prices

Because of “weaker than expected” iPod shuffle sales, NAND flash prices could drop up to 40% for other manufacturers if Apple’s allotted portion is made available, according to a DigiTimes report.

“Although the iPod Shuffle was a hit when it was first introduced on the market, sales of the MP3 player are not justifying the supply forecasts for NAND flash that Apple has secured from Samsung, the sources stated. If Apple cancels the orders, Samsung may release even more NAND flash into a market already being affected by the influx of a number of new NAND flash producers,” the tech site reports.

Forums: Sound distortion, Summertime, iTunes tidiness, perfect earphones

Some points of interest this week in the iLounge Discussion Forums: The iPod photo ‘sound distortion issue’ reported by some members - are you having the problem described?

With a school break looming for many readers, thoughts are turning to summer trips. Do you have anything exciting lined up? Don’t forget to take your iPod!

Are you a neat person? Does “a place for everything and everything in its place” hold true for you, even when you’re organizing your music library? Other readers exchange their stories of iTunes tidiness (iTidiness?), or lack of it, in this thread....

The quest for the perfect earphone and iPod combination goes on as a member posts his impression of Shure’s E3c ‘phones. Have you found your perfect match yet? The Ear/Headphones Forum might be a good place to start, alongside the official iLounge Reviews section.

Mythix intros iChant iPod speaker

imageMythix has introduced the iChant, a new mini-speaker for the iPod. The iChant, which plugs into the headphone port on the top of an iPod, lets you “finally free your ears and share your music” without the “hassle of always being connected to your iPod.” It’s made of iPod-matching white ABS plastic with a metal grille and features an on/off switch to extend battery life (up to 8 hours on one AA battery). The iChant is priced at $32.99.

Mac|Windows: iPurseona 1.0 released

Helmes Innovations has announced the release of iPurseona, new content that turns your iPod into a “digital purse accessory” using the iPod Notes feature. iPurseona includes: Beauty Recipes & Homemade Remedies; Body Care Tips & Tricks; Hair Care Tips & Tricks; Skin Care Tips & Tricks; Make-Up Tips & Tricks; Fragrance Tips & Tricks; Pick-Up Lines; and How-To’s. The $9 shareware works with both Macs and PCs.

Mix: Stanford, Hickman, eBooks, Nokia, iPodStyles

During his commencement speech at Stanford University Sunday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs told graduates that dropping out of college was one of the best decisions he ever made, and that when he was diagnosed with cancer, his doctor initially told him he only had three-to-six months to live. “Your time is limited so don’t let it be wasted living someone else’s life,” Jobs said.

In an article on Inside Bay Area, Speck Products general manager Tim Hickman talks about the birth of his company’s new iGuy iPod case.

Make magazine’s Phillip Torrone has posted a guide to creating eBooks for your iPod.

Nokia announced today that its new mobile web browser for its Series 60 Platform is based on the same open source components that Apple uses in its Safari browser. “Nokia intends to continue its collaboration with Apple and actively participate in the open source community to further develop and enhance these components, contributing Nokia’s expertise in mobility,” the company said.

iPodStyles has launched a design competition in which designers will have a chance to win iPod shuffles and earn recurring income, and customers will get to vote for the designs that they would like and want to purchase.

Tatuz announces new iTatus, promotion

imageTatuz International today announced its new Tuscany iTatu collection for the iPod shuffle. The new collection consists of five new solid colors “inspired by the beautiful natural colors of the Italian countryside. Earth tones consisting of Olive Green, Rust Red, Golden Yellow, Warm Orange and Brown are featured in the set.” The protective stickers are priced at $2.49 each or $9.99 for a five pack.

In addition, Tatuz also announced the “Proud to be an American” 4th of July promotion. Between June 12th and July 4th, the company is offering customers a free US Flag iTatu with every purchase placed via the company’s online store.

Wrigley’s launches iPod giveaway in UK, Ireland

Wrigley’s Extra has teamed up with Apple to launch a major iPod promotion in the UK and Republic of Ireland. The company will give away 10,000 iPods (5,000 20GB iPods and 5,000 iPod shuffles) and over 90,000 other prizes, including front row concert tickets, online album vouchers and £5 iTunes vouchers. The promotion will run across the entire Extra chewing gum and Extra mints product line, and winners have until December 31, 2005 to claim their prizes.

New at iLounge: the Lounge Poll

Starting today, iLounge has launched the Lounge Poll, a way for readers to register their votes on issues of the week or month. We’ll be updating the Poll regularly and posting results whenever one concludes. You can find the Lounge Poll in our left hand column, below Ask iLounge. Feel free to suggest possible poll topics here, or use the iLounge Discussion Forums sub-forum, iPod Polls.

iPod silhouette guy dances at Apple Store

imageIn a performance that was recorded for posterity, an Apple retail store in Novi, Michigan last week featured a surprise three-minute appearance by one of the iPod silhouette dancers - or at least, someone dressed like one of them.

Patrons weren’t the only ones surprised to see the man in all-black attire get down to Jet’s song Are You Gonna Be My Girl? next to the store’s Genius Bar; following the performance, the store’s manager kicked out the performer’s friends, who lingered with a video camera after the impromptu dance routine had ended.

For details on the life imitates art imitates life performance, check out Cult of Mac, and don’t forget to watch the movie. Key moment: the silhouette drops his iPod a third of the way through, but doesn’t stop dancing.

Mix: iTunes video, Microsoft, Podcasting, NYPD, Tic Tacs

German iPod site iPod-fun.de says it discovered some interesting lines of code in the “itunes.exe” file for Windows such as “purchased Videos” and “create DVD Video.”

As part of its forthcoming subscription music service, Microsoft is rumored to be “considering a more direct attack on Apple, seeking rights from copyright holders to give subscribers a new, Microsoft-formatted version of any song they’ve purchased from the iTunes store so those songs can be played on devices other than an iPod.”

Citing stats from FeedBurner, Marketwatch reports that podcasting is “growing at neck-breaking speed.” The company says it “now manages approximately 60,000 feeds, just over 6,000 of which are podcasts (up from 500 in November).”

Because of widespread iPod theft, the New York City Police Department is reportedly stationing officers at subway stops to handout pamphlets on transit safety. The pamphlet reads: “Watch Your iPod… Let’s Stop iPod Theft” and warns that you should keep your iPod out of sight and to switch to a different kind of earphones.

Yet another makeshift iPod shuffle case: The Tic Tac case. “But what I like best are the white Tic Tacs mixed in with the shuffle,” says Wired’s Leander Kahney. “Reminds me of a fish tank!”

DLO offers black, silver TransPod Directs

imageDigital Lifestyle Outfitters has added black and silver versions of its TransPod Direct car solution for the iPod and iPod mini. Previously available in white, the all-in-one device provides a high-quality line-out audio signal from the Dock Connector of your iPod (as opposed to using its headphone port). The TransPod Direct features a built-in charger, a cradle with an adjustable arm to position it for easy access, and comes with a cassette adapter and a mini auxiliary audio cable. It is compatible with all Dock Connector iPods (3G, 4G, photo and mini) and sells for $69.99.

Forums: iPod battery settlement, popularity, genre pickiness, data recovery

In the iLounge Discussion Forums this week, users have been comparing notes regarding Apple’s iPod battery settlement: $50 vouchers and extended service warranties for certain iPod owners with battery issues. Do you qualify?

With over 16 million iPods sold since 2001, the question, “how common are iPods where you live?” has been raised in the forums. Are you one of our lucky readers in a iPod hot-spot, or are you the Lone Podder in your community?

One reader reports an iPod mini that has exhibited a dislike for country music. Does your iPod refuse to play a particular genre?

If you’ve ever lost information on your iPod, there are a couple of simple ways you could possibly get that information back - depending on the severity or damage caused. The “how to recover lost data/files in your iPod” thread may help you recover from your disaster…

Miyavix debuts Kimono iPod shuffle case

imageKyoto, Japan-based Miyavix recently unveiled a new version of its Kimono case for Apple’s iPod shuffle. The new case, which comes in three different floral patterns, is made of authentic Japanese Kimono fabric. It offers an adjustable-length lanyard, decorative tassel, and a leather top snap closure.

While pricing and U.S. availability are unknown, the Miyavix Kimono cases for the 4G iPod and iPod mini (iLounge Rating: A-) were both distributed in America by Power Support. We’re awaiting U.S. distribution information from the company.

Apple, 7-Eleven launch Slurpee iTunes sweepstakes

imageApple and 7-Eleven have kicked off a new promotion to give away 8 million songs from the iTunes Music Store. According to the official rules, specially-marked 32 oz. Slurpee fountain cups at participating 7-Eleven locations will have a 12-digit alphanumeric code redeemable for one free song from the iTunes Music Store. It appears every cup is a winner.

Strangely, Apple said that the “Slurpee Summer Prize Fest” began on May 23, despite no word from the company or our readers in the more than two weeks since, hinting that these cups have yet to reach stores. The Slurpee sweepstakes, which should be noted is co-sponsored by Coca-Cola, ends on July 31, 2005. Apple said free song codes must be redeemed by August 31, 2005. The maximum number of valid codes per person that can be redeemed is 10 per day and 200 total during the promotion.

Mix: Seagate, NPR, Shuffle Bus, BusinessWeek

Seagate has announced the first 8GB, 1-inch hard drive, which could find its way into the next version of Apple’s iPod mini. “The 8GB Seagate ST1 Series can hold up to 200 hours—or 4,000 songs—of high-quality music files (128 kbps), a breakthrough for pocket-size music players and entertainment devices,” says the company. This 4,000-song number, however, uses Windows Media Audio (WMA) as its benchmarking format; iPod owners would expect 2,000 songs, instead.

National Public Radio has ended its relationship with Audible.com and is in talks with several companies about distributing its shows. “We have spoken to a number of companies, including Apple, about our next move in offering NPR programming in podcast form,” NPR told The Mac Observer.

An iPod shuffle Bus was recently spotted in Toronto, Canada. It appears to have been completely repainted in Apple’s lime green with black shuffle icons as a large scale mobile advertisement. [via iPoditude]

BusinessWeek’s Peter Burrows says Apple will need to beef up its iPod offerings if it hopes to keep momentum going while consumers wait for Intel-based Macs. “One possibility is a higher-capacity iPod shuffle, or one with a screen. And most analysts expect that the company will unveil an iPod capable of playing video in the coming months.”

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