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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.

Motorola to make Windows Media phones alongside iTunes

Motorola said today that it plans to use Microsoft’s Windows Media technology in a new lineup of music phones that it will sell alongside its iTunes-compatible phones. Motorola will launch one to three Windows Media phones in the second half of 2006, according to an executive speaking at the 3GSM trade show. The company will keep the iTunes phones as a separate line of products.

“Motorola said the new Windows Media phones have been requested by many operators which want to open their own music stores,” reports Reuters. “Microsoft is willing to sell technology that enables this to operators, while Apple has its iTunes music store to protect.” The Windows Media phones will be able to download music over the air from operators, and also directly from a computer.

Mix: iPod on the tracks, MobiBlu, Historic Philly, Mooky

Thomas Beller of The New York Times has an amusing story of how he dropped his iPod onto the subway tracks and retrieved it himself.

Gizmodo reports that the tiny cube-shaped MobiBlu DAH-1500i digital audio player is now available in a 2GB model for $160.

iPrep Press is now offering a $10 audio walking tour of old Philadelphia that includes a map and photos for iPod use.

Mooky is a new bi-monthly “digital video magazine” that’s now available from iTunes. It covers “recent news, gossip, title tattle, music videos, competitions and more.”

Solio solar charger now available in black

imageBetter Energy Systems has announced the availability of a black version of the Solio solar charger for iPods. The $100 device—which can also charge cell phones, PDAs and digital cameras—features an integrated Lithium Ion battery and folding fan blade design.

“Award-winning, compact and versatile—Solio stores power from the sun or socket; freeing you to recharge your iPod, cell phone and other handhelds anywhere, anytime,” says the company. “A fully charged Solio provides up to 14 hours of additional power—one hour of sunshine gives about one hour of play time.”

iLounge launches Mobile Edition

We’re proud to announce the launch of iLounge Mobile Edition, a fast-loading, condensed version of the main page created especially for users of portable devices. This page, available at, provides one-page access to our top 12 News stories, top 10 Reviews, top 6 Articles, top 3 current and past Contests, and top 5 Backstage entries. Each link is simplified for speedy reading without excessive scrolling, including reader comments, and additional Mobile content can be accessed through “More” links at the bottom of each section.

iLounge Mobile Edition will continue to evolve in the days to come. Your suggestions are, of course, welcomed.

Bill Gates: Microsoft, partners working to combat iPod

Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates said today that Microsoft and its hardware partners plan to continue working on new digital media devices to challenge the iPod’s dominance.

“Apple has done a fantastic job with the iPod,” Gates told high school students at the company’s annual Minority Student Day. “We are talking with partners about how we, working with those partners, can make even better music players. We’ve got some in the market today. I’d say in total they have about 20 percent market share, which is lower than we like, and so we’re seeing where we can come together to make a device that’s less expensive and connects in better ways, does photos and videos in better ways.

Consumer group sues Apple over ‘defective’ iPod nanos

A consumer watchdog group said today that it has filed a lawsuit against Apple, claiming the iPod nano does not hold up to normal usage and that the company is refusing to offer refunds for the “defective” device.

“Apple Computer’s iPod nano music player, marketed for its sleek beauty, cannot withstand normal use without becoming severely scratched, often to the point where its screen is unreadable,” the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) said in its announcement of the suit. “Moreover, Apple is refusing to give refunds to purchasers who bought the defective product, while forcing others to pay a $25 fee to get a replacement that is supposed to be ‘free’ under Apple’s warranty.”

“The suit, brought against Apple under the state’s consumer protection laws on behalf of California purchasers of the recently-introduced nano, demands that Apple recall and repair the defect, without charge, or refund the purchase price to dissatisfied customers,” FTCR said.

Merrill Lynch raises iPod estimates, expects 53 million in 2006

Following the introduction of the 1GB iPod nano, Merrill Lynch analyst Richard Farmer has slightly raised his iPod sales estimates. Lynch now believes that Apple will ship 10.1 million iPods this quarter, up from 9.8 million, and expects the company to ship 53.2 million of the devices in fiscal 2006.

“The new 1GB iPod nano makes Apple’s lower-end offerings more competitive with numerous Asian players,” the analyst said in a research note provided to iLounge. “Our retail channel checks during the holiday season suggested that non-Apple MP3 players in the sub $100 market did well.”

Tiger Electronics announces i-Cat, new i-Dogs

imageHasbro’s Tiger Electronics brand has announced new additions to its iPod-compatible Interactive Music Companion line, including the i-Cat, a black i-Dog and a pink i-Dog, and new i-Dog accessories.

“The i-Cat ($30; Fall 2006) is a fabulous feline that not only loves to listen to your favorite tunes but can also play funky ‘scratch’ sound effects along with the music and will groove along to any song it hears,” says the company. “Owners can plug their music systems directly into i-Cat and music will broadcast through a built-in speaker. Simply petting i-Cat will allow owners to mix things up and play meows, purrs and ‘scratch’ sound effects with the music! Owners can play these sound effects along with the music depending on how they touch or pet i-Cat, making this new interactive pet the cat’s meow!”

imageThe two new i-Dogs in black and pink ($30; Spring 2006) offer the same features as the current white model. Tiger also announced the i-Dog Chill Assortment ($10; Spring 2006), a set of winter garments for the i-Dog. Interestingly, the items—a hat, scarf, sweater, booties, and ear warmers—look identical to the material of Apple’s iPod Socks. The Chill Assortment also comes in the same six colors as the iPod protectors—pink, purple, green, blue, orange and gray. [via Engadget]

iPod used to steal $100 million in ‘Firewall’ movie

Bloomberg’s Rick Warner notes that the iPod plays an important role in “Firewall,” the new action movie starring Harrison Ford.

“iPods are handy devices, though I never knew how handy until I saw ‘Firewall,’ where Harrison Ford uses his daughter’s pocket-size music machine to steal $100 million,” writes Warner. “While that might make for an interesting Apple commercial, it’s not enough to justify this absurd action-thriller about a computer security expert at a Seattle bank who’s forced to pull off an electronic heist on behalf of a psychotic thief who’s holding his family hostage.”

“I don’t doubt that computerized banking is ripe for theft, but the way Ford does it—by downloading information onto an iPod, then hacking into the bank’s computers and transferring the money with a few clicks of the keyboard—seems as far-fetched as James Frey’s resume.”

AT&T warns Apple of video patent infringement

AT&T claims that Apple and others are infringing on its MPEG-4 video compression patents. Looking for global licensing agreements, AT&T has targeted Apple, CyberLink, DivX, InterVideo, and Sonic Solutions as companies whose products use the MPEG-4 technology. AT&T has also reportedly contacted national retailers that sell products from the companies, informing them that they may be held liable for infringement.

“With the recent explosion of products that use the MPEG-4 standard, including Apple’s video iPod and Creative’s Zen Vision:M, AT&T could stand to gather a financial windfall from its patented technology,” reports PC Magazine. “An increasing trend in mobile phone multimedia also signals potential future profits to be made through the global licensing program.”

Aural New York offers color iPod earbuds

imageAural New York has announced three new pairs of Apple-like earbuds in pink, black and blue. “White ones were indeed cool for a while, but let’s get real, even your great-great-grandma rocks ‘em nowadays,” says the company. The colorful earbuds, which are not painted Apple earbuds, come with both black and white foam earbud pads and sell for $15.

PortalPlayer-CSR deal paves way for wireless iPods

iPod chip maker PortalPlayer announced this week that it has partnered with CSR, a wireless solutions provider, to add WiFi and Bluetooth wireless capabilities to digital media players. The two companies expect to deliver a wireless chipset by the second half of this year.

“Through seamless integration between PortalPlayer’s PP5022 applications processor family and CSR’s UniFi Wi-Fi chip and BlueCore Bluetooth chip, consumer electronics and other media device manufacturers will gain a significant time-to-market advantage in delivering wire-free media players,” the companies said in the announcement. “Wi-Fi will simplify the synchronisation of media players with a PC as well as open up entirely new ways to download and stream content from the Internet. Bluetooth will enable wireless stereo headset connectivity.”

At the Thomas Weisel Partners Technology Conference yesterday, PortalPlayer CEO Gary Johnson said he expects to announce customers of the wireless chip product later this year. Later that day, the company’s CFO, Svend-Olav Carlsen, said iPod-related sales comprised 95% of PortalPlayer’s business, and predicted that the device would account for 92% to 93% of total revenue this year.

Touch-screen video iPod claimed in development

Two separate reports today claim that a “true” video iPod with a large touch-screen display is on the way. Both Needham & Co analyst Charles Wolf and Apple news site Think Secret believe that this new iPod will likely be introduced at a special event to celebrate Apple’s 30th anniversary in early April. Apple CEO Steve Jobs alluded to some sort of celebration during last month’s Macworld Expo keynote speech.

“Apple was careful to call the iPod capable of displaying video that it introduced in October just that—an iPod that played music but also featured a video viewing capability,” Wolf wrote in a research note obtained by iLounge. “According to our sources, the screen on the Video iPod will occupy the entire front of the current iPod with a touch-activated scroll wheel. Assuming the same form factor as the current iPod, this move will increase the size of the screen three-fold.”

A Think Secret report claims that the new iPod will feature a 3.5-inch diagonal display and shed its mechanical click wheel. “This video iPod, which has been in development and on the table since before Apple released the 5G iPod last year with video playback, will feature a display that will occupy the entire front face of the device,” the site reports. “Sources who have seen the device report that it features a digital click wheel, one that overlays the touch-sensitive display and appears when a finger touches it and disappears when the finger is removed.”

Wolf says the growing collection of video content on iTunes is a sign of a new iPod. “In our opinion, the rapid increase in the iTMS’s video offerings is a strong signal that an iPod with a much larger screen is on the way,” he said. Wolf also cites reports from Asia that fifth-generation iPod production has been reduced. “One hypothesis is that sales of this model have fallen below Apple’s previous expectations for the quarter,” the analyst wrote. “An equally plausible hypothesis is that Apple is draining inventories of the iPod from the distribution channel in advance of its introduction of the new model.”

Mix: Songbird, Podslurping, iPod protection, Arctic Museum

Songbird is a new desktop media player application that is being billed as an open source alternative to iTunes and the Windows Media Player.

The New York Times has an article on protecting and repairing your iPod with suggestions from iLounge Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Horwitz.

The Globe and Mail looks at the threat of “Podslurping,” in which iPods and other devices could be used to steal data from companies.

Maine’s Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum is now providing iPods to visitors as part of an audio tour through its newest exhibit, This Extraordinary Paradise: Living in Northwest Greenland.

Analysts see iPod speakers, iPhone in Apple’s future

Following a meeting with Apple executives at company headquarters in Cupertino, California, analysts from UBS Investment Research believe Apple could introduce several new products in the coming year, including iPod speakers and an Apple-branded cell phone.

“We also believe that Apple may choose to enter new consumer markets for iPod speakers and Apple branded cell-phones over the next year where the company would be able to leverage its market leading innovations and creative designs that have made the iPod such a tremendous hit with customers,” the firm said. “In addition, we anticipate that Apple will continue to announce new partnerships with content providers and build on the media it currently has available for download.”

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