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Apple intros leather iPod cases

imageIn addition to the iPod Hi-Fi and Intel-based Mac minis, Apple boss Steve Jobs also briefly announced new leather cases for the fifth-generation iPod and iPod nano. The “luxurious” leather case is “made with fine, hand-crafted Italian leather and features a soft and durable interior lining for a secure fit, making it the perfect carrying case for iPod or iPod nano.” The Apple Leather Case is available in 30GB and 60GB sizes for the iPod and one size for the iPod nano. Each is available immediately and sells for $99.

Special Apple event live coverage

imageThe iLounge team has arrived at Apple headquarters for today’s special event. We will deliver live coverage if at all possible. Closer to the beginning of Steve Jobs’ presentation we will switch the site over to a “lite version” to better handle heavy traffic loads. While many new products have been rumored to be announced, no reliable information has been leaked. The only hint Apple gave was on the invitation to the event, which read: “Come see some fun new products from Apple.

Mix: Short films, Fanning/Rosso, H.264, Qualcomm

Apple has added five Academy Award-nominated live-action short films, episodes of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” and a free “Top Chef” trailer to the iTunes Music Store.

Shawn Fanning and Wayne Rosso—the creator of Napster and former president of Grokster, respectively—have teamed up and plan to take on the iTunes Music Store this summer. has released a new research report that compares RealVideo and Windows Media with top Flash and H.264 codecs. It says “the quality of the best Flash and H.264 codecs still trailed RealVideo, often by a significant margin.”

Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs said on Monday that he believes it makes sense for Apple to create a wireless iPod. Jacobs noted that while he talks to Apple “every so often” he does not have any insight into the company’s plans.

TEN ships naviPlay Bluetooth Stereo Headset

imageTEN Technology announced today that it is now shipping its naviPlay Bluetooth Stereo Headset. The wireless stereo headphones come with the company’s naviPlay iPod Bluetooth Adapter for streaming music wirelessly. The naviPlay Headset also allows users to make and receive calls with most Bluetooth enabled mobile phones. It works with all dockable iPods and retails for $200.
“The old school high-end design of the naviPlay Headset’s headband wraps over the wearer’s head rather than behind the neck,” explains TEN. “The headphones fold flat for easy storage, yet has three-axis adjustment for maximum comfort. Using a special high flex material for the headband and impact-resistant polycarbonate for the rest of the assembly, the naviPlay Bluetooth Stereo Headset achieves high comfort and durability with a high-gloss finish. Lusciously thick padding on the ear and head pads distributes the featherweight 4 ounces of the headphones while isolating ambient noise for better audio experience.”

Contour Design intros new Showcase for video iPod

imageContour Design has introduced a new version of its Showcase for Apple’s fifth-generation iPod. Based on Contour’s original Showcase, the new hard case is slimmer, has a larger headphone port opening to accommodate oversized high-end headphones, and uses a new secure slide latch mechanism. The Showcase Video retains the shock-absorbing rubber, book-style opening, and detachable belt clip. The case comes in two sizes—for both the 30GB and 60GB video iPod—and retails for $33. The Showcase video 60 is available now and the Showcase video 30 will begin shipping late next month.

Settlement benefits for iPod battery lawsuit dated

Girard Gibbs, the law firm representing consumers in the iPod battery class-action lawsuit, has released a timeframe for the distribution of settlement benefits. The settlement was approved by a judge in August, appealed in November by two individuals, and finalized in late December. As a result of the appeal, the firm said, Apple and the Claims Administrator had to delay the process of fulfilling claims. Below is the new timeframe for the settlement benefits.

February 17, 2006 - The Claims Administrator will mail $25 checks to Class Members who purchased the AppleCare Protection Plan and obtained battery repair/replacement under the AppleCare Protection Plan.

Beginning of March 2006 - For Class members who own a First or Second Generation iPod and who selected the $25 cash payment, the Claims Administrator will begin mailing $25 checks to those who submitted valid claims.

Middle of March 2006 - For Class members who own a Third Generation iPod and who selected battery/iPod replacement, the Claims Administrator will begin mailing letters containing instructions for battery/iPod replacement to those who submitted valid claims.

Middle of March 2006 - For Class members who own a First, Second or Third Generation iPod and who selected a $50 store credit, the Claims Administrator will begin mailing letters with certificate codes for the $50 store credit to those who submitted valid claims.

Around March 17, 2006 - The Claims Administrator will begin sending deficiency letters to Class members who submitted an incomplete/incorrect claim.

End of March 2006 - The Claims Administrator will send denial letters to those individuals who do not fit the class definition or who submitted their claims past the claims deadline.

Mix: Origami device, iPod fake, Samsung Z5, Pogue on Amazon

Microsoft has set up a cryptic website for its “Origami Project,” which appears to be a new portable touch-screen device that could be introduced as early as this week. The site says the product will “change your life.”

A photo that appeared on several websites last week purporting to be the new video iPod has been proven to be a fake. The creator of the hoax has documented the process of creating the original image in a video that has been posted online.

The software inside Samsung’s new Z5 portable MP3 player “was forged at Iventor Inc. by a small team of programmers led by Paul Mercer, 38, a veteran Apple Macintosh software designer.”

The New York Times’ David Pogue comments on the reports of Amazon launching an online music store and a branded MP3 player: “First, Amazon will have to beat the iPod’s physical beauty—its chic quotient, its jewelry factor. Then it will have to match the iTunes Music Store, complete with videos, podcasts, gift certificates, and so on. Then it will have to overcome the ‘lock factor’—the fact that anyone who’s ever bought an iTunes song is unlikely to switch players, thanks to Apple’s proprietary copy-protection scheme. Finally, Amazon will have to start in 2001.”

Wozniak denies iPod spin-off comments

A report in the Globe and Mail last week quoted Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak as saying that the company should spin-off its iPod division because the device was taking focus away from its computer business. Wozniak, known simply as Woz to his friends and fans, says that some of his words were taken out of context while others were simply not true. “The whole idea that Apple should do computing and not iPods is ridiculous,” Wozniak told iLounge.

Peter Nowak’s article for the Canadian newspaper had Wozniak saying that “spinning off a separate division makes a whole lot of sense.

iPod demand down ‘only slightly’ from holiday quarter

Demand for Apple’s iPod is expected to only slightly dip from the record-breaking holiday quarter, according to Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Munster. Citing research from Apple resellers and unit shipment data from NPD, the analyst says that iPod demand may exceed his firm’s previous estimates. Munster says he expects Apple to ship 9.3 million iPods during the March quarter.

“Our checks with Apple specialist resellers last week indicated that they are not experiencing a significant slowdown in Mac sales,” Jaffray says in a note to clients, and “iPod availability is significantly better than it was during the December quarter, while iPod demand is only down ‘slightly,’ not ‘significantly’ from Dec-05 to Mar-06. Additionally, our preliminary analysis of iPod unit shipment data from NPD leads us to believe that Apple is on track to meet or slightly exceed our iPod unit assumptions.”

BusinessWeek: ‘iPod mania alive and well’ in Japan

BusinessWeek’s Ian Rowley writes that “iPod mania is alive and well in Japan—one of the most competitive consumer-electronics markets on the planet.” Apple’s ad campaigns, the launch of the Japanese iTunes Music Store, the opening of a brick-and-mortar store in Shibuya, and the iPod nano are all credited with the increased popularity in the country.

“Despite an array of well-entrenched Japanese rivals, such as Sony and Matsushita, the iPod had cornered 51.3% of the digital-music player market as of the end of 2005, up from about 32% in 2004, according to research firm BCN. Sony was a distant second with 16.2%, while Panasonic grabbed just 8.2% of the market,” Rowley reports. “For now, though, the iPod absolutely rules Japan’s digital-music player market—pretty amazing when you consider that Japan is home to some of the toughest competitors imaginable in the global consumer-electronics game.”

In addition to the BusinessWeek article, iLounge’s pictoral report from Tokyo, Japan is also available.

Mix: iTunes winner, Toxins bill, Steve Jobs, PC case

Alex Ostrovsky, the winner of the iTunes billion song contest, has commented on his winnings. He says he will keep the iMac and an iPod, and give family and friends the remaining iPods. As for the $10,000 iTunes gift card, “My sister has already called from New York to talk about divvying it up,” he said.

A newly introduced California bill would require manufacturers to stop using hazardous materials in making cell phones, iPods and other battery-operated devices.

Apple co-founder and chief executive officer Steve Jobs turns 51 today. Jobs was born on February 24, 1955.

Logisys Computer has introduced a new computer case that resembles an iPod. The ePod Soho case is white and has “several buttons resembling those found on the scroll wheel of an Apple iPod, as well as a blue LED light that gives the case a constant backlit glow.”

Winner of iTunes billion song contest announced

As reported earlier today, Apple’s iTunes Music Store sold its one billionth song a little after midnight Thursday. Apple has now revealed the name of the person who downloaded the track and what song he purchased.

The billionth song was “Speed of Sound” by Coldplay and was purchased by Alex Ostrovsky from West Bloomfield, Michigan. As the grand prize winner of Apple’s billion song countdown contest, he will receive a 20-inch iMac, 10 video iPods and a $10,000 iTunes gift card. In addition, Apple will establish a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music in his name.

“I hope that every customer, artist and music company executive takes a moment today to reflect on what we’ve achieved together during the past three years,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Over one billion songs have now been legally purchased and downloaded around the globe, representing a major force against music piracy and the future of music distribution as we move from CDs to the Internet.”

Analysts speculate on Apple event: Movie downloads, iTablet?

Following Apple’s teaser invitation to a special event next Tuesday, analysts are weighing in on what they think the company will introduce. Speculation ranges from new Intel-based Macs to a movie download service to a tablet-size iPod with HD video.

American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu expects an entry-level MacBook laptop and an updated Mac mini, but also says Apple could announce the availability of its first full-length movie downloads. “We believe there is a greater than 50 percent chance that Apple will announce its first, full-length feature films available for download on iTunes,” he says. Wu doesn’t believe the company will debut the so-called “true video iPod.”

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster thinks the event will be Intel-focused, but could also bring new iPods. However, he says it is less likely that Apple will release the rumored touch-screen iPod. “While it is difficult to predict exactly what Apple will announce next Tuesday, it is easier to predict what Apple will announce in the next 12 months,” which he says could include new iBooks and Power Macs, a larger-screen iPod, a new iPod shuffle, Airport Express for video, an Apple-branded cell phone.

Bear Stearns analyst Andrew Neff says a new video iPod is likely, though it could turn out to be “tablet-sized or HDTV-based.” “As speculation begins to build around what Apple could announce on February 28, we think—focusing on the adjectives ‘fun’ and ‘new’—the most likely products are either a tablet-size iPod or a larger HDTV-based iPod,” says Neff. “While more Intel-based products (new iBook or iMacs) or a phone are possible, neither strikes us as ‘fun’ or ‘new’.”

Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at the industry research firm Jupiter Research, reminds Apple watchers that no one really knows what to expect. “We’re talking about Apple, so it could be all of those things, none of those things, or something brand new,” says Gartenberg. Ross Rubin, an analyst at the market research firm NPD Group, said trying to speculate on what Apple might roll out at the event is a “fruitless guessing game.”

Mix: iTunes shows, Woz, NAND flash, Nano rip-off

Apple has added episodes of “Project Runway” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” to the iTunes Music Store.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says that iPods are distracting Apple from its focus on computing and should consider spinning off the business. “There’s a different group working on it anyway,

Thomas Pink tailors iPod nano tie

imageUK-based premium shirt maker Thomas Pink has introduced a new tie with a built-in iPod nano pocket. The limited edition Commuter tie is made of 100% silk and conceals the nano in a pocket on the reverse side. It also has a fabric loop to keep headphone cables out of sight. The Thomas Pink tie is priced at £49.

iTunes Music Store sells one billionth song

imageApple’s iTunes Music Store, which launched in April 2003, sold its one billionth song at approximately 12:40 a.m. ET on Thursday.

Apple launched its billion song countdown contest earlier this month. The grand prize winner who downloaded the billionth song will receive a 20-inch iMac, 10 60GB iPods, and a $10,000 iTunes gift card. In addition, Apple said it will create a full-ride scholarship in the winner’s name to a world-renowned music school.

Mix: Featured podcasts, NBC viewers, PortalPlayer, Burt Bacharach

PBS’ Mark Glaser looks into how Apple chooses the featured podcasts in its podcast directory on the iTunes Music Store.

NBC Entertainment Group CEO Jeff Zucker comments on releasing “Conviction” on iTunes early: “We believe we have a youthful and energetic cast that should appeal to a new audience increasingly comfortable with this downloadable format as a viewing option, and we want to reach out to these viewers.”

iPod chip maker PortalPlayer is looking to diversify its revenue stream by introducing a new LCD product for the outside of laptop computers.

PC World’s Harry McCracken got musician Burt Bacharach to autograph his iPod, and noted that Bacharach said it was the first he’d ever signed.

Podner iPod video app forced to change name

Splasm Software says it must come up with a new name for Podner, its Mac-only iPod video conversion application, following emails from Apple requesting a name change. Splasm is giving away free Podner registrations to those who submit one of the top five new names for the software.

“Twice in the last week, the kind folks at Apple Computer have asked us to change Podner’s name to something without the word ‘pod’ in it. We don’t see more than a passing family resemblance, but we can’t say we blame them,” the developer says. “Podner is an awfully popular iPod video conversion tool and if we were Apple we might circle the wagons round little bits and pieces of our trademark, too. When companies like Apple Corps can sue Apple Computer over a trademark dispute we think it might be time to saddle up and move along to a new name. C’mon now, who’s got the money to stand up and defend a cute cowboy hat?”

Griffin ships TuneFlex for iPod nano

imageGriffin Technology has announced that it is now shipping the TuneFlex (iLounge Rating: B+), its new car dock and charger for iPod nano. The TuneFlex features a flexible steel neck and rotating cradle, and plugs into your car’s 12-volt accessory outlet. It also has a 1/8

Apple to hold special event on Feb. 28

imageApple has sent out an invitation to select media, including iLounge, to a special event that will be held at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California on February 28th.

The invitation, which only features the iCal-like calendar image shown right, reads: “Come see some fun new products from Apple.” The special event begins at 9:00 a.m. at Apple Town Hall, Building 4.

iLounge has confirmed with Apple that this event will be taking place and is not a hoax like the email sent out last week purporting to be an Apple invitation to a special event on March 1st.

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