Though the line ran more than a hundred people deep by the early, 9:00am opening of Apple’s flagship Orange County store in Costa Mesa, California, the crowd wasn’t there for today’s release of Apple’s Mac mini personal computer - two-thirds of those we spoke with said that they were waiting only for Apple’s new iPod shuffle. The cheapest iPod has been in exceedingly short supply since its January 11th launch, with reports that hundreds of units have sold out within hours from virtually every store that has stocked them.
Several minutes before the store opened, an Apple Store employee (the “sacrificial lamb”) delivered disappointing news to the gathered crowd: the store had only a small but unspecified number of shuffle units, and each customer would be limited to only one. The store would take the phone numbers of all remaining customers and give them priority on an impending shipment expected within the next day. No such limitation was placed on the purchase of Mac mini computers, which at $499 and up are expected to infuse significant new life into the Macintosh computer user base.
Customers began to line up at 5:00am to enter the Apple Store, but surprisingly, the first five people in line were not all there to purchase the Mac mini on its release date - several wanted shuffles only. Most of the crowd appeared an hour before the store opened, and after Apple announced the limitation on shuffle sales, many believed that they would not be able to walk away with units today, but remained in line regardless. Demand was split evenly between those wanting 512MB ($99) models and those wanting 1GB ($149) shuffles. However, one student and dedicated Mac fan near the front of the line described the Mac mini as “cute,” and expressed interest in the new machine.
No Apple discounts or promotional offers were available at the launch event. But the South Coast Plaza shopping mall offered free gift bags to the first 50 people in line, containing luggage tags and fabric arm bags branded with the mall’s logo.
The head of Sony’s video game unit said this week that his company missed out on potential sales from its line of digital audio players because it was overly protective of Sony’s music content. “Ken Kutaragi, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, said he and other Sony employees have been frustrated for years with management’s reluctance to introduce products like Apple’s iPod, mainly because the Tokyo company had music and movie units that were worried about content rights. Now, Sony’s divisions are finally beginning to work together and share a common agenda, Kutaragi said at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo.”
Praising the iPod shuffle’s “breakthrough price” and “excellent battery life,” USA Today tech columnist Edward C. Baig gives the device three and a half stars out of four.
The February 2005 issue of Wired magazine’s “Wired, Tired, Expired” lists the mythical iPhone as “Wired,” the iPod as “Tired,” and the iBook as “Expired.” Strangely, Wired’s January 2004 issue also listed the iPod as “Tired.”
eWeek’s David Coursey gives the iPod shuffle a C- grade, saying that Apple is “trying to make a virtue out of the fact that the device lacks a screen by making it sound like random playback is an advantage.”
LostiPods.com is giving away an iPod mini to the 500th member to register their iPod in the site’s iPod tracking service. The site will also give an iPod mini away for each 100th member after the 500th milestone.
PortalPlayer, whose chip powers hard drive-based iPods, reported record revenue on Thursday thanks to strong sales of Apple’s music player. PortalPlayer said it had revenue of $44.7 million for its fourth quarter, up from last year’s revenue of $8.1 million—a 75 percent increase. The company posted a profit of $10.5 million, or 50 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $759,000 in the fourth quarter of 2003.
Synaptics, maker of the touchpad technology used in the Click Wheel of Apple’s iPod, said Thursday that second quarter profit jumped 178 percent due to increased demand for the iPod during the holidays. The company reported income of $9.7 million, or 33 cents a share, up from $3.5 million, or 13 cents, a year earlier. Synaptics said revenue rose 65 percent to $56.5 million from $34.3 million.
HotRomz has announced the release of a new collection of original hand-made iPod socks. Available in a variety of colors and tactile textures, these new protectors fit all 3G and 4G iPods and are priced at $24.95. The socks are made from hand washable poly fiber and (certain styles) mohair. “You pride yourself on your unique style, now you can cradle your iPod in a high-quality hand-made sock found no where else. These aren’t your grandma’s socks! Your iPod slips right in to the Sock and is surrounded in softness. Downright artsy and yet thick enough to protect your iPod from scratches and turn more than a few heads.”
While Apple’s iPod shuffle is a relatively simple device with few opportunities for problems to occur, a few issues have popped up with the low-cost music player.
Some eMac and iMac G3 users have reported prolems in connecting the iPod shuffle to their computer. Because of the device’s width, the iPod shuffle cannot be connected to the USB port on the side of these systems. eMac and iMac G3 owners can connect the device to their Apple keyboard if they are running Mac OS X 10.3.6 or later, however, the iPod shuffle will not charge from the keyboard—only sync. Apple recommends that users purchase the iPod shuffle Dock or a USB extension cable if they want to be able to charge the device with the all-in-one Macs.
Apple said this issue could occur with “any computer, display, or USB hub with recessed or closely spaced USB ports,” including Apple’s 17-inch Studio Display 17 (ADC), certain Xserve configurations, and possibly a variety of PCs.
Apple has also detailed an issue in which the iPod shuffle may not play AAC music files that were not originally encoded with iTunes. “If you try to play a song on iPod shuffle that was encoded in AAC format (.M4A) by an application other than iTunes, iPod shuffle may not play it and skip to the next song,” Apple says. “To prevent this from happening, always use iTunes to encode songs to AAC for iPod shuffle play.” Songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store are not affected.
Meanwhile, MacFixIt reports that some readers have reported problems with loose buttons, overly sensitive buttons, and issues with synchronizing the iPod shuffle with multiple computers.
And according to iLoungers in our forum, the iPod shuffle’s lack of an internal clock—the first iPod to not have one—means that “last played” counts are not being updated when users sync the device back with iTunes.
UK-based Hebe Styling has announced the release of the iDrive, a new in-car stereo solution for the iPod and iPod mini. The cradle-based system acts as a direct link between an iPod and your car’s sound system and also charges your player at the same time. The iDrive uses an FM modulator that is fitted directly onto the back of your head unit “without compromising the quality of radio-signal reception,” according to Hebe. This direct connection means “no loss of sound quality and no stray transmissions that could be picked up by other aerials.” The iDrive cradles are trimmed with blue neon and come with inserts that allow you to use either the standard iPod (all generations) or iPod mini. The iDrive is priced at £95.
Creative Technology today reported that it sold two million digital music players in its second quarter of fiscal year 2005, ended December 31, 2004. The company said sales were up 50 percent to $375.1 million, and that it has sold over five million players to date. In comparison, Apple sold over 4.5 million iPods during the same holiday quarter, and has sold more than 10 million to date.
Following recent criticism of Apple’s iPod shuffle, Creative CEO Sim Wong Hoo said in a financial statement that his company will benefit from the new low-cost Apple player. “I believe we are extremely well positioned against the flash products and pricing that were recently announced by Apple, as we have superior features and broad product lines that span the entire category,” Wong Hoo said. “I also believe that Apple’s entry into the flash market will create more awareness in the flash market segment, and we are well positioned to become a big beneficiary of this expanding market.”
iPod Access 3.2 from Findley Designs is the latest version of the utility that enables you to copy songs from your iPod back to your Mac. Version 3.2 adds Playlist cloning for PC formatted iPods, fixes Playlist display issues, adds Hotkey and arrow support for Artist selection, and offers an improved backup procedure.
Following fairly widespread availability of 512MB models, several iLoungers report that Apple is now shipping 1GB iPod shuffle orders from its online store. However, we have yet to hear about 1GB models making their way into stores. With these shipping notices, there is a good chance you will soon be able to find the larger capacity iPod shuffle model at Apple Stores across the United States.
Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO) has responded to reports of a power charging-related problem in the company’s iBoom that can cause damage to both iPods and the accessory if battery power and AC power are used at the same time.
“We had an isolated production run of iBooms that may present problems with the AC power while the batteries are in place,” DLO president and CEO Jeff Grady told iLounge. “If a customer has any problems with their iBoom related to AC power usage while the batteries are in place that results in damage to the iBoom, we will replace the iBoom at no charge. The customer simply needs to contact our customer service department should they have any problems.”
Update: DLO has told iLounge the following: “The reported problem with the isolated production run of iBooms will in no way damage the iPod. We have investigated this issue thoroughly and have not had any reports that any iPods themselves have been damaged through use with the iBoom.”
Like the iPod mini a year ago, Merrill Lynch analyst Steven Milunovich believes demand for Apple’s iPod shuffle will outstrip supply. In a research note to clients today, Milunovich said the iPod shuffle could even outsell Apple’s other iPod models this quarter—he said the company is expected to sell 500,000 to 1 million hard drive-based iPods (4G, photo, mini), while the iPod shuffle’s manufacturer is reportedly making 1.2 to 1.5 million units. The analyst said he can see all of those being bought up and more.
Milunovich said new iPod customers and digital music newbies will make up the majority of iPod shuffle buyers. “Our experiences with the shuffle suggests likely strong demand from novices and new-to-iPod users,” wrote Milunovich. “Existing iPod owners may prefer the larger capacity and display of existing iPods, which makes for good market segmentation on Apple’s part. New-to-iPod users tell us the price points ($99 and $149) and ease of use are attractive.”
TIME magazine has picked the iPod shuffle as its Gadget of the Week. “It’s very easy to write extensively about music players these days without ever mentioning sound quality, but let me set some minds at ease: it sounds great.”
In his iPod shuffle review, Mike Wendland of the Detroit Free Press praises the new device. “Apple’s new iPod Shuffle is about to be the next must-have product... Way to go, Apple. You did it again. The Shuffle is one hot new product.”
The first 100 iPod shuffles that arrived at the Apple Store in the Glendale Galleria on Monday sold out within an hour and the Northridge store was wiped out in three hours, said employee Rob Lamog.
To promote its new H10 music player, iRiver’s Web site is currently rotating between a male and a female model taking a bite out of an Apple along with the slogan “Sweeter one.”
Kirk McElhearn, author of “iPod & iTunes Garage,” has posted a sample chapter from the book for download. The chapter covers the iTunes music library.
iSkin today announced its new iSkin Wheel Cap, a protector for the iPod’s Click Wheel that works in conjunction with the company’s form-fitting silicone-based iPod cases. The Wheel Caps offer “a full-coverage transparent barrier to extend the life of the Apple Click Wheel by keeping it free of dirt, scratches and other damage that may occur from everyday use.”
In addition, iSkin said it will offer an imprinted Wheel Cap service, which allows businesses and organizations to print their logos, photo-realistic images, web addresses or marketing message on the iSkin Wheel Cap cover in full color.
iSkin will offer a limited time promotion that includes a free Wheel Cap and free Audible.com download with the purchase of an iSkin eVo2. The company said the Wheel Caps will be available as a separately priced item and in multi-packs in February. Pricing was not announced.
Pacific Rim Technologies has launched a promotion on all third-generation (3G) iPod cases. The company said that due to great interest from the public at Macworld Expo last week, the cases are now reduced to $10 each until supplies last.
Made of impact-resistant, lightweight and durable aircraft aluminum, the iShield II features a swivel belt clip, clear hard plastic screen cover and access to all controls. It is available in a variety of colors—silver, blue, burgundy, bronze and green.
The iShield, available in blue or silver, is made of impact-resistant ABS plastic, and sports a removable swivel belt clip, neoprene interior lining, and a clear plastic screen cover. It also allows you to dock your iPod without removing it from the case.
Web iPod Bible Sync is an applescript program for Mac OS X to download your current Bible reading from BibleGateway.com. You enter calculation information which is then used to calculate your daily reading from the date, explains the developer. The software includes support for a built-in reading plan and concordance, as well as using a preferences file.
Global sales of flash memory-based digital audio players are expected to increase significantly this year, according to research cited by Creative Technology. Tommy Tsai, a product marketing manager at Creative, said research firm IDC is projecting that Creative and its rivals, including Samsung and Apple, will collectively sell 35 million portable flash players in 2005, compared with 25 million in 2004. Apple is the undisputed leader in sales of hard drive-based players, but is now looking to take a bite out of the flash market with its iPod shuffle. Samsung and Creative together hold 13 percent of the global flash player market.
Covertec has announced a new leather case for Apple’s iPod mini. The SX75 series case is made of high-quality double tone leather with beige overstitching. The case also features a magnetic loop closure and is ergonomically designed with access to controls and Dock Connector port. It is available in black, red, or tan for $34.95.
Portelligent said Tuesday it has confirmed that Apple’s iPod shuffle is built around SigmaTel’s D-Major STMP3550 [.pdf] MP3 audio processing chip. The D-Major series chips, including the STMP3550, are designed for low power consumption and extended battery life in portable digital audio players based on flash memory. The STMP3550 supports: digital signal processing (DSP) on audio at 75MHz; Hi-Speed USB; an LED/LCD; AA, AAA, and lithium-ion batteries; Playlists; and both NAND flash memory and other storage media such as SmartMedia, Secure Digital, and CompactFlash.
The iPod shuffle is Apple’s first portable player to employ flash memory for music storage. Other iPod models have used hard-disk drives and audio chips from Wolfson Micro in conjunction with Portal Player processors.
Speaking with iLounge today about Klipsch’s upcoming iFi dockable speaker system for the iPod ($399), a company spokesman explained that iFi offers “much more” than the company’s existing GMX 2.1-series speakers, which we’ve already tested and liked, and with 89 decibel output “is more powerful than any other dedicated iPod system [ever] made.”
As noted in our previous story on iFi, the system includes two of the company’s RSX-3 series Reference Satellite speakers and a large woofer for strong bass response. Klipsch also notes that the system’s remote control “works through walls”, and that “up to a total of 6 remotes can be programmed to work with a single system.” The system is silver in color and features a “light bar” iPod dock, which can be customized for use with different iPods.
Klipsch adds that the iFi’s components are “unique in all of the world of multimedia because they are not used in multimedia, they are used in the most advanced high-end gear,” and include a “titanium tweeter diaphragm, anodized aluminum woofer, genuine compression driver, real crossover networks, aluminum fascia and pedestal/mounting foot, [and] ported bass reflex design.” The system will be available in March.