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.”
Hasbro’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!”
The 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]
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 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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
Flash memory card company SanDisk has quietly become the No. 2 seller of digital music players in America. “We want to be a strong No. 2 in the MP3 space,” said Eric Bone, SanDisk’s director of consumer product marketing. “There are people who, no matter what, will buy an iPod. All I want is for people to think there is an alternative.”
SanDisk, which began selling MP3 players in November 2004, used its strong presence at retailers across the U.S. to sell one million players during the recent holiday quarter. The company also reported a record $2.3 billion in revenues for 2005. “We already have the channels. We have the brand,” SanDisk Chief Executive Eli Harari said. “We are not Apple. We are not an iPod. But we have a highly respected brand.”
Through key patent holdings and a partnership with Toshiba, SanDisk gets its own source of flash chips at wholesale prices, allowing the company to sells its players at lower prices than other companies. SanDisk’s strategy is to sell MP3 players to those “beyond the middle class,” Harari said. “Our passion is to bring the cost of these devices down. It’s basically about creating new markets in which people can afford a product.”
The company’s current line of players range in price from $79 to $149 with capacities from 256MB to 2GB. SanDisk will release its new Sansa line next week, which consists of 2GB, 4GB and 6GB players and prices from $120 to $300. The high end model, the Sansa e200, will feature an iPod nano-like design, 1.8” TFT color screen, video and image playback, and a replaceable lithium ion battery. The player also supports Rhapsody, Napster and Yahoo Music.
R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe has released a charity EP exclusively on the iTunes Music Store that will benefit Hurricane Katrina survivors. The EP features six versions of the song “In the Sun,” including duets with Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Justin Timberlake, and will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas. All proceeds will go directly to Mercy Corps, via the In The Sun Foundation, to aid those in the Gulf Coast affected by the tragedy.
“The news cycle has moved on and I don’t want the public to forget about those who were affected by Katrina or to believe that everything is fine now,” says Stipe. “Things are not fine. The storm is still impacting people’s lives in very real ways and many have been left desperate. I want to remind each of us that as humans, and certainly as Americans, it is our responsibility to help those in need.”
Kiwali has announced its NanoDeco adhesive covers for the iPod nano. Covering the front and back of the nano, each NanoDeco features “visually striking original designs that dramatically enhance the look and appeal of the iPod nano.” The initial collection features 10 designs, from the 60s-inspired Kung Fu-esque “Retro Fury” to the gothic “Magik & Lace.” The $15 covers are repositionable and provide protection from scratches and everyday use.
The Washington Post reports that digital music single sales grew by 150 percent last year, but may have resulted in fewer CD album sales in stores.
“As iPods and other MP3 players outsell CD players, sales of downloaded singles are booming accordingly,” the publication says. “Though sales of full-length albums were down 7.2 percent last year, the digital singles market grew by 150 percent, with 352.7 million individual songs sold online, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It was by far the highest figure for singles sales in any format since 1973, the first year for which Recording Industry Association of America shipment data are available for singles.”
“In late December 2005, weekly singles sales topped CD sales for the first time, as American consumers—many of them flush with holiday gift cards and loading new MP3 players—purchased 19.9 million digital tracks but just 16.8 million albums, according to Nielsen SoundScan.”
Digital Lifestyle Outfitters has announced the nanoShell, a transparent jewel case for the iPod nano. The nanoShell case is available in five colors—green, blue, purple, pink and clear—and provides full screen protection and click wheel access. The case also comes with two snap-on backs, smooth or with belt clip. The nanoShell is priced at $15.
Ben Silverman, an executive producer of NBC’s “The Office,” praised NBC for its willingness to “dive into its iTunes relationship quickly.” He credited the online downloads with boosting broadcast viewership.
The upcoming “Scary Movie 4” prominently features a giant iPod (“triPod”) as part of a plot parody for “War of the Worlds.”
Wired reports on “Podfading”: “Podcasting has drawn thousands on the premise that anyone can create an audio program, build an audience online and even vault to stardom. Less celebrated is the fact that untold numbers of shows just wink out just as suddenly as they started.”
VH1 has announced the addition of four new video podcasts—“Best Night Ever,” “Best Week Ever Daily,” “Best of VH1,” and “Flavor of Love.”
NextWorth today launched “The Great iPod Exchange,” a new service for consumers to sell their used iPods for cash. “While some wish to sell their used iPods themselves, The Great iPod Exchange streamlines the sales process, giving customers a better cash return than they might realize through alternative outlets (e.g. Apple Store, PodSwap, SmallDog Electronics),” says the company.
NextWorth describes the three steps to selling your iPod to them:
1) Complete form - Point your browser to http://ipod.nextworth.com, complete online form with details on the condition, model and components of the used iPod. NextWorth provides an instant “guaranteed value” quote for the unit. NextWorth ships the original owner a postage-paid return package.
2) Return - iPod Owner ships iPod and accompanying materials (disc, literature, peripherals) to NextWorth in pre-paid postage package.
3) Receive a check - After receiving and evaluating the customer’s iPod, NextWorth inspects and verifies the condition of the iPod. Within 2 weeks of their initial contact to NextWorth, the customer receives the check for the “guaranteed value”.
Showtime and Apple today announced that programming from the premium cable channel is now available on the iTunes Music Store. The first round of shows from Showtime includes the first seasons of “Sleeper Cell,” “Weeds” and “Fat Actress.”
iTunes now offers more than 50 TV shows available for $1.99 per episode. Apple also announced that more than 12 million videos have been purchased and downloaded since they were added to the iTunes Music Store in October 2005.
Apple today introduced a new 1GB iPod nano that offers the same features and form factor as the current 2GB and 4GB models for $149. The new lower-capacity nano, which was predicted by analysts, holds up to 240 songs or 15,000 photos. It is available immediately.
Apple also cut iPod shuffle prices by $30. The 512MB model now sells for $69 and the 1GB shuffle is now priced at $99.
“Now everyone can afford an iPod nano, with our new 1GB model starting at just $149,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide iPod Product Marketing. “The iPod is the world’s most popular digital music player with over 40 million sold, and now even more music lovers can experience the unrivaled combination of iPod and iTunes.”
[Note: iLounge’s comprehensive iPod nano review now includes new photos and details on the differences between the 1GB nano and its 2GB/4GB predecessors.]
Pacific Rim Technologies has announced the availability of its iCradle. The accessory allows any dockable iPod (3G, 4G, 5G, mini, nano) to connect to your home stereo. It comes with a wireless remote and can also be used to charge/sync your iPod. The dock has USB 2.0, audio jack and S-Video connections. The iCradle is available until February 14th for $35—it will sell for $45 afterwards.
Apple has quietly launched its countdown to a billion songs sold on the iTunes Music Store. “Music lovers like you in 21 countries around the globe have purchased nearly one billion songs from the iTunes Music Store. And as we count down to this massive milestone in digital music history, we’d like to thank you for joining us,” Apple says. “We’ve got one billion reasons to celebrate, and we’re starting with you.”
The company is giving away a 4GB iPod nano and a $100 iTunes gift card to the iTunes customer who purchases the winning song at each 100,000 interval. The grand prize winner who downloads 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.
Like it has with past milestones, Apple has posted a live song counter online to help users participate in the contest. The tally currently stands at nearly 960 million songs sold.