Continuing its series of limited edition Apple Store opening cases, Incase has announced its Sapporo Folios for iPod 5G ($40) and nano ($35), which are available for sale exclusively at Apple’s newly opened Sapporo, Japan location, on the northern island of Hokkaido. The black and red Sapporo Folios feature artwork of a bear eating a fish, which the company says is “reflective of Hokkaido and the indigenous Ainu people,” and follow in the tradition of Incase’s earlier St. George’s Cross (London), Maple Leaf (Toronto), Hachiko (Shibuya, Japan), and NYC Landmark (New York City) limited edition designs.
Foxconn, Apple’s iPod manufacturing partner, has admitted that it has broken some Chinese labor laws. After initially denying that its factories force long hours, low pay and poor working conditions, the company said today that its employees work about 80 extra hours each month. According to labor laws in the country, employees are not to work more than 36 extra hours each month. However, Foxconn spokesperson Li Zong said the company has paid the workers according to the minimum salary requirements of the local government. Li also said that Apple has sent a special team to investigate the claims, but has found no problem with Foxconn.
Sony president Ryoji Chubachi said today that Sony’s Walkman digital music players continue to struggle against the iPod despite the introduction of new models over the past year. “We miscalculated with the Walkman,” Chubachi said, without elaborating.
Expodition has released the free Wimbledon Pod SnapShot, a downloadable iPod guide with information about the championships and the players. “It lists all players and wildcards, and contains detailed player profiles and statistics as well as seeding information. In addition, the Pod SnapShot includes profiles of legendary players and details classic Wimbledon championships.”
Director Kevin Smith has recorded a commentary track for the upcoming Clerks II movie, which he says will be available as a free download from the iTunes Music Store. Smith said the commentary download will allow fans of the movie to take their iPods to the theater and hear the directors thoughts in sync with the scenes in the movie. Clerks II is the sequel to Smith’s 1994 movie Clerks, a low-budget, black and white cult comedy with characters such as Dante, Randal, and Jay and Silent Bob. It received an eight-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, and will hit theaters on July 21st.
In what appears to be a first for an iPod speaker manufacturer, JBL has announced the release of On Time - Aluminum, a Target store-exclusive third color of its popular iPod speaker dock and clock radio combination (iLounge rating: B+). According to JBL, On Time - Aluminum “is now on active display in all their 1,400 stores in the US. It’s our first color venture with an iPod speaker other than white and black, which so far has been very well accepted.” Target has previously negotiated aesthetic exclusives with companies such as Nintendo, which issued special editions of several Game Boy models using unique colors and packaging. Like its white and black predecessors, the Aluminum-colored On Time is made from plastic, not metal, and sells for the same price of $250.
DashJack, an in-car iPod integration startup, has filed a patent application for a car stereo head unit that accepts an iPod through an opening in the front, allowing users to play and control music stored on the device through the stereo.
Google is now streaming some of its commercial videos for free as part of an ad-supported test run. BizJournals.com reports: “Among the free videos are movies that include ‘Billy the Kid’ and Charlie Chaplin classics, classic cartoons that viewers were charged $1.99 for previously, episodes of ‘The Charlie Rose Show,’ and wrestling matches.”
Sima Products has announced Hitch, a new USB device that allows users to transfer files between portable devices without using a computer. Hitch can transfer music, video, photos and documents between USB devices such as portable audio players (including iPods), digital cameras, portable video players, and flash drives. Sima says the $150 device can transfer a music album in 80 seconds, a digital photo in 3 seconds, and a two-hour video in 12 minutes. Hitch features a backlit LCD display and scroll-wheel navigation, can charge any USB-chargeable device, and is compliant with Digital Rights Management (DRM) copy-protection.
Digital Lifestyle Outfitters has announced the FlipFolio case for the iPod nano. The leather case features a reversible design that allows owners to wear their nano with the headphone port either on top or on the bottom of the case—“right-side up or up-side down.” The FlipFolio features a play-through clear plastic front, sewn-in belt clip, and comes in black, white and pink with contrasting stitching. The case is available now for $25.
An updated version of Apple’s music encoding software for record labels suggests that the iTunes Music Store could soon offer tracks in the Apple Lossless format. According to an AppleInsider report, a note accompanying the iTunes Producer 1.4 update released this week said the application “now encodes music in Apple Lossless format, which produces larger audio files and will increase upload time.” The Apple Lossless format, which the company says offers CD-quality sound in “about half the storage space,” has been supported in iTunes since version 4.5. iTunes Producer is provided to record labels for encoding and submitting their music for inclusion on the iTunes Music Store. Songs sold on iTunes are currently only available in the Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format.
Speck Products has announced its new Canvas Sport line of iPod cases. Inspired by classic sneakers, the cases are made of canvas and rubber, and come in sizes to fit the fifth-generation iPod and iPod nano. The $35 cases feature a belt-clip and a sewn-in clear plastic screen protector, and come in black, white or pink styles. “Even a trusty pair of sneakers can be inspiration for great product design at Speck Products,” said Speck. “The Canvas Sport cases for our favorite new gadgets are instant classics and are in a league of their own.”
iSpazz is an iTunes plug-in for Mac OS X that contols the keyboard backlighting on MacBook Pros, allowing the keyboard to light up to the beats of the music playing.
The CL Sound Machine is a cabinet-style vinyl record player with iPod connectivity, CD player, and 12-bottle wine rack. The CL also has a gramophone-inspired speaker and an 8-inch subwoofer.
Tivoli Audio has introduced the new iYiYi home speaker system. Available in black or white, the iYiYi features a built-in universal docking station for use with all dockable iPods, as well as a digital AM/FM radio, built-in alarm and digital clock. The system also sports two 3” full-range drivers, a remote control, auto-brightness blue backlit LCD display, rubberized knobs, Radio Data System (RDS) support, an auxiliary input, and stereo headphone output. Tivoli said the iYiYi—which apparently gets its name from the Yiddish phrase contextually translated as “what will they think of next?”—will be available this Fall for $300.
French lawmakers agreed today to soften the draft copyright law that had threatened the future of the iPod and iTunes Music Store in France. “The compromise text, which is subject to a final vote in both houses before becoming law, still asserts that companies should share the data essential to such interoperability,” reports the Associated Press. “But in what could be a significant loophole, it allows compatibility restrictions on music and video downloads to be decided by the copyright holders—potentially allowing Apple and others to sidestep the information requirement by striking deals with record labels and artists.” In March, the French assembly backed proposals to force companies to share their copy-protection technologies with rivals who want to offer compatible players and services.
Heavy Metal Buckles has announced its first set of iPod belt buckle cases. The company is currently offering cases for the iPod nano and iPod mini—the nano case features a skull and crossbones pattern, while the mini case features a “tattoo” design. Both belt buckle cases are made from base metals, and feature clear screen protectors and openings for the click wheel, headphone jack and hold switch. They retail from $28-$35 and are available in stores such as Hot Topic, Anchor Blue, Tilly’s, Metropark, and Pac Sun.
TiVo has released an updated version of its TiVo Desktop software that allows users to convert recorded shows for playback on fifth-generation iPods and other portable devices. TiVo Desktop 2.3 Plus works with the TiVoToGo service to convert and transfer shows onto devices that support MPEG-4 or H.264 video, including the iPod, Sony PSP, Palm Treo, and Nokia phones. The TiVo Desktop upgrade, which costs $25 and requires Windows 2000/XP, also adds scheduling of transfers from your TiVo to your PC. TiVo originally announced plans for iPod support in November of last year. [via Gizmodo]
Update: Pictures and initial thoughts on the TiVo Desktop 2.3 Plus have been posted to Backstage at iLounge.
Strong sales of new iPods could cause a shortage of NAND flash memory in the second half of this year, according to a new report by Gartner. The market research firm expects Apple to introduce a new, high-end flash-based iPod with 10GB to 12GB of storage capacity and a price of about $250. Gartner said such an iPod, which it expects by the fourth quarter of this year, would contribute to the shortage. “The impact of an iPod with this storage capacity will have significant implications for the NAND flash market,” said Jon Erensen, an analyst at Gartner. “If a high-capacity NAND-based iPod is introduced, the severity of the allocation will intensify during the fourth quarter of this year, and our outlook of supply and demand for the first quarter of 2007 could become more severe than initially anticipated.”
Apple’s foray into full-length movie downloads is unlikely to happen any time soon, according to those familiar with the negotiations between Apple and the Hollywood studios. BusinessWeek reports: “Apple has hoped to get the store up and running within weeks, Hollywood sources say. But the deal isn’t yet done—and there’s a chance it won’t be any time soon. That’s because Apple and studios remain at loggerheads on a range of issues, from how much movie downloads should cost, to the degree of piracy protections they should carry.” BusinessWeek also quotes an unnamed source that says iTunes may not get movies until next year. “This will take months and months to figure it out,” said the source, who is reportedly involved in the talks. “It may even be a 2007 kind of thing.”
PodsPlus has announced the release of its Aluminum V2 case for fifth-generation iPods. Made from aircraft-grade anodized aluminum, the case features both screen and click wheel protection, a removable belt clip and neck strap. The Aluminum V2 case is available in black or silver with your choice of a black, blue, red, or white click wheel cover. The case sells for $30 and comes in sizes for both the 30GB and 60GB iPod models.
Coca-Cola said that it will be closing its British digital music service MyCokeMusic.com on July 31, after losing market share to Apple’s iTunes Music Store. As of November 2005, iTunes held a 54% share of the British online music market. MyCokeMusic was in 4th place with a 6% share, behind Napster and Wippit.com.
AP reports: “A teenager who was part of a gang that fatally stabbed a 15-year-old boy over an iPod was convicted Tuesday of murder. Brooklyn prosecutor Charles Hynes said a jury deliberated for three hours before convicting Darren Samuel, 17, of robbery and second-degree murder in the July attack. He faces as many as 25 years in prison.”
iSkin has provided iLounge with a sneak peek of its upcoming Claro case for fifth-generation iPods. The ultra-clear, polycarbonate hard case uses an anti-scratch ClaroCoat technology, and is doubled with iSkin’s Si (“silicone inside”) design, which is a soft inner layer, that fits inside the hard outer layer. iSkin said these inner layers, called Claro Slims, will be available in multi-color packs. The new iSkin Claro also features a belt clip with integrated kick-stand for handsfree viewing and listening. The case sells for $40.