According to an FCC filing published this week, Microsoft’s Zune digital media player will be manufactured by Toshiba. The filing revealed that the tested player included a 30GB 1.8-inch Toshiba hard drive, 3.0-inch low temperature polysilicone TFT LCD display, FM tuner with RDBS, headphone jack and USB 2.0 connectivity. The Zune tested by the FCC also featured a rechargeable Li-Ion battery, mechanical switches for all control surfaces and a Wireless LAN module. The FCC filing included several photos of the Zune and its components. See iLounge’s previous reports (1, 2, 3, 4) for further Zune details.
Creative Technology has confirmed to iLounge that it has no plans to stop selling its line of Zen media players, despite this week’s news that the company has joined the “Made for iPod” program as part of a settlement with Apple. A Creative spokesperson also said the iPod accessories that the company will soon develop will not be iPod-only and will work with its Zen devices as well as other brands of digital music players. While no specifics were given, it can be assumed that the iPod add-ons will use auxiliary inputs for universal compatibility instead of, or in addition to, an iPod Dock Connector. Creative currently sells a wide range of Zen players alongside its cheaper MuVo line and a number of accessories—from speaker systems to silicone cases. According to the latest numbers from the NPD Group, Creative holds 4.3% of the U.S. digital music player market, behind Apple with 75.6% and SanDisk with 9.7%.
American Idol winner Taylor Hicks is suing a Nashville music producer to stop the online sales of three songs the singer recorded years ago before his fame. The suit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $75,000, was filed after music producer William Smith released the songs through the iTunes Music Store despite having no apparent ownership rights. MTV News reports: “Hicks’ lawyers were first made aware of the situation by Smith himself, the suit claims. Smith contacted the attorneys, stating his intention to release the tracks. They responded by seeking a preliminary injunction barring Smith from selling the songs. The lawsuit maintains that Smith made no attempt to pull them from the iTunes store. Last week, both sides entered into a settlement—the terms of which are not outlined in the suit. Soon after, Smith once again e-mailed Hicks’ counsel, stating that he would be releasing ‘The Fall’ for digital download, and would make the other two tracks available as well.”
The lack of major iPod announcements this year has Apple watchers speculating on new product introductions—from updated iPod nanos to an iPhone—which they see happening in the coming weeks. BusinessWeek notes that the only new iPod released this year has been a slight revision of the special edition U2 iPod, and that Apple is known for its Fall special events for new products. “It isn’t as if Apple has been idle. The company focused throughout most of 2006 on its Macintosh computer line, completing the transition to using microprocessors from Intel,” the publication reports. “And then there’s history. Last year, the iPod nano debuted on Sept. 7 and the video-capable iPod bowed on Oct. 12, a schedule that made both products strong players in the fourth calendar quarter… Analysts generally agree: There’s no way Apple is going to sit out the fall quarter.”
AOL today announced that it has signed partnerships with several Hollywood studios to offer full-length movie downloads for $9.99 to $19.99. AOL made deals with 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group. Once downloaded, the movies can be viewed offline on Windows-based PCs and “compatible portable devices.” AOL did not specify a file format, but it is all but certain that the company will use Microsoft’s Windows Media format. AOL becomes the fourth major digital movie store, after Movielink, CinemaNow and Guba. Apple has been long-rumored to launch a large online movie store this year.
Apple’s $100 million settlement with Creative Technology is only a “drop in the bucket” for Apple and removes potential future headaches for the company, according to one Wall Street analyst. “If Creative had been able to win any favorable rulings in the five outstanding lawsuits, Apple could have faced headaches including: further appeals, product injunctions, future and historical royalty payments,” said Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. “Considering $100m represents 1.1% of Apple’s $9.2 billion in cash (at the end of the June quarter), we believe the settlement will prove to be the right course of action.”
Incase has unveiled a new case designed specifically for Apple’s latest special edition U2 iPod. The Nappa leather case, called the Folio for iPod U2 Special Edition, features a clear window for viewing the laser-engraved signatures, matching embossed graphics, a red Tactile-Control Click Wheel cover, and wrap-around protection. The $50 case also offers a suede lining, snap closure, clear screen protector, and an interior slot for ID or credit card. The Incase Folio for iPod U2 Special Edition is available now from Apple’s online and retail stores.
Apple and Creative Technology today announced a broad settlement to end all legal disputes between the two companies. Apple said it will pay Creative $100 million for a license to use Creative’s recently awarded patent in all Apple products. The companies also announced that Creative has joined Apple’s “Made for iPod” program and will be announcing their own iPod accessories later this year. Creative sued Apple in May, claiming that the iPod’s interface is infringing on its “Zen Patent.” Following the company’s legal actions, Apple countersued Creative.
“Creative is very fortunate to have been granted this early patent,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “This settlement resolves all of our differences with Creative, including the five lawsuits currently pending between the companies, and removes the uncertainty and distraction of prolonged litigation.”
“We’re very pleased to have reached an amicable settlement with Apple and to have opened up significant new opportunities for Creative,” said Sim Wong Hoo, chairman and CEO of Creative. “Apple has built a huge ecosystem for its iPod and with our upcoming participation in the Made for iPod program we are very excited about this new market opportunity for our speaker systems, our just-introduced line of earphones and headphones, and our future family of X-Fi audio enhancement products.”
Google’s official company store is now selling inexpensive vinyl wraps for fourth- and fifth-generation iPods and the iPod nano. Made by inPODnito, the repositionable wraps are adhesive-backed, feature a repeating Google logo pattern, and sell for $1.75 each.
Wired’s Scott Carney reports on India’s consumer electronics gray market. “After a good deal of haggling, I can pick up a 30-GB video iPod for $280, which is only $20 cheaper than you can get one at Best Buy in the United States, but a whopping $160 cheaper than the $440 that authorized dealers sell iPods for in India.”
GigaOm’s Robert Young says Apple should buy YouTube. “By buying YouTube, Steve Jobs could leapfrog to the top of the heap. After all, he would end up with immediate presence within the ranks of the top 50 web properties. YouTube would also, for the first time, give Apple a platform to tap into the highly-coveted stream of online ad revenues… And by owning a leading platform for user-created content, distribution, and social networking, Jobs could fill in nearly all of Apple’s strategic holes (vs. web competitors) in one fell swoop.”
Apple’s report of labor conditions at the Foxconn iPod plant in China has been criticized by a leading international trade union organization for not being independently verified. Janek Kuczkiewicz, director of human and trade union rights at the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), said he was not impressed by Apple’s audit. “We are not impressed either by the report or by the findings of Apple,” Kuczkiewicz told BBc News. “Apple interviewed just 100 people out of the estimated 30,000 iPod workers. We do not know the conditions in which the interviews were held. We have serious reservations about the report.”
Synaptics, which supplies scroll-touch technology for full-size iPods, has announced a mobile phone concept device featuring an innovative new touch-screen technology that could possibly be used on future iPods.
“ClearPad is a thin, high resolution capacitive touch screen that can be placed over any viewable surface for finger input. ClearPad enables a dynamic and adaptive user interface that eliminates the need for mechanical buttons on handheld devices,” Synaptics explains. “This allows mobile designers to increase LCD size to support the content and functionality available for todays handheld devices. Because ClearPad is solid state, it can be curved and mounted beneath plastics, offering mobile designers an opportunity to create sleek and stylized industrial designs.” Synaptics said ClearPad will offer “unique capabilities such as two finger input, proximity sensing, text entry and high resolution finger input that can dramatically improve and enhance the user experience with a touch screen.”
Synaptics said the ClearPad technology is under development and that it is expected to be available in bulk to OEMs by the end of the year.
The InCharge Traveler kit ($80) includes four plug adapters and a wall unit that automatically switches between 120V and 240V outlets, as well as a 12V car adapter and an empower adapter for use on airliners. The kit comes in a travel pouch and is compatible with all dock connector iPod models (4G and later).
The MicroPack ($100; Sept.) features a built-in Lithium–Polymer battery that provides iPods with up to 80 hours of audio playback or up to 8 hours of video playback. The dock also offers A/V line out, dual headphone jacks and volume controls, and can be used to sync an iPod with your computer using USB or Firewire.
Several iLoungers note that Dell’s last remaining digital music player, the DJ Ditty, has quietly disappeared from the company’s online store. The DJ Ditty, a flash memory-based player that competed with the iPod shuffle, was the last player offered by Dell after the company discontinued its hard drive-based line of DJ players in February. Dell’s DJ Life website currently links to error pages for ordering, and the company’s online store now only sells media players from Sandisk, Samsung, Creative, Archos, and iRiver. Members of Dell’s message boards also note that the Ditty is no longer to be found in the company’s monthly catalog and that the player was briefly available at a discounted price earlier this month.
Apple today added paid programming from ABC News to the iTunes Music Store. The new offerings include ABC News Specials, ABC News: Celebrity Flashback, and ABC News: The Day It Happened. The ABC News Specials include shows on the LAPD, UFO’s, the legend of Pope Joan and more. The Celebrity Flashback programming includes vintage interviews with the likes of Steven Spielberg, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Grace Kelly. ABC’s The Day It Happened features original video of historic events—“live reports and broadcasts, just as if you were tuned in on the very day.” Events include the fall of the Berlin Wall, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and six others.
iHome has released further details on its iH52 bookshelf iPod speaker system. First shown in March, the iH52 features two stereo drivers in specially designed Reson8 speaker chambers along with with a separate subwoofer. The $200 system also includes a universal charging iPod dock, a 3-line display, RF remote control, and auxiliary input for other audio sources. The iH52 provides 32 watts of total output and also sports composite and S-video out jacks, Firewire and USB connectivity, and 6 AM/FM radio presets. The iHome iH52 is available in black or silver.
MGM announced today that it has made current episodes of the hit science fiction/adventure series Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis available from the iTunes Music Store. Starting today, the first five episodes of Stargate SG-1 season 10 and the first five episodes of Stargate Atlantis season 3 will be available, and new episodes for both series will be available within 24 hours after airing on the SCI FI Channel.
iPREPpress has announced the availability of 34 eBooks for download onto the iPod. “The books include sports and entertainment superstar biographies, graphic biographies and other nonfiction titles. The iPod eBooks feature the same content as Gareth Stevens’ print editions but with interactive and easy to navigate text and images. The superstar biographies contain hyperlinked text to text and text to images and the graphic eBooks display rich images in a slideshow style.”
Analysts say that the few remaining high-profile digital music holdouts—including the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Garth Brooks, Radiohead and Kid Rock—can’t avoid iTunes forever. With CD sales continuing to drop, it’s only a matter of time until the holdouts get on board, said Phil Leigh, an analyst with Inside Digital Media. “Any artist that doesn’t is going to be left at the station,” he said. “It’s not a secret that growth in the CD market is as dead as General Custer.” Artists argue online sales give them too small a profit, and that iTunes hurts the artistic integrity of an album by allowing customers to buy songs individually for 99 cents. “We’ve always thought certain artists put out albums that aren’t meant to be compilations with 50 other artists,” said Ed “Punch” Andrews, manager for both Seger and Kid Rock. “We’re hoping at some point albums become important again like they were in the past 30 years.”
Sumajin has announced a new set of sound isolating earphones. The SEP-001 in-ear earphones offer a lightweight design and feature 3 different sized sleeves for a custom fit. The earphones also come with a 2-pin audio adapter for airplane travel, a Sumajin Smartwrap cable manager, and a small pouch for storage. The Sumajin SEP-001 earphones are available in white or black and sell for $40.
SanDisk has introduced an 8GB version of its flagship media player and reduced prices on its entire Sansa line up in a bid to lure customers away from the iPod. SanDisk, which is a distant second to Apple in the digital music player market, today announced its $250 Sansa e280 player, which offers 8GB of flash storage (expandable to 10GB with microSD slot), audio, photo and video capabilities, FM tuner and recorder, a user-replaceable battery, and a 1.8” TFT display. SanDisk also cut prices on its existing line of Sansa e200 players. The e250 (2GB) now sells for $140, the e260 (4GB) is now priced at $180, and the e270 (6GB) now sells for $220. According to the NPD Group, SanDisk accounted for 9.7% of U.S. MP3 player sales in the second quarter, up from 3.1% last year.