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Apple to meet with Scandinavian agencies over DRM concerns

Apple will meet with Scandinavian consumer rights groups as early as next month to discuss complaints that Apple’s iTunes copy-protection breaks consumer laws. In June, the consumer agencies of Sweden, Denmark and Norway claimed that Apple is violating contract and copyright laws by making iTunes Music Store downloads only compatible with the iPod. They said customers are forced to waive their free use rights of legally bought products in order to download music. Apple responded in writing, but now wants a face-to-face discussion. “They (Apple) have asked to meet the authorities and explain their position,” said Marianne Abyhammar, Sweden’s acting consumer ombudsman. “We will call such a meeting, to be held in Oslo, as soon as possible. The ambition is to arrange for a meeting at the beginning of September, but no date has been set yet.”

ezGear intros ezView case for 5G iPods

ezGear today announced the ezView leather case for fifth-generation iPods. The ezView features a protective cover that doubles as a built-in stand, an integrated screen protector, and non-skid rubber feet. The $40 case also offers slots for credit cards or business cards, a belt clip, and access to all controls and ports. The ezView is available in two models to fit the 30GB and 60GB iPods.

Mix: YouTube, Zune content, wiPod, iBall

YouTube plans to provide “every” music video for free on its popular video sharing site. The company is reportedly in talks with Warner Music and EMI. Analysts said the move is a “nail in the coffin” for paid music videos and potentially threatens iTunes.

Microsoft’s Zune media player will come with pre-loaded videos. EMI Group, the world’s third-largest music company, has reportedly signed a deal to provide content from its artists, including rock bands 30 Seconds To Mars and Hot Chip.

No Jobs keynote planned for Apple Expo Paris

Apple Expo Paris will not host a keynote presentation this year, according to show organizers Reed Expositions. “Apple CEO Steve Jobs has traditionally popped across the Atlantic to visit Europe once a year for the show,” reports Macworld UK. “Jobs was replaced by Apple VP Phil Schiller in 2004, as he was recovering from life-saving surgery at that time. Jobs also failed to deliver a keynote speech at last year’s Paris show, though he did visit the event to speak with journalists and introduce to the iPod nano.” Europe’s largest Mac-focused event, Apple Expo Paris will run September 12 through the 16.

Apple posts report on iPod plant investigation

Apple has posted an extensive report on its findings from the company’s investigation of working and living conditions at the Foxconn iPod factory in China. Apple said its audit—which was in response to much-publicized allegations of unacceptable worker treatment—covered labor standards, working and living environment, compensation, overtime and worker treatment. “We found the supplier to be in compliance in the majority of the areas audited,” Apple said. “However, we did find violations to our Code of Conduct, as well as other areas for improvement that we are working with the supplier to address.”

Lions Gate Entertainment confirms iTunes movie deal

Lions Gate Entertainment CEO Jon Feltheimer has confirmed that the movie studio has partnered with Apple and other companies to sell its films online. During the studio’s quarterly conference call earlier this month, Feltheimer said Lions Gate has “deals in place with Cinema Now, MovieLink, and iTunes, with upcoming announcements with at least two more major industry players.” Later in the call, Lions Gate President Steve Beeks said the iTunes Music Store will see full-length movie downloads sometime this year. “In terms of iTunes movie downloads, I think most likely some time before the end of the year,” Beeks said. “We know when they are planning on launching, but since they have not announced it publicly, I do not think it is our place to say anything more about that.”

iPod maintains 75.6% share of U.S. MP3 player market

According to the NPD Group’s latest report on United States digital music player sales, Apple’s iPod won a 75.6% market share for the second quarter of 2006 - more than 65% higher than its closest competitor, SanDisk, which had a 9.7% share for the quarter. Competitors Creative Labs, Samsung, and Sony all came in at less than half SanDisk’s share, with Creative at 4.3%, Samsung at 2.5% and Sony at 1.9%. NPD analyst Ross Rubin attributed the iPod’s success to advertising, and suggested that the iPod and other dedicated digital music players will continue to maintain competitive against music-ready mobile phones based on their superior capacities, interfaces, integration with music download services, and DRM support. [via Macworld UK]

Logitech AudioStation, Express speakers debut

Logitech today introduced two new iPod speaker systems as part of its new AudioStation lineup. Both systems feature built-in, charging iPod cradles and will work with any Dock Connector iPod.

imageThe flagship AudioStation ($300; Sept.) is a full-function stereo featuring an integrated digital AM/FM radio tuner and two-way satellites with 1” dome tweeters and 4” long-throw woofers, designed to compete on audio quality with Apple’s iPod Hi-Fi. This system also features touch-sensitive, backlit controls, an LCD display with clock, 3D Stereo technology, removable speaker grills, and a remote control. The LCD display is capable of displaying a simple bar-style visualizer during music playback.

imageThe AudioStation Express ($130; Oct.) is a smaller, all-in-one portable speaker system that can run off of AC power or batteries. Similar in looks to the iPod Hi-Fi, but significantly smaller, the white unit comes with a wireless remote control and carrying case, and features an auxiliary input for other audio devices, as well as a video output jack for iPods supporting photos and videos.

iSkin unveils limited edition eVo3 case

iSkin today introduced a special new version of its eVo3 case for fifth-generation iPods. The Limited Special Edition eVo3 ($40) features stylings to match the U2 iPod, sporting new finishes previously not offered by iSkin. The dual-colored case features a black body with a new “anti-dust, anti-lint finish” and a red iPod click wheel protector with SlickScroll coating. The Limited Special Edition eVo3 also comes with a tinted, scratch-resistant screen and face protector, and a special black RevoClip2 belt clip. iSkin is also offering a matching pair of Cerulean XLR earphones.

Radio Disney added to iTunes radio line-up

Radio Disney, the “number one radio destination for kids, tweens and families in the U.S.”, announced today that its programming is now available via streaming live broadcasts on the iTunes Radio Tuner. The station can be heard in the “Top 40/Pop” section. Radio Disney is a 24-hour, kid-driven radio network that is syndicated on over 50 stations in the U.S. and in the U.K, Japan and most of South America. Radio Disney is also available on XM and Sirius satellite radio, the Music Choice cable channel, and on Kids help pick the music that is played and interact via a toll-free line to the Radio Disney studio.

Tweeter launches iPod trade-in program

Tweeter today announced that it has launched an iPod trade-in program at all 153 Tweeter stores nationwide. Customers at the electronics retailer will receive instant store credit when they trade in their iPod. After a customer brings in an iPod, a Tweeter sales associate will use an “iPod calculator” powered by NextWorth to provide a trade-in value for the iPod. The customer will then receive credit towards a new iPod or other products available at Tweeter. The value of the customer’s iPod is “commensurate with its condition and its demand in the marketplace,” according to Tweeter.

Teen sued over missing iPod

A 14-year-old Illinois girl is being sued by the parents of another teen after an iPod nano went missing during class. The Naperville Sun newspaper reports: “On June 6, the last day of eighth-grade at Still Middle School, Shannon lent Stephanie her iPod Nano. Shannon’s mother, Melanie McCarthy of Aurora, said her daughter had saved money from Christmas and birthday gifts to purchase the $300 iPod in late May. McCarthy said her daughter left the classroom to use the bathroom and when she returned, the iPod was gone. Stephanie, who had also left the room, told her friend that she had placed the iPod on top of Shannon’s desk. McCarthy named Stephanie in a lawsuit filed in DuPage County on Aug. 4. The suit seeks $350 for the iPod and $125 in court costs.”

Report: New iPod to have wireless capabilities

Apple may soon introduce a new iPod with wireless capabilities, according to DigiTimes. In a brief report, the publication claims: “Apple is expected to launch soon a new iPod that supports wireless capabilities so as to compete with Microsoft’s planned year-end launch of its Zune-branded MP3 players, according to market sources. Apple’s headquarters has begun dispatching its staff to its major markets in Asia, to teach local sales how to demonstrate the new products, the sources noted.” It has been reported that the Zune player will feature Wi-Fi support for sharing music with other Zune users and for downloading music without a computer.

Razer debuts keyboard with iPod dock

Razer Pro Solutions has introduced a USB computer keyboard with an integrated iPod dock. The Pro|Type Multimedia Keyboard also features 32kb of onboard memory, specialized keys for programs such as iTunes, 10 programmable hot keys for storing macros and keystrokes, an ergonomic design, two USB Ports, and line-out ports for other devices. According to the gadget gurus at Gizmodo, Razer also plans to release a version of the keyboard designed to work with Microsoft’s upcoming Zune player. Pricing and availability was not announced.

Nordic regulators to discuss legal action against Apple

Consumer regulators from Norway, Denmark and Sweden will meet in Iceland this month to discuss possible legal action against Apple if the company doesn’t address their iPod and iTunes concerns. At the meeting, which will be held Aug. 24-25 in Reykjavik, the countries will discuss whether they will file a lawsuit against Apple, and whether they will address the company individually or jointly. In June, consumer agencies in the three countries claimed that Apple is violating contract and copyright laws by making iTunes Music Store downloads only compatible with the iPod. In a reply, Apple defended its restrictions and asserted that it was not willing to change its business model.

Apple posts free iTunes video section

Apple has created a new page on the iTunes Music Store that compiles all of the available free TV show downloads. The section currently offers 14 videos from a variety of networks. Highlighted shows include “Blade: The Series,” “Project Runway,” “30 Days,” “Psych,” “Prison Break,” “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?” and “Tabloid Wars.” [via TUAW]

Seagate promises 120GB iPod-ready hard drives

Hard drive manufacturer Seagate plans later this year to introduce a 120GB version of its 1.8-inch drive that could end up inside future iPods. William Watkins, Seagate’s CEO, told BusinessWeek that the company will have 60GB and 120GB 1.8-inch drives ready before the end of the year. “We have this new opportunity in 1.8-inch drives, which is starting to grow for handheld video,” Watkins said. “Apple’s iPod is one, but there are a lot of people putting out handheld video devices. We did not have a drive for that business that will come in capacities of 60 and 120 GB, and so we will have one in the December quarter and we think that will be a nice little driver for us. We feel a whole lot better about things than Wall Street does right now.”

Sonnet drops prices on replacement iPod batteries

Sonnet Technologies has reduced prices on its line of high-capacity replacement iPod batteries. The company is now offering batteries for first through fourth generation iPods and iPod minis for $20—a reduction of $10 to $20. Each battery “provides significantly longer playtime than the original battery it replaces,” and comes packaged with all of the necessary tools to open the iPod case and replace the battery, as well as a CD-ROM with installation instruction videos.

Mix: HBO, iScorch, Profit Pod, Hollywood

HBO has released its original documentary film “Too Hot Not To Handle” as a video podcast on the iTunes Music Store. The film offers a guide to the effects of global warming in the United States, and is available in four downloadable parts.

iScorch is a short downloadable video/photo of a flame that can be shown on your iPod at concerts. “The next concert you go to, you’ll be paying homage to the band not with a lighter but with iScorch and iPod. Download iScorch for iPod Video, Nano or Photo and hold your iPods high! Be the first to usher in a new era of musical appreciation.”

Apple: Steve Jobs is healthy, despite rumors

Following his keynote presentation at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) last week, a number of publications and attendees expressed concern that Apple CEO Steve Jobs looked unwell. Most pointed out that Jobs, who underwent pancreatic cancer surgery two years ago, looked “very thin, almost gaunt” and noted that it was very odd that Jobs handed off the majority of the presentation and product announcements to other, less charismatic Apple executives, as if he was tired and needed rest. According to an Apple spokesperson, however, Jobs is definitely healthy. “Steve’s health is robust and we have no idea where these rumors are coming from,” Katie Cotton, Apple’s VP of worldwide corporate communications, told InformationWeek.

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