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Mix: iTunes videos, Inventec, iPhone, Podcasts

Apple may be up-sampling some QVGA videos on the iTunes Store to the new, larger 640x480 resolution instead of re-encoding from the original source. “You might be paying through the nose for a file that doubles the pixels and megabytes, but severely lessens the general quality of the picture,” reports Engadget.

Apple will reportedly use Inventec for the majority of its fifth-generation iPod orders rather than using both Inventec and Quanta Computer equally. In the fourth quarter, Inventec is scheduled to ship one million 5G iPods a month while Quanta is expected to ship 300,000-400,000 units a month.

Podcast Ready releases myPodder with iPod support

Podcast Ready, the company recently hit with a trademark notice from Apple, has released a new version of its podcast management software that adds support for iPods. myPodder 1.6 beta, available as a free download for Windows and Mac OS X, provides “complete podcast portability, unlike other podcast-enabling technologies that are available only on dedicated desktop computers,” according to the developer. “Users can plug a compatible device into any Internet-connected computer and instantly access myPodder to update, subscribe to and manage their favorite audio and video podcasts. Podcast Ready also provides a simple-to-use podcast directory and one-click podcast subscription.”

PodsPlus offers TopSkin case for 2G iPod nano

PodsPlus has announced a new version of its TopSkin silicone case for the second-generation iPod nano. Available in five colors to match the colors of the nano, the TopSkin ($12) features a play-through Click Wheel covering, a hard plastic screen protector, and a lanyard neck strap.

Report: Apple, Wal-Mart in talks over movie alliance

Apple is currently in discussions with Wal-Mart over an alliance that would allow the retail giant to profit from iTunes Store video downloads, according to a report by Variety. “A deal could take the form of a digital download ‘coupon’ that would allow consumers to buy movies, TV shows or music on iTunes with Apple paying the retail giant a percentage of the proceeds,” the industry magazine reports. “What’s in it for Apple? Since studios (except for Disney, of course) have so far turned a cold shoulder to iTunes because of Wal-Mart’s demands, the computer giant would then gain access to titles from every major.” Wal-Mart, which accounts for 40% of all U.S. DVD sales, reportedly warned Hollywood studios earlier this year that there would be consequences if they signed deals with Apple.

iSkin Claro case now available for 60GB/80GB iPods

iSkin today announced the release of a new version of its iSkin Claro case for 60GB/80GB fifth-generation iPods. The dual-layer case consists of a clear polycarbonate hard case and a silicone case acting as a soft inner layer. The Claro ($40) features anti-scratch ClaroCoat technology and a belt clip that doubles as a stand. The Claro’s silicone layers, called Claro slims, are also available in two multi-color packs ($20) with three different colors in each.

Apple, mobile firms agree on Britain music royalties

Apple and mobile operators have agreed on digital music royalty rates for song writers and music publishers in Britain to partly resolve a dispute. “Under terms of the deal, Apple and four mobile operators will pay 8 percent of gross revenue, excluding VAT, for all music sold digitally excluding ringtones,” reports Reuters. “A lower 6.5 percent rate was agreed for non-on-demand services such as streaming. The deal was announced in a joint statement by the trade group representing record labels, BPI, and MCPS-PRS Alliance, which fixes and collects royalties on behalf of the composers, song writers and music publishers.”

GizMac offers Titan Gear attachments for 2G iPod nano

GizMac has announced its Titan Gear attachments for second-generation iPod nanos. The Titan Gear package ($25) includes a carabiner clip, armband, belt clip and lanyard for the new nano. “Apple developed colorful and strong aluminum bodies for the second generation nano,” says the company. “So GizMac engineered a way to use our special attachments to securely and fashionably carry the new nano several different ways while showing it off at the same time.”

Marware Sportsuit Convertible for 2G iPod nano debuts

Marware has announced a new version of is Sportsuit Convertible armband case for the second-generation iPod nano. The new Sportsuit Convertible features Orca Skin neoprene outer construction, removable slip-on protective lid, clear plastic screen and Click Wheel protector, access to all controls and ports, Velcro closure, and low-profile belt clip. The Sportsuit Convertible for the second-generation iPod nano is priced at $30.

iTunes update hints at phone with video, photo support

The internal code of the iTunes 7.0.1 update released yesterday reportedly contains numerous mentions of a mobile phone that supports photo and video viewing—two features that Motorola’s current iTunes-enabled ROKR and SLVR lack. The code hints at either new iTunes-compatible phones from a company such as Motorola, or at the impending release of the long-rumored Apple “iPhone.” According to Gizmodo, text strings in the code include: “Are you sure you do not want to manually manage music and videos on your mobile phone?”; “The mobile phone is synced with another photo library or folder. Do you want to sync with your photo library and replace all existing photos and albums on this mobile phone with those from your photo library?” and “Are you sure you want to sync TV shows? All existing TV shows on the mobile phone will be replaced with TV shows from your iTunes library.”

Microsoft prices Zune at $249.99; Due out in November

Microsoft has finally announced pricing and a release date for its much-hyped Zune media player. The company said it will charge $249.99 for the device—essentially the same as Apple’s 30GB iPod, which retails for $249. Microsoft will launch both the Zune and its companion digital music service on November 14th. The Zune music service will charge 99 cents for individual songs and $14.99 per month for a subscription service. Scott Erickson, senior director of product management for Zune, admitted that the Zune player will not make money for Microsoft immediately. “In total we won’t be making a profit this year, but we will of course work toward becoming a profitable business in the future,” he said.

Apple releases iTunes 7.0.1 update

Apple today released an updated version of iTunes 7 to fix widespread problems that surfaced in the initial release of the software earlier this month. According to Apple’s brief release notes, iTunes 7.0.1 “addresses stability and performance issues with Cover Flow, CD importing, iPod syncing, and more.” As previously reported, a large number of iTunes users flooded Apple’s discussion boards and iLounge’s forums with complaints about the issues shortly after iTunes 7 was released at Apple’s special event on September 12th. Application bugs reported by users varied widely; it is unknown which specific issues will be fixed with this update.

Mix: Space, iGames, iPod factory, CinemaNow

Anousheh Ansari—the first female space tourist, as well as the first female Muslim and Iranian in space—says she took her iPod with her and listened to it on the International Space Station.

BusinessWeek speculates that Apple has its eye on living room gaming. “Maybe the advent of iGames, the introduction of iTV, and the application for a patent covering handhelds with more than one touch-sensitive region are really the sawing sounds of building a new… Trojan… Apple.”

MojoPac puts personal computer on an iPod

RingCube Technologies has released MojoPac, new software that allows users to mirror a computer’s personal settings and files on a portable storage device such as an iPod or USB flash drive. “To use MojoPac, consumers simply install the MojoPac software on their favorite device, install their applications and copy their files, select their settings and environment preferences, and then take it with them wherever they go,” explains the developer. “Whenever they plug their MojoPac enabled device into a Windows XP based PC, they can launch MojoPac, turning the host PC into a customized and private computing environment that recreates the same computing experience the consumer enjoys at home or work.” MojoPac sells for $30.

MLB pulls podcasts from iTunes Store

Major League Baseball has pulled its podcasts from the iTunes Store following a spat with Apple over presentation of the content. The league reportedly asked Apple last week to remove the podcasts because of a lack of control the league said it had over how its podcasts were promoted on iTunes. A league representative said Apple declined to give MLB podcasts better visibility on the site after the league asked for it. “Although the loss of the league’s podcasts—which included primarily audio recaps of games—is unlikely to have a financial impact on Apple, it shows the unease some providers of digital content have with Apple’s growing clout in digital media,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

Discussions between Nordic agencies, Apple ‘constructive’

Consumer rights agencies in Sweden, Denmark and Norway said today that they’ve had “good and constructive” talks with Apple over complaints that iTunes copy-protection breaks consumer laws. “We had a good and constructive dialogue with Apple and the desire from the company to reach a solution was great,” said Sweden’s acting consumer ombudsman following the meeting in Oslo. The Nordic agencies said legal and technical issues remained to be solved, but that any change to user agreements would apply only to the future. In June, the agencies publicly claimed that Apple is violating contract and copyright laws by making iTunes Store downloads only compatible with the iPod.

Apple posts iPod ‘Five Rs Assistant’

Apple has added a new online support service that aims to solve common iPod problems using one of five recommended solutions—Reset, Retry, Restart, Reinstall, or Restore. Called “The Five Rs Assistant,” the automated service walks you through the steps to fix an ailing iPod until one of the “Five Rs” works for you. In addition, Apple has also updated its iPod+iTunes Service & Support page.

Logitech intros FreePulse wireless headphones

Logitech today introduced its FreePulse wireless headphones for iPods and other MP3 players. The cordless headphones feature a behind-the-head design with spring-steel headband, integrated volume controls, bass boost, and Bluetooth 2.0 Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) wireless technology. The FreePulse headphones ($100) come with an adapter that plugs into any player with a 3.5 mm headphone jack. Both the headphones and adapter are rechargeable and have a range of up to 33 feet. The Logitech FreePulse headphones will be available next month.

Marware offers Sportsuit Basic, Sport Grip for 2G iPod nano

Marware has announced the availability of updated versions of its Sportsuit Basic and Sport Grip cases for Apple’s second-generation iPod nano. The Sport Grip case ($10) is made of silicone and comes in clear, black, pink, blue and green. It provides access to all controls and all ports. The Sportsuit Basic ($20, shown) features a 2mm neoprene outer construction, a soft-lined interior, low-profile mini clip and a play-through vinyl screen and Click Wheel protector.

All iPod 5G downloadable games, reviewed

imageWe’ve just added a brand-new category to our ever-growing reviews section - iPod Games - along with full reviews of all nine of the current downloadable iPod 5G titles. You can click here to see all nine reviews sorted by grade, or look at the reviews individually. Enjoy!

Bejeweled by PopCap Games
Cubis 2 by Freshgames
Mahjong by Electronic Arts
Mini Golf by Electronic Arts
Pac-Man by Namco
Tetris by Electronic Arts
Texas Hold ‘em by Apple Computer
Vortex by Apple Computer
Zuma by PopCap Games

Music Showcase all-weather speaker system debuts

Pro-Tech is now offering the Music Showcase, a new all-weather iPod speaker system. The Music Showcase ($150) features a clear, shatter-resistant enclosure and iPod compartment that “offers protection against dust and water but allows the unit to be operated without taking it out of the enclosure.” The waterproof system also features a built-stand and floats when in the water. It works with fifth-generation iPods.

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