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Analyst: iTV will expand Apple’s move into the living room

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster expects Apple to release the retail version of the iTV at Macworld Expo next week, and says that the wireless media streaming device will expand the company’s move into the living room. “With the release of the iTV, Apple will continue its slow-but-steady push into the living room,” Munster says. “The AirPort Express (released Jun-04) enables iTunes wireless music streaming to a stereo. Apple’s Front Row application provides a media hub for music, movies and photos on a Mac. But the iTV is Apple’s simplest solution for accessing digital content via a TV and, therefore, its strongest push into the living room.”

iAlbum to allow iPod photo transfers from SD, Memory Stick

Sakar International next week will announce the iAlbum, a new iPod accessory that allows users to transfer digital photos directly from an SD memory card or a Memory Stick to an iPod without a computer or software. The iAlbum, which connects to the Dock Connector port, works with fifth-generation iPods and color-screen fourth-generation iPods. The iAlbum will be available in black and white later this month for $90.

Kaftan offers patterned iPod nano, video cases

Kaftan has introduced a new line of iPod cases made of fabric resembling oriental carpets. “Kaftan Covers reflect the same warm tones, exquisite patterns and traditional motifs that enthralled Marco Polo in 1272 as he traversed the globe,” says the company. “Oriental carpets were hand-woven in antiquity as gifts for palaces and kings. Kaftan’s contemporary creative design securely wraps your iPod in globally inspired rich colors and ancient patterns. Complement your iPod nano and video with Kaftan’s custom-dyed, fully lined covers.” The cases come in four designs for iPod nanos ($13 each) and three designs for fifth-generation iPods ($16 each).

NPD: iPod gains holiday market share

Apple once again dominated holiday sales of digital audio players, increasing its market share from last year, according to data from the NPD Group. “In the five-week period from Nov. 19 to Dec. 23, iPods accounted for 57.3 percent of all players sold at a panel of electronics stores that notably didn’t include the Cupertino company’s own retail outlets,” reports the Mercury News. “Apple’s share was up from 42 percent for a similar period last year. SanDisk was No. 2 with 19.2 percent of units sold, down from 22.1 percent last year. Microsoft, which debuted its Zune player in November, came in fourth behind Creative Technology with 2.8 percent of the market. Creative had 3.4 percent.”

Apple, others sued over online media distribution

Defunct online movie provider Intertainer has filed a lawsuit against Apple, Google and Napster, alleging that the three companies are infringing on a patent that covers the commercial distribution of digital media over the Internet. “Founded in 1996, Intertainer developed technology to distribute movies on demand through cable and phone lines for viewing on televisions and personal computers. It gained investors including Intel, Microsoft, Sony, NBC and Comcast,” according to the New York Times. The company shut down in 2002, filing a suit against the Hollywood studios behind Movielink for anticompetitive actions. The studios settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum, and Intertainer is now considered a patent licensing business.

Tune Belt intros wristband, belt case for iPod nano

Tune Belt has expanded its line of “Open View” iPod cases to include a new wristband carrier and a new belt case for the iPod nano. Both feature stretchable velcro bands and clear, protective mylar windows. The wristband carrier ($17) “securely straps to wrists, forearms, fitness equipment, handle bars, etc. making it great at the club or for outdoor activities.” The belt case ($15) “securely fastens to belts, purses and just about any other strap making it the perfect solution to protect the nano during routine day-to-day activities.”

FireBall FP-1 Music Manager for iPods announced

Escient today announced the availability of its FireBall FP-1 Music Manager with Universal Dock for iPods. The $599 system provides an on-screen user interface for managing and controlling an iPod in the home. “Unlike typical home iPod docks, which offer very limited benefits when the iPod is removed, the FP-1 provides access to a user’s PC- or Mac-based music collection and free Internet radio streams even when the iPod is not docked,” says Escient. “Because the FP-1 is truly an Escient FireBall Music Manager (which uses the iPod for local music storage) it integrates seamlessly with other FireBall products in the home, enabling other connected FireBalls to access and play all of the iPod’s music, including Apple’s FairPlay DRM protected audio files.”

Mix: TechTool Protogo, Apple probe, Nano noise, iPod phone

Micromat has released TechTool Protogo, a Mac OS X application that lets a user “easily turn an old iPod, a flash drive or other similar device into a bootable diagnostic tool that contains several of Micromat’s utilities.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple’s internal investigation into backdated stock options focused on two former executives—former CFO Fred Anderson and former general counsel and board secretary Nancy Heinen.

A number of second-generation iPod nano owners are complaining of high-pitched whining or buzzing sounds coming from the players. Owners of all models—2GB, 4GB and 8GB nanos—have reported the noise.

According to a recent survey by Solutions Research Group, an iPod phone could have the “potential to increase Apple’s customer footprint substantially. Currently just over 20% of Americans 12+ (about 50 million) own an Apple product—within 18 months of the introduction of a new iPod phone, Appleā€™s footprint can increase to over 30%.”

Apple sued over Nike+iPod Sport Kit

In its quarterly report filed with the SEC last week, Apple disclosed that it is facing a lawsuit over the Nike+iPod Sport Kit. Apple said PhatRat Technology filed a lawsuit in October alleging patent infringement. The company claims Apple’s product is infringing on several patents held by PhatRat, including: U.S. Patent number 6,499,000 entitled “System and Method for Determining Loft Time, Speed, Height and Distance,” U.S. Patent number 6,885,971 entitled “Methods and Systems for Assessing Athletics Performance,” U.S. Patent number 6,963,818 entitled “Mobile Speedometer Systems and Associated Methods,” and U.S. Patent number 7,092,846 entitled “Systems and Methods for Determining Performance Data,” as well as allowed U.S. Patent Application number 11/358,508 entitled “Shoes Employing Monitoring Devices, and Associated Methods.”

‘George’ sound system for iPod introduced

Chestnut Hill Sound has introduced George, a new high-end tabletop iPod sound system. George features a built-in iPod dock, an AM/FM radio with bandless tuning, and an alarm clock system. The system has a removable front panel LCD screen that serves as a wireless remote with full iPod functionality, including the ability to browse music on your iPod by artists, albums, songs and playlists. George will be available next week for $549. A charging stands and a consumer-installable, no subscription HD radio tuner will also be sold separately.

Apple: ‘The first 30 years were just the beginning’

Apple has posted an intriguing new welcome message on the home page of The fresh graphic features a backlit Apple logo with the text, “The first 30 years were just the beginning. Welcome to 2007.” While the message could simply be a harmless New Year’s greeting, it will no doubt stir up much anticipation before Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote at next week’s Macworld Expo.

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