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iSkin debuts Cerulean wireless accessories

iSkin has announced its new line of Cerulean Bluetooth wireless products. “Cerulean TX connects to your iPod for instant wireless streaming of music and allows you to adjust the volume and other critical iPod controls with ease,” says iSkin. “Cerulean TX equipped iPods automatically pair with Cerulean RX equipped speakers for instant high fidelity wireless sound. The Cerulean F1 connects you to your iPod, Bluetooth mobile phone, or computer with no need to hassle with wires, and Cerulean X1 earphones offer a sophisticated balance of in-ear speaker technology and cutting edge design to deliver sound the way is intended to be heard.” Pricing and availability were not provided.


Portago case offers A/V outputs, remote iPod control

Tursiogear has announced the Portago case for fifth-generation iPods. The $90 case allows users to connect an iPod to a variety of devices via outputs such as S-video out, audio/video line out and the 30-pin dock connector, and has an included infrared remote which stores in the case. The Portago also contains a built-in power adapter to connect the case to an electrical outlet, allowing the player to be recharged. The click wheel is accessible through a window in the case door, while a clear cover protects the iPod’s screen.

Westone shows Westone 3 triple-driver earphones

Responsible for the impressive single-driver UM1 and double-driver UM2 in-canal earphones, Westone has announced Westone 3 (aka “3”, approx. $379, February), an in-canal triple-driver design with balanced armature drivers and a passive three-way crossover network for “powerful lows, lush midrange, and crystal-clear highs.” Said by the company to be “the first and only 3-way system on the market,” Westone 3 is “from the ground up an iPod earphone” with 25 ohm impedance, rather than “a crossover from the music world to the iPod world like others are doing.” With white or silver iPod-styled casings, black cables, and a ten pair eartip fit kit featuring multi-sized foams, single- and triple-flanges, the earpieces are designed to fit comfortably in any ears while delivering the company’s highest possible audio quality. A travel case, inline volume control, wax loop, and 1/4” adapter will also be included in the package.

iLounge has spent time with a prototype version of Westone 3, and found the design to be sleek and comfortable, with a very pronounced emphasis on low-end sound. Like Westone’s earlier headphones, 3 aims to color your music rather than present it neutrally, and delivers fuller-bodied, warmer renditions of audio than comparable triple-driver designs, a choice which some users will like, others not. It’s akin to XtremeMac’s earlier FS1 earphones and releases from Future Sonics, only with three drivers rather than one or two.

WSJ: Apple to announce cell phone with Cingular as carrier

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple will announce a mobile phone as early as tomorrow and that the company will use Cingular as its carrier of choice. The Journal reports: “Cingular Wireless is expected to provide wireless service for a new Apple Computer cellphone, people familiar with the situation say. The launch of the new phone and service is expected to be announced as early as Tuesday, these people say. The new product could give Apple access to the huge wireless business, in which nearly a billion handsets are shipped every year, dwarfing the nearly 70 million iPods Apple has sold over the past five years.” The newspaper offers no other details on the phone or service.

Zicplay unveils Ewoo iPod remote

Switzerland-based Zicplay has introduced the Ewoo, a new remote control device for wirelessly controlling the iPod and iTunes around a home. The device, available in February for $129, uses 2.4GHz wireless technology to transmit audio up to 100 feet away. The Ewoo features a color TFT screen that lets users see and control content from a docked iPod or an iTunes music library from a connected computer. iTunes management is offered via a USB adapter connected to a PC or Mac. The Ewoo dock includes optical, analog, and S-video output and will also recharge the iPod.

NY Times: Apple readying ‘personal computers in pocket form’

While not distinguishing whether his story is based on his own sources or current circulating rumors, John Markoff of the New York Times writes that Apple is set to unveil a mobile phone that may feature “a sleek ceramic case and a transparent touch screen.” Markoff says that “industry executives and competitors” believe Apple has developed “the first of a new generation of devices that are closer to personal computers in pocket form, meaning that they will easily handle music, entertainment, productivity tasks and communications on cellular and other wireless networks.” The Times tech writer notes that “Apple’s business strategy in offering an Apple phone will potentially be as intriguing as its industrial design.” He says Steve Jobs “has been rumored to have entered into an alliance with Cingular,” and that the Apple CEO recently told two associates he was “more excited about his current project than he was about the Macintosh.”

Sharp announces i-Elegance speaker systems

Sharp has introduced two docking iPod speaker systems—the DK-A1 and DK-A10—as part of its new i-Elegance iPod product lineup. Available in white or black, the portable units feature full-range bass reflex speakers with built-in side-firing, illuminating subwoofers. The systems also feature an electronic equalizer, a built-in alarm clock with sleep timer function, AM/FM tuner with 32 presets, and wireless remote. The DK-A10 adds a front-loading CD slot that plays standard CDs in addition to CD-R/RW with MP3 and WMA files. The units also offer Esound, a digital signal processing technology that aims to improve the quality of digital music. The DK-A1 ($230) will be available in May, while the DK-A10 ($330) will be available in April.

SkinIt offers NFL iPod skins

SkinIt has announced the availability of vinyl iPod skins featuring officially licensed National Football League (NFL) logos from all 32 NFL teams. The skins ($15) feature the official colors and helmet logo for each team. The skin itself is made from a professional-grade vinyl, which is printed via a proprietary process. The skin is then coated with a glossy finish and custom cut to fit a variety of devices including iPods.

Analyst: Apple keynote to focus on home entertainment

American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu believes that Apple’s product announcements at Macworld Expo tomorrow will focus on Macs and home entertainment, but that the company could also unveil a new iPod, cell phone, or even an Apple-branded HDTV.

“There appears to be more uncertainty as to what Apple CEO Steve Jobs will announce this year than in previous years. We believe this is likely because Apple is plugging leaks better as protecting its secrecy remains a top priority for the company,” Wu says in a research note to clients today. “We therefore believe there will likely be more surprises this year. We anticipate announcements to focus on two areas—Macs and home entertainment. Our supply chain sources indicate new vPods with Bluetooth stereo headphones and cell phones near/at manufacturing stage, though we are not certain on near-term timing.”

As do many other Apple watchers, Wu expects Apple to officially release its iTV streaming media device this week. He also expects new iTunes Store movie partners, and hears whispers of an Apple big-screen TV. “We anticipate new movie content partnerships with one or more studios (Fox, Universal, Paramount, and Warner) that extend beyond Disney,” says Wu. “Furthermore, we are not certain on timing but our analysis indicates that Apple is beyond prototype on large-screen technologies (for a larger monitor or possibly Apple-branded HDTV).”

Wu says a new video iPod is definitely in the works, but is unsure of timing. “The very successful vPod has not had a major update since August 2005 when it was first announced. Our analysis in the supply chain indicates that its successor has been under development for some time and recent data indicates shifting component order dynamics,” Wu says. “We do not have high conviction on timing but see improved battery life, widescreen, and Bluetooth 2.0 stereo as the newest features.”

Wu is also unsure if the long-rumored iPod phone will be shown tomorrow. “While our analysis continues to indicate Apple’s first cell phone is technically complete, its ‘go-to-market’ strategy continues to be a mystery and likely a gating factor (MVNO vs. traditional carrier or both),” says the analyst. “Our conviction remains high that Apple’s first cell phone will be released in 2007—potentially 1H07.”

Philips intros portable iPod/DVD video players

Philips has introduced two new portable iPod video devices as part of its expanded DCP line. Both portable Philips players feature flush-mounting iPod cradles, a DVD/CD player, and a built-in rechargeable battery. The DCP750 ($149) features a 7-inch widescreen, while the DCP850 ($199) boasts an 8.5-inch widescreen. They both offer Dolby Digital sound, car adapters and wireless remotes, and accept SD/MMC memory cards, which can be used to display digital photos or play DivX movies. Both models can also play video on DVD±R and DVD±RW formats, (S)VCD and MPEG4. The Philips DCP iPod devices are expected in the first quarter of 2007.

Maxell touts hybrid iPod clocks with flash readers

Previously responsible for low-end iPod accessories, Maxell has announced three new hybrid clock radios, each with unique features: Desktop/One Dock, Bedside Alarm Clock Radio, and Desktop/Wall Mount Alarm Clock. All three systems include flash media readers, USB and auxiliary audio inputs, remote controls, dual alarms, sleep and snooze modes.

image• Desktop/One Dock ($100) combines picture frame functionality with a speaker system and clock radio, enabling users to replace the iPod’s standard screen with a personal photograph. The unit charges and performs audio from an iPod, or provides access to AM and FM stations.

image• Bedside Alarm Clock Radio ($150) boasts an “extra large, backlit LCD screen,” four speakers, and a bass chamber for added resonance. Unlike Desktop, it emphasizes sound quality and clock functionality.

image• Desktop/Wall Mount Alarm Clock ($200) boasts a temperature weather display and AM/FM radio tuning. It’s designed to be mounted on a wall, or set on a tabletop.

Release dates were not available at press time.

Belkin announces Bluetooth Dock Adapter for iPod

Cosmetically based upon the company’s recently-released TuneStage 2 wireless home stereo kit, Belkin’s new Bluetooth Dock Adapter for iPod ($130, March) combines an iPod-mounted Bluetooth 2.0+EDR transmitter with a unique receiver that can be connected to virtually any iPod-ready, Dock Connecting audio accessory, such as a speaker dock. With the Adapter, you can walk over 30 feet away from the speakers while still holding your iPod and using its controls to navigate music; the Bluetooth wireless connection allows you to hear your music without interruption. No additional batteries are required, however, like TuneStage 2, play time is limited by your iPod’s internal battery, which will last for a maximum of 5 hours of wireless broadcasting on current models.

Creative intros Xdock Wireless iPod audio system

Creative Technology has introduced the Xdock Wireless, a new iPod audio system that transmits music in the company’s “Xtreme Fidelity” format. The system consists of a main unit with a universal iPod dock, and up to several X-Fi Wireless Receivers in other rooms. Xdock Wireless comes with a remote and plays music up to 100 feet away. The system also connects directly to a powered speaker system or home theater system to play video, photos and music in DTS surround-sound.

“Creative’s award-winning X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity is produced with X-Fi Crystalizer and X-Fi CMSS-3D technology,” explains the company. “The X-Fi Crystalizer makes MP3s sound better than CDs by analyzing and identifying which parts of the audio stream have been truncated or damaged during compression. It then intelligently and selectively restores the highs and lows from instruments and vocals that are damaged during the compression of MP3s. X-Fi CMSS-3D creates virtual surround sound through speakers or headphones. It expands audio for superior headphone listening so music completely surrounds the listener.”

The Creative Xdock Wireless will sell for $200. X-Fi Wireless Receivers will be available for $100 each. An Xdock Wireless with an X-Fi Wireless Receiver will be available for less than $300. The system is expected to be available this spring.

Kensington shows FX500 portable speaker, Car Mount for iPod

Continuing its lines of speakers and car accessories, Kensington has today announced the FX500 Speaker To Go ($50) and Car Mount for iPod and MP3 Players ($30), budget-priced items relative to most of its prior offerings. The successor to Kensington’s earlier FX300, FX500 is a combination iPod case and speaker system, here promising stereo sound from a 1.25” “ultra-thin,” high-density foam enclosure. Its speakers are based on NXT flat-panel technology, and run off of 3 AAAs for up to 10 hours.

imageAll black, Kensington’s Car Mount features a flexible arm and adjustable, padded cradle for positioning your iPod at your preferred angle in a car; a lever-assisted suction mount grips your car. The cradle resizes to fit various iPods and even smaller nanos, with space at the bottom for connection of other accessories. Interestingly, Kensington warns California and Minnesota drivers that Car Mount can’t be mounted on their car windows; it needs to be attached instead to the dashboard in these (and potentially other) states.

Griffin to unveil Evolve wireless iPod speaker system

Griffin Technology this week will introduce the Evolve digital wireless stereo system for iPods. The $350 system aims to deliver CD-quality wireless music transmission with a range of up to 150 feet. The Evolve features a universal iPod dock, an RF remote control, and two removable and rechargeable speakers, each sporting a full-range 4-inch driver. “Unlike conventional wireless speakers made by others, the Evolve system sends digital packets to the speakers at CD quality 44.1khz 16bit sample rate,” says Griffin. So, no matter what you plug in—iPod or external input—you’re getting the best possible signal.”

TiVo partners with Roxio to bring TiVoToGo to Mac OS X

TiVo announced today that it has teamed up with Roxio to offer the highly anticipated TiVoToGo support for Mac OS X. Through Toast 8 Titanium ($100), Roxio’s disc burning software for Macs, TiVo subscribers with broadband connected TiVo Series2 DVRs can transfer recorded shows to watch on their Mac, burn to a DVD, or encode and transfer to a fifth-generation iPod. Recorded content can be transferred to a Mac either one episode at a time or automatically as soon as the TiVo DVR has recorded them.

ViewSonic rolls out DLP projector with integrated iPod dock

ViewSonic today announced a new high definition, “Made for iPod” DLP front projector. The ViewSonic PJ258D features a top-loading dock for fifth-generation iPods, eliminating the need for a computer to project video content. The $999 projector boasts a 1024x768 XGA resolution, 2,000 lumens of brightness, and a 2000:1 contrast ratio. Other connectivity options include S-Video and VGA.

“Mimicking the sleek design of the iPod and weighing less than 4 pounds, the PJ258D is a portable powerhouse ideal for teens, young adults, home theater enthusiasts, and business professionals looking to bring the benefits of their digital media content to any environmentfrom living room walls and basements, to well-lit hotel rooms and conference rooms,” says ViewSonic.

Klipsch intros iGroove SXT speaker system

Klipsch today introduced the iGroove SXT, the company’s latest all-in-one iPod speaker system. The iGroove SXT features a universal charging iPod dock, dual 2.5-inch woofers in a ported enclosure, premium crossovers and dual 1-inch MicroTractrix Horn-loaded tweeters. The system also has a rear auxiliary input, S-Video output, and comes with an IR remote. The iGroove SXT will be available in April for $150.

RhinoSkin debuts Nano Accents protective cases

RhinoSkin has announced Nano Accents, a new line of protective cases for the iPod nano. Nano Accents come in five color choices—red, blue, green, pink and black—and are made of a lightweight aluminum with a high-polish finish. Protective features include a clear, polycarbonate plastic covering for the screen and a neoprene lining to help prevent scratches. Nano Accents are priced at $30 per 2-pack and will be available in March.

Harman Kardon debuts Drive + Play 2 car integration kit

Significantly updating its earlier Drive + Play Premium Car Integration Kit for iPods, Harman Kardon today announced Drive + Play 2, a color-screened, user-expandable update. The new model begins with the same elements found in Drive + Play—a car-mounted control knob, a separate display screen for iPod menu navigation, and a hub for connection to a car’s cigarette lighter port, your iPod, and the car’s audio system—but upgrades each for a more deluxe user experience.

Rather than running a wire from the hub to the unit’s control knob, Harman’s new knob—still featuring a twist mechanism and buttons for scrolling and selection—is wireless. New features accessible from the control knob include a one-touch “more like this” button that lets you call up more or fewer songs from the same artist, album, or genre, plus an automatic “Dynamic Channel creation” function that auto-sorts an iPod’s content into groupings that can be broadened or narrowed at the user’s discretion. The knob also includes incrementally faster scrolling, bolstered by voice-based letter announcement and voice menu prompting features, letting users hear the menu and/or letter of a song list they’re currently accessing.

A new 3.5” full-color screen is Drive + Play 2’s most conspicuous improvement. Now using an interface that looks more like a Microsoft Portable Media Center than the iPod’s, the unit displays menu options in light blue text on a dark blue background, with translucent highlights, green scroll bars and menu titles, and small icons. Harman notes that the system is additionally compatible with non-iPod portable media devices, and can be expanded with optional modules to include support for Bluetooth mobile phones, Sirius Satellite Radio playback, and future devices and functionality. The Bluetooth adapter will include an embedded microphone for hands-free cellular use, as well as the ability to stream music from an A2DP-supporting phone to the system.

According to Harman, “Drive + Play 2 is easily installed in any make and model automobile using an auxiliary line connection, hardwired FM connection or included wireless FM transmitter,” with the wireless FM transmitter and 3.5mm cable-based audio hub included in the core package. Hardwired connections will require additional installation expertise, but be aided by an included hard-wire harness capable of concealing the hub and cables. It will be priced at $400 - twice the cost of its predecessor - and is planned for Spring 2007 availability.

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