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Nielsen//NetRatings: iTunes usage doubles in 2006

iTunes usage nearly doubled in 2006, based on data from Nielsen//NetRatings. According to figures, the number of unique iTunes users grew by 47.5% last year. During the same time, RealPlayer users grew by 9.1%, QuickTime by 8.7%, and Windows Media Player grew by 2.0%. “At current growth rates, iTunes should pass RealPlayer in unique users by the second quarter of 2007,” reports “Apple should be whistling a happy tune this year. While iTunes continues to show strong double-digit growth rates, Windows Media Player growth appeared to slow over the past year.”

DLO ships updated HomeDock Deluxe

Digital Lifestyle Outfitters announced today they are now shipping the second-generation HomeDock Deluxe iPod dock. The HomeDock Deluxe allows users to connect their iPod to any TV and home stereo to view, navigate and play music and videos from the device. First announced early last month, the new HomeDock Deluxe features on-TV navigation of iTunes videos, full color Album Art, new screen savers and visualizers, 12 new color themes, on-TV playlist creation called “My Jukebox,” an upgraded remote control and more. The new HomeDock Deluxe retains its original price of $150.

Hammacher selling wireless, water resistant iPod system

Hammacher Schlemmer is now selling a Wireless Water-Resistant iPod Speaker System ($200). The unit’s 3” full-range 6-watt speaker, using wireless technology, can receive signals from an iPod docking station up to 150-feet away. The station recharges the iPod while playing music. Features of the speaker include an integrated AM/FM radio, alarm clock function, LCD display, three A/V out jacks and one audio-in jack for connection to a PC or CD player. A remote control is also included.

Apple COO: iPhone still on track for June launch

Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook reiterated yesterday that the company remains on track to release its iPhone in June. Speaking at the Goldman Sachs 2007 Technology Investment Symposium Conference, Cook said Apple expects to sell 10 million of the devices in 2008, but said it is too early to tell if the iPhone will take sales away from the iPod. “The iPod is being sold for a wide variety of uses. We’ll see what happens,” Cook said.

Marware intros Sidewinder Spectra for 2G iPod nano

Marware today announced the availability of the Sidewinder Spectra, the company’s latest case for the second-generation iPod nano. The hard case features a slide-out headphone cord wrap, removable dock connector cover, and a clear front face with nano-matching colors on the back. The $25 Sidewinder Spectra also includes an optional Multidapt belt clip and is available in black, silver, green, pink and blue.

FCC, component shortage could be behind Apple TV delay

The Federal Communications Commission or a component shortage could be to blame for the delayed launch of the Apple TV set-top box. BusinessWeek reports that it is likely Apple has yet to receive approval for the device from the FCC. “The most recent Apple product to receive FCC approval was the latest version of the Airport wireless networking hub. It was approved on Jan. 9,” the magazine notes. “The Apple TV device doesn’t readily appear among the many products for which Apple has sought approval since the beginning of 2006, based on a search of the FCC Web site.” If the FCC is not to blame, BusinessWeek raises the possibility that it may be a component shortage that caused the Apple TV delay. “Component suppliers known to have pieces in the Apple TV include Intel, Marvell, and Seagate,” reports the magazine. “But a parts shortage probably would have been known long before Jobs set such an aggressive ship date for the product.”

Ms. Pac-Man now available for iPod

Namco today announced that the arcade classic Ms. Pac-Man is now available for download on the iTunes Store for fifth-generation iPods. Features of the iPod version of Ms. Pac-Man, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, include the four unique maze designs, 256 maze levels and the “coffee break” animated intervals from the original game. The iPod version also allows players to listen to the original retro game sounds or music from their iPod library while playing. Like other iPod games, Ms. Pac-Man sells for $4.99.

Update: iLounge has posted a First Look at Ms. Pac-Man.

SFMOMA offers iPod rentals loaded with walking tours

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is now offering visitors iPod rentals loaded with tours of their exhibits, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The iPod rentals, which cost $2 each, are drawn from a stock of 100 iPods donated by Apple and offer walking tours broken down into short tracks with matching art reproductions much like cover art for a song. They are in a protective case to keep them from being damaged if dropped.

Apple TV delayed until mid-March (updated)

Despite recently claiming that it would meet its February shipping deadline, Apple said today that it will delay the release of the Apple TV until mid-March. “Wrapping up Apple TV is taking a few weeks longer than we projected, and we now expect to begin shipments mid-March,” said Apple spokeswoman Lynn Fox. Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the Apple TV under the code name iTV in September of last year. Apple has been accepting pre-orders for the device since January’s Macworld Expo.

Update: Shipping dates for early Apple TV orders have been confirmed by Apple for March 20, with the fastest delivery option resulting in a March 23 arrival.

Goldman Sachs sees 14 million iPhones sold by end of 2008

Goldman Sachs said it believes Apple will sell more than 14 million iPhones through 2008 based on results from a recent buying intention survey. The investment firm forecasts sales of 4 million iPhones in 2007 and 10.5 million in 2008. The consumer survey—conducted in the U.S., U.K., China, and India prior to the iPhone’s official unveiling—found that the number of potential iPhone buyers is equivalent to 75% of the installed base of current iPod owners. In the U.S., where Apple ranked as the No. 4 most desired handset brand, 71% of respondents indicated interest in a potential Apple phone. The survey also found that a number of consumers are willing to switch carriers to get the iPhone, with 30% of U.K. respondents and 15% in the U.S. suggesting that they would switch.

Mix: iPhone details, EMI deal, Assaulted teacher, Marriott hotels

Actioncorp TV has produced an interesting video with “hidden details” from Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ iPhone announcement. Of particular interest is strong evidence that Apple intends to sell music ringtones.

Talks between EMI Group and online music sellers—including Apple and Microsoft—about offering music free of digital rights management (DRM) have stalled because the companies balked at the size of an advance payment required by EMI.

The Associated Press reports: “A high school teacher was assaulted by two students and hospitalized with broken vertebrae after he took an iPod away from one of them during class, officials said.”

Marriott Hotels & Resorts, JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts, and Renaissance Hotels & Resorts plan to offer high-definition, LCD televisions with an iPod-ready “digital connectivity panel” and 25-watt stereo speaker system in all its guest rooms in the U.S. and Canada.

BitTorrent launches legit online movie, TV store

BitTorrent, maker of the popular peer-to-peer file distribution technology known for pirated content, has launched an online video store to sell movies and television shows licensed from Hollywood studios. The BitTorrent Entertainment Network offers films from Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Lionsgate and episodes of TV shows such as “24” and “Punk’d.” TV episodes are $1.99 to download to own. BitTorrent will rent movies for a 24-hour viewing period for $3.99 for new titles and $2.99 for older films. BitTorrent’s videos are protected by Windows Media DRM and will only play back using Windows Media Player.

Patent troll sues Apple, Samsung, SanDisk over MP3 players

Texas MP3 Technologies, a recently formed company that appears to only exist on paper, has hit Apple, Samsung, and SanDisk with patent-infringement lawsuits. The suits were filed on Feb. 16 in Marshall, Texas, a city popular with patent enforcers because of speedy trials and juries that lean in favor of the plaintiff. Texas MP3 Technologies—which shares a street address with one of its lawyers in Marshall—alleges infringement on U.S. patent 7,065,417, which was awarded in June 2006 to multimedia chip-maker SigmaTel and covers “an MPEG portable sound reproducing system and a method for reproducing sound data compressed using the MPEG method.” SigmaTel reportedly sold the patent in August 2006 to a “Dallas-based patent licensing agency” because it said the agency would be better able to take advantage of its potential value.

Apple runs iPhone teaser during Oscars (updated)

During tonight’s broadcast of the 79th annual Academy Awards, the first television commercial for Apple’s iPhone was aired—multiple times. The 30-second teaser featured over 30 famous actors and actresses—such as Lucille Ball, Michael J. Fox, Will Ferrell, Robert Redford and Harrison Ford—answering the phone in a series of famous television, cartoon, and movie sequences. A rotating image of the iPhone appeared, followed by the word “Hello” on the screen in white text on a black background, followed by the line “Coming in June.” The iPhone screen now features the AT&T name rather than Cingular’s, as Cingular has recently been absorbed into the larger phone company. View the commercial, set to the song Inside Your Head by Eberg, below.

Survey: Consumers not willing to pay $500 for iPhone

Only 1 percent of consumers are willing to pay $500 for Apple’s iPhone, according to results of a survey released this week. Nearly half of consumers surveyed, however, would buy the device if it was priced from $200 to $299. “Online market research firm Compete Inc. surveyed 379 people in the U.S., most of whom had heard of the iPhone and have shopped for an iPod, to find out how interested they are in the device to produce the uncommissioned report,” reports InfoWorld. “Among the 26 percent of respondents who said they’re likely to buy an iPhone, only 1 percent said they’d pay $500 for it. When Apple introduced the iPhone in January, it said it would cost $500 on the low end. 42 percent of those who said they’re likely to buy the phone said they’d pay $200 to $299.”

Pro Armor branches out into iPod cases

Pro Armor, a maker of off-road riding accessories, is now showcasing a line of iPod cases and accessories. The ProVault cases, available for various iPod configurations (nano 1G & 2G, video 30GB/60GB/80GB) and made of aluminum, use a slide and lock system which opens and closes with no tools or clasps. They can be mounted via a variety of accessories to various locations like motorcycles and one’s belt.

Apple 2G iPod shuffle wins design award

Apple’s second-generation iPod shuffle grabbed top honors for best consumer product design at the 2007 Design Week Awards. “We were in a quandary with Consumer Product Design,” says Sebastian Conran of Conran & Partners in announcing the winners. “Though there was a wide variety of interesting products, there was also a raft of entries from Apple’s design team, of which, though all were excellent, only the Shuffle was truly ‘new.’ It feels a bit unfair to all the other entries, which were mainly very good indeed, that Apple—with its relentless commitment to innovative and evolutionary design, and its attention to detail—should again win pole position. The Shuffle is a simple, beautifully executed concept with minimal, re-useable packaging that is fantastic value for money.”

Mix: Apple TV, Online videos, Odeo, iPhone sales

The Apple TV streaming media device could be a DVD killer, according to one analyst. “It’s conceivable” that the device could carve out 20 to 30 percent of the $26 billion DVD market in a few years, said Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore.

Annual consumer spending on movie and TV downloads will top $4 billion in 2011, up from $111 million last year, according to a study by Adams Media Research. “The Internet is going to revolutionize the distribution of video,” says the firm.

Podcasting and online audio service Odeo is up for sale. “In the last few months, we here at Obvious have been increasingly focused on Twitter. As a result, our original product, Odeo, has not gotten the attention it deserves,” the company said.

Following a meeting with Apple executives, Prudential Equity Group analysts said the company expects most of its future iPhone sales to happen at its retail stores where consumers can be shown the device’s features.

Speck intros SeeThru Lucid case for 2G iPod nano

Speck Products has announced its SeeThru Lucid case for Apple’s second-generation iPod nano. The clear, hard shell case features a 1-piece design, rubberized seal, a removable belt clip, and access to all controls and ports. The SeeThru Lucid is available in clear or smoke and sells for $25.

iPod to be brain of ‘black box’ for airplanes

Light aircraft maker LoPresti has announced a new cockpit device that uses an iPod as a flight data recorder, also known as a “black box.” The iPod-powered device will be able to record over 500 hours of flight time data in LoPresti’s Fury piston airplane. The device will also used to capture two-way cockpit conversation and communication with air traffic control.

“This is the perfect marriage of a consumer product to the aviation market,” says LoPresti VP of operations, RJ Siegel. “The iPod has an ideal product spec for aviation. It’s light and small, with very low power requirements and a simple interface. There are thousands of developers passionate about writing applications for the iPod. With such a large body of programmers we literally have no idea what the next great aviation application may be.”

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