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Music labels want iTunes subscription service

The four major record labels are expected to ask Apple to launch an iTunes music subscription service during negotiations to renew their resale agreements with Apple. The discussions will reportedly begin next week when Universal Music, the largest record company, meets with Apple. Marketwatch reports: “Executives at Universal and other labels believe a subscription service could prove more lucrative for them than iTunes’ prevailing model of charging consumers 99 cents per track because it would increase consumption of music. It would also entitle the labels to a share of monthly payments, in addition to small licensing fees each time their songs are played.”

Apple blames iPhone for Mac OS X Leopard delay

Apple said today that the iPhone is still on track to be released in June, but that it will delay Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard until October. The next version of Apple’s powerful operating system was scheduled to be released this spring. Apple blamed the delay on the iPhone, saying it had to “borrow” key resources from its Mac OS X team to complete the device on time. As previously noted on several occasions, the iPhone runs a stripped-down version of the Mac operating system.

“iPhone has already passed several of its required certification tests and is on schedule to ship in late June as planned,” Apple said in a statement. “We can’t wait until customers get their hands (and fingers) on it and experience what a revolutionary and magical product it is. However, iPhone contains the most sophisticated software ever shipped on a mobile device, and finishing it on time has not come without a price—we had to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from our Mac OS X team, and as a result we will not be able to release Leopard at our Worldwide Developers Conference in early June as planned.”

“While Leopard’s features will be complete by then,” Apple continued, “we cannot deliver the quality release that we and our customers expect from us. We now plan to show our developers a near final version of Leopard at the conference, give them a beta copy to take home so they can do their final testing, and ship Leopard in October. We think it will be well worth the wait. Life often presents tradeoffs, and in this case we’re sure we’ve made the right ones.”

iLounge offers 4 iPhones, Cash as Fashion Photo Prizes

Want to win an Apple iPhone? Now you have 4 chances. To coincide with the release of The Free iPod Book 3.0 - sequel to our popular, million-downloaded series of Books - iLounge has just announced the iPod Fashion Contest. Submit your photograph in one of two categories - People or iPods - for a chance at two 8GB iPhone top prizes, two 4GB iPhone second prizes, or two $100 iTunes Gift Cards.

Official rules and samples can be found here. Entries are due by May 20, 2007, and winners will be announced on June 1 inside The Free iPod Book 3. Best of luck to all entrants!

Mix: The Beatles & EMI, PopXpress, Speck sale, iPod upgrade

  • April 12, 2007

Apple Corps, the company representing The Beatles, has settled a $59 million dollar dispute with EMI over royalties. The suit represents another hurdle overcome in the process to take the band’s catalog online. “It seems like it is heading in that direction,” Jupiter analyst Mark Mulligan said. “The conversation has changed from an ‘if’ to a ‘when.’”

PopXpress, the London-based iPod-only store, has closed down due to lack of profitability. The store’s web site claims that the store is moving, but reports say the store is unlikely to re-open. PopXpress opened in February 2006, and was located minutes from Apple’s Regent Street retail location.

Speck Products is holding a “Speck-tacular Spring sale,” which offers a variety of cases for under $10 — including the iPod See-Thru (60GB), the nano ToughSkin (first-generation), and the ActiveSport case for fifth-generation iPods.

iPodMods is now offering a 100GB upgrade for all fifth-generation iPod models and the Microsoft Zune. The upgrade, which includes a larger backing for 30GB iPod models, also comes with an extended-life battery. The upgrade requires user installation and costs $300.

DLO unveils Special Edition VideoShells

  • April 12, 2007

imageDigital Lifestyle Outfitters has taken the wraps off its line of Special Edition VideoShells for the fifth-generation iPod. The cases, offered in six different colors, feature a polycarbonate back with a colored, brushed aluminum, interchangeable faceplate. Like previous VideoShells, the Special Edition models also feature clear protection for the screen and clickwheel, and an adjustable kickstand on the shell backing. The DLO VideoShell SE is available now for $25.

Sierra intros ‘monitor-quality’ speaker set for iPods

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Sierra Sound has announced the iN Studio 5.0, a new set of iPod-ready speakers that are said to be “studio monitoring quality.” The speakers sport an integrated top-loading iPod dock, 50-watt amplifier, 1” silk tweeters and 5” drivers. The pair also feature two auxiliary inputs, an S-Video output, USB port, and wireless remote. The iN Studio 5.0 speakers will be available later this month in three colors—black, white, and red—for $399.

Apple pushes podcasters to upgrade video quality

Apple’s iTunes team has sent an email to current video podcasters, recommending that they increase the resolution of their videos. “Apple TV is here, and podcasts are making a big move into the living room,” Apple said in the email. “We want all of them to look as good as possible, so we have three video formatting recommendations for you.” Apple’s tips for enhancing a video podcast are included below.

Recommendations for Formatting Video Podcasts

1. If you’re encoding your video podcast at 320x240, please increase the resolution to either 640x480 or 640x360 (depending on the aspect ratio of your source files). Why? Because video podcasts at this resolution look great on Apple TV and still port to video iPods. Lower resolution podcasts might also work on both platforms, but they don’t look nearly as good on a widescreen TV. As always, make sure to test any encoding changes you make to ensure device compatibility. QuickTime 7.1’s “Export to iPod” function will ensure that a video file is encoded at a width of 640 and is iPod-compatible.

2. It’s best not to create two different podcast feeds for different resolutions. By doing so, you dilute the popularity of your podcast and reduce exposure in our charts. It’s better to have one feed high in the charts than two that are lower.

3. If your source files are 16:9, stick with that aspect ratio. Don’t add letterboxing to make them 4:3. By doing so, you prevent the video from expanding to fill a 16:9 widescreen TV and instead end up with black space on all four sides. Also, your original source files should be at least 640 pixels wide.

Of course these are just recommendations. We understand that there are good reasons for 320x240 (bandwidth bills) and 720p (looks fantastic). Do whatever makes the most sense for your show.  For more information on formatting video, see the recently updated spec.

Translate iLounge into 9 languages (beta)

In response to numerous requests from readers overseas, we’ve just added an automatic translation feature to iLounge. Currently found on the left hand side of our main page, the translator bar provides Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Greek, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean translations of most content on our pages, and is accessible via flag icons.

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We’re currently tweaking the translator bar and will enhance its functionality in the near future, but wanted to make it available in beta form while we work through the issues. As with all machine translation services, its results won’t be perfect, but they’ll hopefully convey the key points of our stories for easier multi-lingual consumption. Enjoy!

Apple eyeing iTunes subscription service?

Despite Apple consistently denying it has any interest in offering a subscription-based music service, CNNMoney.com is reporting that Apple’s stance may soon change. According to Les Ottolenghi, CEO of Intent Media Works, a digital distribution system that works with P2P networks, he has had meetings with Apple and believes the company is on the verge of announcing a subscription service for iTunes. “I think Apple is seriously considering a subscription offering right now even though they will probably tell you otherwise,” he said.

This move would go against market precedents, which show that rival subscription services such as Napster, Rhapsody, and Yahoo! Music Unlimited have struggled against the iTunes model. Some feel, however, that subscription services have failed to catch on with consumers due to the lack of an iTunes-based option. “The number one factor retarding the acceptance of the subscription model is the dominance of Apple. The idea of subscribing to music is new to most consumers so when the dominant player doesn’t talk about it, the idea seems out of the mainstream for most consumers,” said Phil Leigh, a senior analyst with Inside Digital Media.

Michigan lawmakers courted by Apple lobbyist

Following last week’s introduction of a $38 million “iPod bill” in Michigan, a report has surfaced claiming that two of the lawmakers backing the bill made a trip to California to meet with Apple — at least partially on Apple’s dime. According to the Detroit Free Press, Rep. Matt Gillard and House Speaker Andy Dillon, among others, made the trip to San Francisco. Dillon has issued a statement defending the trip, saying he was “one of several lawmakers to take this trip, and I am more convinced than ever that the future for our children lies in education. As we move to the technology age and the knowledge-based economy, it would be irresponsible to separate technology from our K-12 system.” They did not identify the other lawmakers who went on the trip, and Apple has not made their Lansing, MI lobbyist available for comment.

MGM movies come to iTunes Store

Apple today announced that feature films from MGM are now available on the iTunes Store. Beginning today, iTunes users will be able to purchase and download movies such as “Dances With Wolves,” “Mad Max,” “The Great Train Robbery” and “Rocky,” with additional titles to be added in the coming weeks. Other titles from MGM’s film collection on iTunes will include “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “Ronin,” and “Lilies of the Field.” As with others on the iTunes Store, the MGM offerings appear to consist of older titles rather than new releases. Apple said the iTunes Store has sold over 2 million movies and now offers over 500 films for sale.

Mix: Apple TV, Diabetes, The Beatles, Fujitsu Drives

  • April 10, 2007

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The latest Apple TV hacks include a plug-in for RSS news feeds and a modification for video game emulation. Read iLounge’s Complete Guide to Apple TV Optimization for more hacks.

Amy Tenderich of Diabetes Mine has penned an open letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, asking him to use his company’s resources to help design medical devices. “Medical device manufacturers are stuck in a bygone era; they continue to design these products in an engineering-driven, physician-centered bubble,” she writes. “They have not yet grasped the concept that medical devices are also life devices, and therefore need to feel good and look good for the patients using them 24/7, in addition to keeping us alive.”

Neil Aspinall, the head of the Beatles’ Apple Corps, is leaving the company after 40 years. Aspinall’s departure comes two months after Apple Corps settled a drawn out trademark dispute with Apple Inc. Some are already speculating that Aspinall may have been the final roadblock keeping the Beatles’ catalog off of iTunes.

Reuters reports: “Fujitsu said on Monday it has halted plans to make 1.8-inch hard drives as handheld device makers are more interested in flash drives for storage. The Japanese chips-to-computers conglomerate had initially planned to begin production of 1.8-inch hard drives, used in ultra-portable notebooks and digital media players like Apple’s iPod, in the first half of the current business year that began April 1.”

NextSentry wants workplace ban on iPod

NextSentry, a desktop security firm, is recommending that businesses prohibit the use of iPods and other pocketable storage devices due to what it calls “Pocket Fraud.” It believes that unscrupulous employees are using their access to customer data and intellectual property in concert with the portability of pocketable storage devices to steal the valuable data from their employers.

“Many employees enjoy listening to their iPods at work, but companies can’t afford this luxury at the expense of leaking valuable customer data or intellectual property into the hands of criminals or competitors,” said Jim Hereford, CEO of NextSentry. “If you don’t have proper policy enforcement capabilities in place to monitor the desktop and all removable media, even the CEO who loves their iPod could be stealing millions of dollars worth of data right underneath the chief security officer’s nose.”

Sling Media working on Apple TV support

Sling Media, maker of the SlingBox, has confirmed that it is working on making the streaming device compatible with the Apple TV. This feature would allow the combination of the Apple TV and a SlingBox to stream any media in a user’s iTunes library across the internet, and more importantly to any phone supported by the SlingPlayer software — including Windows Mobile, Palm OS, and Symbian devices. “It is definitely something we will support,” said Brian Jaquet, a Sling Media spokesman.

Washington Post offers HD podcasts for Apple TV

The Washington Post today announced that it is now offering high-definition (HD) podcasts on iTunes. The free video podcasts are designed to be viewed on HD televisions, computers, and the new Apple TV. “In a first for a news organization, the award-winning documentary videos created by the washingtonpost.com multimedia team also conform to the highest specifications for the new Apple TV, making it easier than ever to view extremely quality news content anywhere, any time users want it,” the newspaper said. All washingtonpost.com videos are shot with high-definition cameras, and the series available on iTunes is coded to play in 720p format.

Apple TV commercial airs [updated]

Apple late yesterday began airing the first television commercial for the Apple TV. The 30-second spot, which has already run on several networks, features a scene from the Jack Black movie “School of Rock” with a voice over saying, “It’s on your computer. It’s on your iPod. Now, it’s on your TV.” The Apple TV ad can be viewed below.

Update: As pointed out by “Burnsy” in the comments, the voice over is done by John Krasinski who plays Jim Halpert on NBC’s “The Office.”

Update 2: Apple has now posted high resolution versions of the commercial on its website.

Teen survey shows iPod growth, iPhone awareness

  • April 9, 2007
  • iPod,

Teenagers are buying more iPods than ever, and iPhone awareness is notably high among students, according to results from Piper Jaffray’s bi-annual teen survey. The national study of approximately 500 teenagers’ buying patterns and brand preferences found that iPod market share among teens grew to 82% from 79% in the fall 2006 survey. In addition, the financial firm reported that 84% of students surveyed had heard of Apple’s iPhone, with 25% saying they would pay $500 for the device.

“Apple continues to dominate the portable media player (PMP) market by a large margin,” Piper Jaffray said. “Our study indicated that 78% of high school students own a PMP, and of those students 82% own an iPod. Sony’s share, the second highest, has leveled at about 4%. Students’ awareness of the iPhone and their interest in buying the iPhone are both high. Among high school students, it is clear that Apple is successfully carrying its brand from the media player market into the mobile phone space.”

i-Dog gets ‘Spider-Man’ makeover

imageTiger Electronics, maker of the i-Dog, is releasing two new versions of the musical toy, both inspired by the upcoming Sony Pictures release “Spider-Man 3.” The aptly-named Spi-Dog, available now for $40, retains the music response features and built-in speaker of the original, only in a red and blue Spidey-inspired package. The second Spi-Dog, shipping in two to six weeks but available for pre-order now, dons Spider-Man’s black alien costume, which plays a central role in the film. It sells for $28.

Razer Pro|Type keyboard now available

imageRazer has announced that the Razer Pro|Type keyboard with integrated iPod dock is now for sale. The keyboard is the second to include an integrated iPod dock, and also offers 10 customizable profiles that can be used with the keyboard’s 10 programmable keys to create specific sets of functions for different applications. The keyboard also features line-out and two USB ports. The Razer Pro|Type keyboard will begin shipping on April 20 and sells for $130.

Mix: Yahoo/SanDisk, iSongBook, Digital Jewel Box, Soldier

  • April 9, 2007

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Yahoo and SanDisk have teamed up to launch the Sansa Connect, a $250 portable media device that allows users to download songs wirelessly from the Yahoo music store via Wi-Fi.

Tivoli teamed up with Anthropologie to create a limited edition iSongBook in a floral pattern. Priced at $350, the portable audio system offers the same features as the original iSongBook.

Ironic Sans has come up with a interesting Digital Jewel Box concept. “Here’s how it would work: The DJB sits next to your stereo or computer in its charging dock. Similar to a digital picture frame, it syncs wirelessly to your home network via WiFi, syncing itself with iTunes or whatever digital player you use. When a new song comes on, the DJB’s screen shows the album cover art for that song.”

The U.S. Army soldier “saved by his iPod” in Iraq was actually saved by his body armor, though the iPod did take the initial impact from the bullet. According to Havanalion.com, the soldier didn’t even know he was shot until he tried to play his iPod later in the day and found the bullet hole.

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