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Apple TV 2.0 guided tour now available

Apple has posted a guided video tour of Apple TV software version 2.0, which walks viewers through most of the major new features and interface changes of the software. Announced during Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote address, and explained further in a feature article, version 2.0 of the Apple TV software — also called Apple TV Take 2 — will allow users to browse, purchase, and rent content from the iTunes Store, perhaps most notably enabling the rental of high-definition films directly from the set-top box. The software was originally expected to be released this week; however, it was declared “not quite finished” by Apple, and is now expected to be available in the next two weeks. The update will be a free software upgrade for current Apple TV owners.

‘Rough Cut’ of iPhone development book now available

A pre-release, “Rough Cuts” version of iPhone Open Application Development by Johnathan A. Zdziarski is now available from O’Reilly Media. Zdziarski is the developer of the first fully-functional application using the open iPhone toolkit, and most recently was responsible for explaining the situation regarding release of the iPhone 1.1.3 jailbreak update. According to O’Reilly’s web site, the book “explains in clear language how to create applications using Objective-C and the iPhone API, which in some ways resembles Apple’s desktop API and in some ways strikes new ground. After covering installation of the toolkits and some background about the operating system and Objective-C, the book offers detailed recipes and working examples for everyone’s favorite iPhone features. Graphics and audio programming, the CoreImage and CoreSurfaces interfaces for games programming, interfacing with iTunes, and the use of sensors are all covered.” Users who purchase the online Rough Cuts version can send suggestions, bug fixes, and comments directly to the author and editors, helping to shape the final release. The Rough Cuts version of the book is available from O’Reilly for $20 for an online-only copy. A pre-order of the print book runs $26, or users can purchase a bundle that offers both early online access and a final print copy for $44.

Evidence of Italian carrier found in iPhone 1.1.3 firmware

A carrier bundle found inside the iPhone’s 1.1.3 software package suggests that TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile) will be the device’s exclusive carrier in Italy. Macity reports (translated link) that bundles for AT&T in the U.S., Orange in France, O2 in the UK, and T-Mobile in Germany are all present in the software package, alongside a file named “TIM_Italy.bundle,” the only bundle associated with a yet-unannounced network partner. Previously, a file named “TIM_Italy.plist” appeared in iPhone firmware version 1.1.2, offering further evidence that Apple intends for the telecom to be the handset’s carrier in Italy. According to the report, sources which Macity considers reliable had previously said that TIM has already completed negotiations with Apple to carry the iPhone, and that company is working towards a pre-summer launch of the device.

iTunes passes RealPlayer in unique users

According to data from Nielsen Online, iTunes has passed RealPlayer in unique users to become the second most popular streaming media player on the market, trailing only Microsoft’s Windows Media Player. The data shows that iTunes was the only player with a positive growth rate over the last year, growing nearly 27% from Dec. 2006 to Dec. 2007 to an estimated 35.7 million unique users. Windows Media Player grew only slightly over the same time period, to nearly 76 million estimated unique users. Usage of the standalone Quicktime Player fell slightly over the period, while RealPlayer usage fell 17.5%.

Nearly half of U.S. kid downloaders use iTunes

A new report from the NPD Group has found that nearly half of U.S. kids download music from iTunes. The group estimates that up to 70% of U.S. kids aged 9-14 download music in a given month, with 49% using iTunes. Another 26% use Limewire, while an estimated 16% download music from MySpace. The NPD Group blames parents who let their children use the web unsupervised for the high percentage of illegal downloads. “The music industry hoped that litigation and education might encourage parents to keep better tabs on their kids’ digital music activities,” said NPD analyst Russ Crupnick in a statement releasing the reports results, “but the truth is many kids continue to share music via P2P.” According to Crupnick, two-thirds of these kids who use the internet do so unsupervised, while another 59% say they download music on their own, without parental supervision. “Findings in this report suggest that the industry can still do more to promote specific ways children can obtain digital music legally, through pre-paid accounts and gift cards,” Crupnick added. “Another potential way to reach kids is through industry-sanctioned, ad-supported Web destinations where kids can obtain digital music safely and legally.” [via Macworld UK]

[Note: This story’s title was updated after publication to clarify that the 49% statistic refers to the percentage of children who download, as opposed to the total percentage of children using iTunes in the general U.S. population.]

Amazon to acquire Audible.com for $300 million

Amazon.com has announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire Audible Inc. for approximately $300 million. Audible.com is the leading online provider of digital spoken word content, and is the preeminent provider of audiobooks for the iTunes Store. “Audible.com offers the best customer experience, the widest content selection and the broadest device compatibility in the industry,” said Steve Kessel, Amazon.com’s senior vice president for worldwide digital media. “Working together, we can introduce more innovations and bring this format to an even wider audience.” “This deal brings together two pioneering companies that share a long history of ceaseless focus on improving the customer experience,” said Donald Katz, founder and chief executive of Audible.com. “We are very excited to be joining a company as innovative as Amazon.com.” Under terms of the agreement, Amazon will make a cash tender offer to purchase all of the outstanding shares of Audible.com for $11.50 per share.

iPhone Visual Voicemail developer up for award

Comverse, the company behind Visual Voicemail for iPhone, has announced that the feature has been selected as a finalist for the 2008 GSMA Global Mobile Award in the Best Mobile Messaging Service category. According to Comverse, which bills itself as “the world’s leader in visual voicemail,” the feature was chosen based on its “innovativeness, interoperability between devices and between networks, ability to generate new revenue opportunities for the operator, user experience and take-up of the product.” “We are honored to be among the finalists for this coveted industry award,” said Comverse Chief Marketing Officer John Bunyan. “I extend heartfelt congratulations to the Comverse teams for an outstanding product that has attracted international recognition.” The winner will be announced on Tuesday, February 12th at the GSMA Global Mobile Awards Gala Dinner held in The National Palace in Barcelona, during the Mobile World Congress.

Apple TV 2.0 update delayed

Apple has announced that its anticipated Apple TV 2.0 software update, expected to be released this week, will be delayed. In a press release, the company said that the “Apple TV software update, which allows users to rent high definition movies directly from their widescreen TVs, is not quite finished. Apple now plans to make the free software download available to existing Apple TV customers in another week or two.” Announced during Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote address on Jan. 15, the update will bring a revised interface to the set-top box, as well as the ability to browse and purchase content from the iTunes Store directly from the Apple TV, and the ability to rent both DVD- and HD-quality movies.

iPod touch apps poll ends, Your iPod poll opens

With over 3,000 votes counted, our most recent poll—“Are iPod touch’s 5 new apps worth $20?”—is now closed. Though the results changed a little from day to day, the proportion of voters saying “yes” and “no” stayed close during the last two weeks, with 40% of responding readers voting yes, and 60% of readers saying no. Interestingly, users who actually own iPod touches were somewhat more likely to say “no” to the question, while “yes” responses were even between owners and non-owners. Thanks for your vote!

Today, we’re opening a new iLounge poll: “Which current model iPod do you personally use the most?” We’re interested in seeing whether you bought something in Apple’s late-2007 iPod and iPhone lineup, or whether you’re primarily using an older iPod model. Cast your vote now by looking for the orange-labelled iLounge Poll on the left hand side of the iLounge.com homepage!

PBS launches iTunes U content

PBS and local PBS stations from San Francisco (KQED), Washington, D.C. (WETA), Boston (WGBH), and New York (WNET) have begun offering videos and other educational resources on iTunes U. The initial offerings, which are available in the Beyond Campus section of iTunes U, include educational video clips, lectures, interviews, teacher’s guides, and other materials. “PBS and our leading stations are at the forefront of the digital education movement,” said Rob Lippincott, PBS’ Senior VP, Education. “A wonderful demonstration of this commitment is the breadth of state-of-the-art educational content available on iTunes U.” “iTunes U presents a tremendous opportunity for WGBH to expand the reach of our educational TV, radio and Web content to a global audience,” said Jon Abbott, President, WGBH. “We look forward to making even more of our programming available in the future by regularly adding new video clips and lectures to our presence on iTunes U.”

O2 to offer iPhone business tariffs in 2008

Following last week’s announcement of iPhone business plans by AT&T, UK iPhone carrier O2 has said that it plans to offer the iPhone to business users sometime later this year. Speaking in an interview with UK gadget web site Pocket-lint, an O2 spokesperson said that although the iPhone is aimed at consumers, the company “wants to offer it as a service for business users looking to use the smartphone in their office.” Previously, the company had directed business users interested in the iPhone toward individual plans, stating, “The iPhone is currently only available on consumer eighteen-month contracts and not yet on business tariffs and contracts. Business customers can still buy an iPhone but they will need to take out a new 18-month consumer contract on an iPhone tariff.”

Mix: Cover Stream, SuperSync, Studywiz Spark, Wi-Fi

  • January 29, 2008

Snarb.tk has released Cover Stream 1.2, the latest version of its iTunes controller for Mac that allows users to access iTunes’ Cover Flow feature directly from the desktop. Cover Stream 1.2 adds a Mini Flow mode, with the ability to double-click on an album to start playback, as well as a new status window, jewel case artwork, a volume indicator, colored text, and other improvements. Cover Stream requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later and sells for $15.

Music library synchronization software SuperSync has been updated to version 2.2. SuperSync allows Mac and PC users to synchronize their music libraries both locally and over a network. Version 2.2 adds the ability to import songs and playlists from the iPod, and also contains a number of bug fixes. SuperSync 2.2 is available for both Mac and PC, and runs $29 for a two-machine license.

Studywiz Spark, a new online learning tool for K-12 education, has announced that it has customized its online learning management system for the iPhone, iPod, and iPod touch. Studywiz Spark enables teachers, students and parents to actively participate in education outside the classroom. “Schools are now beginning to integrate new mobile technologies into their learning strategies. The mobile version of Studywiz Spark has specifically customized the Dynamic LearnSpace for leading devices like the iPhone, iPod and iPod touch,” said Bob Longo, Etech, Executive Vice President of North America. “Studywiz Spark’s mobile approach simplifies and sensibly adapts to the value of these exciting devices, which promotes active learning and extends the 21st Century learning environment beyond traditional classroom walls.”

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune suggests that Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as the iPod touch and iPhone should allow parents to effectively lock the devices’ internet capabilities for the protection of their children, similar to how parental controls work on desktop computers. “Parents are pretty good about figuring out what things cost, like ringtone downloads for a mobile phone, because they are listed on mobile phone bills,” said Parry Aftab, who runs an Internet safety group called Wiredsafety.org. “But they are bad at the other stuff.”

Munster: Apple working on more Wi-Fi enabled iPods

  • January 29, 2008
  • iPod,

In a recent research note, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said he believes Apple is working on more internet-enabled iPods in an effort to move the brand beyond the portable music player market. “We believe that the iPod touch is the first of several Internet-connected iPods that Apple is currently developing,” Munster said in the note. “With 70% market share, we believe Apple is in the driver’s seat in terms of transforming the portable music market into a portable computing market.” Munster’s comments in some ways reflect those made by Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer during the company’s first quarter results conference call, in which the exec described the iPod touch as “the first mainstream Wi-Fi mobile platform.” Munster also reiterated his buy rating and $250 price target on shares of Apple’s stock (AAPL).

Developers ready for iPhone, iPod touch SDK

Anticipation is growing for developers awaiting Apple’s software development kit for the iPhone and iPod touch, a new report suggests. The SDK, promised to be released sometime in February by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, will allow third-party developers to develop native applications for the touch screen devices. In the meantime, many developers are left wondering how Apple will handle the implementation, installation, and distribution of the applications. “We definitely want the SDK,” says Christopher Allen, who runs online developer community iPhoneWebDev. “But the real questions are, ‘How is it going to integrate with iTunes? Are we going to be able to get paid? If so, how much?’ “

Some developers believe that Apple might choose to take control of what applications make it on to its devices, and also secure itself a percentage of application revenue, by distributing third-party applications through iTunes. Cabel Sasser, co-founder of the independent Mac software firm Panic, believes this distribution method will help developers. Calling iTunes “the holy grail of distribution,” Sasser says, “It could open us up to an entirely new market and really change our business. Not everyone can locate, download and install software from the Internet.” However, this distribution model might also pose problems for developers who choose to offer their software for free. “Our philosophy is not to charge users,” says Jonathan Zweig of Jirbo, whose web-based games for the iPhone and iPod touch are amongst the most popular iPhone applications listed on Apple’s web site. “If people can’t get it free from us, they will get it from someone else.” Despite these differences of opinion, most developers agree that the iPhone represents a great new opportunity for their industry. “[The iPhone] opens up an unbelievable amount of opportunity for new ideas and game-changing software,” says Sasser. “We’re chomping at the virtual bit … just counting down the days.”

Jim Henson’s Farscape, Fraggle Rock now on iTunes

Apple has added its first offerings from the Jim Henson Company to the iTunes Store. The initial offerings include the first season (22 episodes) of the sci-fi series Farscape and the first season (24 episodes) of the critically-acclaimed puppet series Fraggle Rock. As with other iTunes TV show offerings, the shows are priced at $1.99 per episode. “We continue to be honored and thrilled by our fans’ ongoing desire to support their favorite shows and view them using all formats of media,” said Nicole Goldman, Vice President of Marketing and Publicity of The Jim Henson Company. “We know our fans have been asking for these titles on iTunes and through our partnership with New Video, we hope to serve our loyal supporters and also introduce these beloved shows to new audiences.” In addition, the Jim Henson Company has said that both series will be available in their entirety in the coming months.

O2 improves voice, SMS limits on iPhone contracts

O2, the iPhone’s carrier in the UK, has announced improved tariffs for iPhone users, offering more voice minutes and text messages. iPhone users on the most affordable (£35) plan will see their minutes jump from 200 to 600 a month, and their SMS limit go from 200 to 500 messages a month. Users signed up for the £45 plan will now get the same allowances as the old £55 plan: 1200 minutes (up from 600) and 500 text messages. Finally, iPhone users who were previously signed up for the £55 tariff may either drop down to the £45 plan, cutting their monthly bill by £10, or move to a £75 a month plan, which offers 3000 minutes and 500 SMS messages. The move is part of a broader improvement in O2’s offering for all mobile customers. The new tariffs will be available from February 1; O2 says that existing iPhone customers will be automatically transferred to the new plans by mid-March at the latest. [via Macworld UK]

PumpOne launches exercise video site for iPhone, iPod touch

PumpOne, producers of personal training programs for the iPod, has launched Pump10, a new exercise video site designed specifically for use on the iPhone or iPod touch. Pump10 offers users weekly 10-minute video workouts, fitness tips, and personal training advice. “We designed Pump10 workouts to help iPhone users get in shape, 10 minutes at a time,” said PumpOne exercise physiologist Declan Condron. “The iPhone’s fantastic portability and access to rich internet content anywhere and anytime means there are no excuses for not getting into better shape in the new year.” Pump10 is a free service and is accessible by visiting Pump10.com from any iPhone or iPod touch.

iPod classic 1.1 line out voltage bug reported

  • January 28, 2008
  • iPod,

Following Apple’s release of the latest software for iPod classic, version 1.1, some users are reporting that the device now emits pulses of electrical current through its bottom line-out audio pins when it is turned off. According to a series of reports on the Head-Fi audio forums, in which users frequently connect high-end headphones to their iPods using bottom-connecting amplifier accessories, static-like noises and distortion can be heard from the turned-off iPod classic, resulting from what user Nine from Littleton, Colorado reports as “~.5v of DC on the line out whenever the iPod is off.” 

“This could be really bad for your headphones if you are connected through a DC coupled amplifier (like my mini^3),” the user says. “I also plugged it into my scope, and verified the .5v is usually just DC, but that occasionally (maybe 10% of the time) it’s got some triangular pulses on it.” While this issue does not appear to affect the classic’s headphone port, and won’t impact the majority of iPod users’ headphones, those using Dock Connector-based amplifiers may want to downgrade their iPods to an earlier version of the firmware, or exercise caution when using other iPod accessories. [Thanks, Larry]

iLive debuts new iPod sound bar system

iLive has introduced its new iT188B sound bar-style speaker system for iPod. The iT188B features a remote-controlled, motorized iPod Dock, dual built-in subwoofers, auxiliary input, dual A/V inputs, video output, an AM/FM Radio, a built-in clock, and a full-function remote with iPod controls. “We worked very hard to bring the very best quality sound and functionality with this product,” said Bill Fetter, CEO of DPI, Inc. The iLive iT188B will be available in April for $100 at major retailers including Wal-Mart, Sears, and Target.

iPhone 1.1.3 update causing SMS troubles?

According to a number of reports, the latest update of the iPhone’s software, version 1.1.3, is causing SMS text messaging problems for some users. A discussion thread on Apple’s support site, “SMS conversations 1.1.3,” now contains close to 200 replies discussing the problem of SMS messages being received and displayed in an incorrect order. Apple has posted a document which acknowledges the problem, but does not list it as a bug. Titled “iPhone: SMS messages may be displayed in the wrong order when sending or receiving text messages,” the document suggests that the problem is caused by the iPhone “not displaying the same date and time setting as the carrier network time.” Apple suggests that setting the iPhone up to receive the network time will alleviate the problem, but also warns that if problems continue, “the issue may be occurring because messages are being sent in quick succession (more common if the messages consist of only a few short words).” [via InformationWeek]

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