NBC chief digital officer George Kliavkoff has raised the prospect of an NBC return to the iTunes Store, claiming that the network would “love” to be back, though price and piracy concerns remain sticking points. Speaking in an on-stage interview at the Ad:Tech conference, Kliavkoff said, “If you look at studies about MP3 players, especially leading MP3 players and what portion of that content is pirated, and think about how that content gets on to that device, it has to go through a gatekeeping piece of software, which would be a convenient place to put some antipiracy measures,” obliquely referencing iTunes. He added, “One of the big issues for NBC is piracy. We are financially harmed every day by piracy. It results in us not being able to invest as much money in the next generation of film and TV products.” It remains unclear how Apple’s FairPlay DRM, which protects all iTunes Store-purchased content from piracy, falls short of the company’s needs.
Kliavkoff added that “[w]e’d love to be on iTunes. It has a great customer experience. We’d love to figure out a way to distribute our content on iTunes,” noting that discussions between the companies continue: “we have film distribution with iTunes so yes, we do talk to Apple.” However, Kliavkoff suggested that Apple has too much control over pricing for the iTunes Store, explaining how NBC Universal sets a wholesale price for content it offers to distributors. “They can mark up the price and make a profit or use it as a loss leader to get people in the door. It’s really difficult for us to work with any distribution partner who says ‘Here’s the wholesale price and the retail price,’ especially when the price doesn’t reflect the full value of the product.” Both NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker and Apple CEO Steve Jobs have previously made comments suggesting the two companies would eventually come to an agreement regarding NBC TV shows, which were pulled from the iTunes Store last December following a contract dispute.
Apple has expanded its list of iPhone-related sessions for its Worldwide Developers Conference, which will be held June 9-13 in the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Technical sessions and labs scheduled for the event now include “Audio Development for iPhone,” “iPhone Game Development Lab,” and “How Do I Do That? Tips and Tricks for iPhone Application Development.” Apple has also posted details of two Apple Design Awards for iPhone developers — the iPhone Developer Showcase award “highlights innovative and compelling new iPhone applications built using the Beta iPhone SDK,” while the Best iPhone Web Application award “highlights web applications designed specifically for Safari on iPhone, which offers iPhone users innovative, compelling, valuable, and highly desirable capabilities.” Both awards will be presented during the June event.
Apple TV users familiar with “All HD,” a sub-menu in the device that previously displayed a drab, grid-styled collection of all high-definition movies available for rent, will discover that Apple has just updated that interface with new features. The new “All HD” interface now parallels Apple TV’s “Top Movies,” “Top TV Shows,” “Top Music” and “Top Podcasts” menus, featuring a collection of five banners on the top of the screen, then Cover Flow-style scrolling lists of 25 “Top HD Rentals,” 29 “Just Added” titles, 29 “Must-See HD” titles, and 16 “Historical Dramas in HD” before displaying the old grid-style “All HD” list of high-definition titles. As with Apple TV’s “Top” sections, the Cover Flow scrolling lists can see their titles and contents updated dynamically by Apple, spotlighting different genres and titles.
Proporta has announced it is offering its Shine case for the iPod nano (with video) in denim blue for a limited time. Announced in December, the Shine, previously only available in black or red, is a flip-style patent leather case with magnetic closure, internal mirror, removable lanyard, and cut-outs for access to the nano’s ports and hold switch. Like the black and red models, the denim blue Shine sells for $40, and is available now.
Twentieth Century Fox and Paramount have begun selling new release films on iTunes, joining Disney as the only major studios to offer new releases for purchase through the store. Fox began offering “Juno” for purchase on Tuesday, the same day the DVD and Blu-ray versions were released, while Paramount offered “Beowulf” for purchase not long after its DVD release on Feb. 26. Daily Variety reports that a Fox representative said it’s likely the studio will offer more new releases for sale in the future, with decisions being made on a title-to-title basis. Paramount is currently only “experimenting” with selling new release films on iTunes, according to a studio spokesperson. In the past, Paramount has offered certain older films for purchase through iTunes, but has only recently begun testing new release sales. Both studios are signed on to provide films for the iTunes movie rental service. [via MyAppleMenu]
JBL has announced immediate U.S. availability of an additional model of its On Stage speaker system, On Stage III. Previously released in Asia and originally not expected to be shipped in the U.S., On Stage III is an iPod-only speaker system sharing features and similar dish-shaped styling to earlier JBL On Stage speakers. It appears to be the last On Stage to feature USB connectivity, which is being removed from the upcoming iPhone-compatible sequel, On Stage IIIP.
Confirming a report from eagle-eyed reader Brian V., JBL today said that USB ports will not be included in its upcoming 200- and 400-series On Stage and On Time speakers. Marketed as “OnePoint technology” that would have allowed docked iPods and iPhones to connect to computers near the speakers, the omitted USB ports leave these systems, as well as On Stage IIIP, to serve solely as speaker and charging stations, not synchronization docks.
Finally, readers may have noticed that some recent model JBL On Stage Micro units have begun to appear in stores with product codes that suggest that they are actually On Stage Micro 2s. According to JBL, these units are “the exact same units” but in new iPod nano-matching colors, and do not have any other differences from previously produced On Stage Micro speakers.
Digital Lifestyle Outfitters has introduced its VentMount dashboard mounting systems for the iPhone and iPod touch. The VentMount is a 2-part hard black plastic car mount featuring a secure mounting device, which is attached to a vehicle’s air vents, and a shell which holds the iPhone or iPod touch. The shell allows full access to all ports and controls, and features an integrated rotating belt clip that latches onto the mounting device for in-car use, doubling as a desktop stand away from the vehicle. “The VentMount is an essential car accessory for every iPhone user,” said Andrew Green, vice president of marketing for DLO. “Whether quickly checking a map or taking a call, the iPhone is always secure and perfectly situated for easy, at-a-glance viewing. Once you’ve used the VentMount, it’s hard to live without it.” The DLO VentMount for iPhone and VentMount for iPod touch are available now, and sell for $25. For more information on the DLO VentMount, see our First Look article.
AOL has officially launched the beta version of AOL Mobile Search created specifically for the iPhone and iPod touch. Previewed at the CITA event earlier this month, the iPhone/iPod touch version of Mobile Search was built especially for the devices’ multi-touch interface using AJAX technology. According to the company, it “delivers comprehensive and relevant search results by bringing together content from across the Web and the mobile Web, as well as from Moviefone, MapQuest, AOL CityGuide and other AOL services.” Users can now access AOL Mobile Search for iPhone by visiting search.aol.com from any iPhone or iPod touch.
O2 is set to cut the price of the 8GB iPhone by £100, to £169, according to a Mobile Today report, which has since been confirmed by the carrier. The reduction will apply to all 8GB iPhones purchased with an O2 iPhone tariff, and will run from April 16 (tomorrow) through June 1. “The special offer will make the iPhone an unbeatable proposition in the market, helping O2 to further gain market share,” said an O2 spokesperson. The price cut follows a similar discount on the 8GB iPhone from T-Mobile Germany, which is currently offering tiered pricing from €99 to €249, depending on the tariff selected with the purchase. The 16GB iPhone is not included in either promotion, and will remain £329 from O2.
iHome has announced its iP99, its new iPhone-compatible dual alarm clock radio. The iP99 features a built-in Universal dock that can play and charge both the iPhone and docking iPod models, the ability to wake or sleep to custom playlists, stereo drivers with matching Reson8 speaker chambers and 10W of power, line-in, a full-featured remote with iPhone and iPod menu control, adjustable snooze, an AutoSet clock, a high-contrast LCD display with dimmer, and more. In addition, the iP99 is specially shielded to protect against TDMA noise and interference from the iPhone. The iH99 now available for pre-order through Brookstone, one of two retailers offering the product through the end of summer, or from iHome’s website. iHome also plans to offer the iP9, an iPhone-specific version of the iH9 we’ve reviewed, as a less powerful and less expensive alternative. The iHome iP99 will be available in June and will sell for $150.
Starbucks and iTunes have announced the new Pick of the Week program, in which a new complimentary song or music video will be offered every week as a free download for Starbucks customers. Every Tuesday, more than 7,000 company-operated Starbucks locations in the US will stock a new Pick of the Week download card redeemable on the iTunes Store for a free song or music video, from artists such as Carly Simon, Duffy, Counting Crows, Adele, Sia, Hilary McRae, and more. The first Pick of the Week, available starting today at participating locations, is the new song “Washington Square” by the Counting Crows. Customers will have 60 days from the date the cards are available to redeem them through the iTunes Store.
“With Pick of the Week, Starbucks will leverage its trusted curatorial voice in music and entertainment through its partnership with iTunes to provide our customers with a world-class digital discovery experience,” said Ken Lombard, president Starbucks Entertainment. “Pick of the Week provides an incredible way for Starbucks customers to discover great new music and videos for free on the iTunes Store,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of iTunes. “With the world’s largest online catalog of music and video there is truly something for everyone.”
The Pick of the Week program follows a similar Starbucks/iTunes promotion from last October, Song of the Day, which offered customers the opportunity to pick up a new complementary download each day for a month. According to the companies, the promotion resulted in more than six million songs being downloaded.
As one of seven titles surreptitiously dropped last week from the iTunes Store’s list of iPod Games, due to its lack of compatibility with current-generation iPod classic and iPod nano models, PopCap Games’ Bejeweled ($5) has just been re-released in updated, fully compatible form. As one of the only iPod games to also be available in an iPod touch and iPhone-compatible format—currently free from PopCap’s web site—Bejeweled lets the player make as many matches of colored gems as possible inside an 8-by-8 grid.
Once again without any description or explanation, Apple has released version 2.0.2 of the Apple TV software, a minor update to the version 2.0 release from February, 2008. Following version 2.0.1’s release last month, users discovered a collection of small tweaks to the device including a new Genres sub-menu for stored movies, podcast-to-iTunes synchronization, and interface improvements, as well as a bug that impacted some users’ ability to connect to 5GHz wireless networks. It is unclear at this point what version 2.0.2 has added, and whether it has corrected or introduced any bugs. The new software is available as a free download from the device’s General settings menu under Update Software.
FlyTunes, a free mobile Internet radio service with a dedicated streaming interface for the iPhone and iPod touch, has announced a partnership with AccuRadio.com that will bring the latter’s 320-plus radio channels to iPhone and iPod touch users. FlyTunes will power the new AccuRadio iPhone portal, which will offer stations for rock, pop, jazz, country, classical music, Broadway, and more. “The move to the mobile Internet has been a big question in the broadcasting industry in the past few years,” said FlyTunes CEO Sam Abadir. “Today’s announcement that AccuRadio is bringing over 320 stations to millions of iPhone and iPod Touch owners proves that mobile Internet radio is now ready for prime time—and I expect terrestrial broadcasters to follow this trend shortly.” The new service is available immediately and can be accessed from any iPhone or iPod touch by visiting accuradio.com.
If the latest summary pages generated by the iTunes Store and Apple TV can be believed, Apple has reached its previously stated goal of offering 100 “high definition video[s] with 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound” for rent, yet still lags considerably behind its promised 1,000 standard-definition rentals—numbers originally promised by the end of February, but missed by wide margins. A count this afternoon of titles listed in Apple TV’s “All HD” section showed that the company is currently offering 197 high-definition movie rentals through Apple TV, with 100 of those rentals including Dolby Digital sound, and the remaining 97 offering only stereo sound. Notably, one of the Dolby Digital rentals—American Gangster—is available in two versions, making the company technically just shy of the 100 mark, assuming that its All HD tally is comprehensive.
By comparison, the iTunes Store’s standard-definition rental number remains markedly below 1,000, though searches of the Store’s catalog yield different totals. While the store’s All Rentals section shows a total of 390 standard-definition movies currently available for rent, up only modestly from the 384 offered in early March, a Power Search of the store suggests that 604 movie rentals are currently available; the difference appears to be attributable to the “All Rentals” section excluding movies that are available for both rental and purchase. It is unclear whether Apple is still attempting to ramp up numerically to compete with Amazon’s Unbox and Netflix’s Instant Watching movie rental service, which already offer thousands of titles.
Blackmagic Design has introduced its new Blackmagic Video Recorder, a compact USB video capture device that records videos in h.264 format for use with devices such as the iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV. The Video Recorder features cords for component, NTSC, PAL, and S-Video input, and the included software allows users to select their device, so videos will be encoded in the proper size. The Video Recorder will also be available in an SDI version for professional use. The Blackmagic Video Recorder is now available for pre-order and sells for $119; it will begin shipping in July.
A Radio Shack flier circulated this weekend featured an image of a jailbroken iPod touch. The picture shows both the Installer.app and MobileChat (an instant messaging application) icons, programs that are found only on jailbroken units.
Scientists from IBM have announced a new storage technology called “racetrack,” which would enable a device such as an iPod to hold about half a million songs, or 3,500 films, and cost less to produce. In addition, the new technology, which uses the “spin” of an electron to store data, would require much less power, running on a single charge for “weeks at a time,” and would last for decades. According to IBM, the technology is still in the “exploratory” stage; it expects products based on the technology to be available within ten years.
TouchBrowser, a new Windows Mobile application from Makayama Software, aims to bring an iPhone-like browsing experience to Pocket Internet Explorer. The application allows users to scroll through a web page using only their finger, introduces finger-friendly keyboards for entering URLs and searches, and more. TouchBrowser is available now for $15; a video demo can be seen here.
Apple plans to expand the iPhone’s language support, based on new files found in the latest version of the iPhone 2.0 beta firmware (5A240d). In addition to pre-existing languages including French, Russian, English, Italian, and German, the new firmware introduces support for Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish, Korean, and Portuguese.
Now available for under $100—$400 less than the Polk Audio I-Sonic ES2—Jensen has released the second HD Radio-equipped speaker dock for iPod. The JiMS-525 Docking Digital HD Radio System for iPod combines a top-mounted iPod dock with AM/FM/HD Radio tuning, stereo speakers, an LCD display, dual alarm clocks, and a remote control. Though it carries a suggested retail price of $160, the JiMS-525 is surprisingly already available for as little as $90, as it is already set for replacement by an updated model, JiMS-525a, which will add iTunes Tagging functionality and iPhone compatibility. This updated model will likely sell for closer to the prior model’s full retail price.
If you haven’t yet entered our Vestalife Ladybug Giveaway, there’s still time to do so. In the contest, iLounge and Vestalife are giving away four Vestalife Ladybug Speaker Systems to lucky iLounge readers. To enter, visit the official giveaway page, and fill out and submit the simple form provided. The contest runs until April 25, 2008 at 11:59 PM Pacific Time and only one entry is allowed per person; official rules can be found on the giveaway page. Good luck!
Nike plans to expand its Nike+ program to include the iPhone and iPod touch, according to a new report. Stuff.tv, visiting Nike’s headquarters in Oregon, said a Nike+ spokesperson confirmed the expansion, adding that it could also make use of the devices’ Wi-Fi capabilities (and possibly the iPhone’s upcoming 3G connection) to allow users to update their training log on the fly, without the need for docking with a computer. This news follows a set of recently published Apple patent applications, which outlined a digital fitness program for iTunes and touchscreen digital media devices.