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Apple launches iTunes Match in the Netherlands [Updated]

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Apple has officially launched its iTunes Match online music service in the Netherlands. Launched in the U.S. in November, iTunes Match is a $25/year service that matches tracks in a user’s iTunes library with tracks stored on the company’s iTunes Store servers, uploading any tracks it can’t match, and offering users full access to all their music — up to 25,000 tracks — from any of their devices. As noted by Mac Rumors, Dutch collecting society Buma/Stemra announced last week that it had reached a deal with Apple for iTunes Match; links to the service have yet to appear on the Dutch iTunes Store, but Apple has updated its terms and conditions with new text covering the service, and the direct link to the iTunes Match page is now working.

Update: According to AppleInsider, iTunes Match has also launched in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Guatemala, Honduras, Latvia, Lithuania, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela.

IDG: iPad replacing laptop for over 10% of business users

According to a new report from IDG Connect, the iPad is replacing laptops for over 10% business users. The global survey finds that the iPad has completely replaced the laptops of 16 percent of IT and business professionals worldwide, and has partly replaced the laptop for another 54 percent. 91 percent of IT decision-makers said they use their work at least on a partial basis, while 79 percent said they “always” use their iPads “on the move”. Not surprisingly, web browsing is the most popular activity performed by professionals on the device, with 79 percent saying they “always” use their iPad for that task, followed by reading with 76 percent, news consumption with 73 percent, work communication with 54 percent, and social media with 44 percent.

ITC judge rules in Motorola’s favor in case with Apple

An administrative law judge with the International Trade Commission (ITC) has issued an initial ruling in Apple’s patent suit against Motorola, ruling that the latter did not violate Apple’s patents. Ars Technica reports that Motorola was ruled to have not infringed any of the three smartphone-related patents upon which Apple built its case; however, the ruling is still subject to review by a six-person ITC panel. Apple and Motorola have been involved in a series of lawsuits against one other since October 2010, when Motorola Mobility filed a series of suits against Apple, leading to a countersuit from the Mac-maker; Google acquired Motorola Mobility last August, complicating the various disputes.

CES iLounge Pavilion Day 4: Something Different

Among the usual plethora of cases, speakers, earphones and other accessories, we also occasionally see a few products that are a bit unique in their design or approach. Below we’ve highlighted some of the most interesting of these products that we’ve seen.

Sound Egg Chair: Designed with an eclectic look that may remind some of Mork from the classic seventies sitcom, the Sound Egg Chair provides a 5.1 channel surround sound system built into an enclosed, egg-shaped chair.  A swivel arm provides a mounting point for a TV screen and ports on the back provide for audio input from an external amp. A variety of colors and interiors are available, and the Sound Egg Chair price ranges from $1,400 for a base model to $3,000 for a fully-loaded model with leather interior and included HDTV.

 

i-Dice Speakers: Vaguely reminiscent of the fuzzy dice you might find in a car windshield, the i-Dice speakers provide a dock for an iPhone, iPod or iPad and are available in black, white and red versions.

 

3DLuxe’s Cases go beyond the usual 2D designs, incorporating raised relief 3D embossed artwork.

 

The Crystal Pirate optical mouse from Pat Says Now is joined by a variety of other unique and eclectic optical mouse designs.

 

TekChick Designs turns computer parts into jewelry and fashion accessories, recycling old Mac keyboard keys, RAM chips, and other appropriate into earrings. While the designs may not be for everyone, it’s an interesting idea and a good use for components that might otherwise end up in a landfill somewhere.

CEA: iLounge Pavilion sells 95,000 sq. ft. in 3 hours, record attendance and demand

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has just confirmed a staggering statistic: after selling out its entire original footprint last year in two hours—eventually leading to an even larger, 85,000-square foot space—the 2013 iLounge Pavilion just sold over 95,000 square feet of exhibit space in three hours. According to CEA, demand for additional space is at an all-time high.

This year’s Pavilion, which featured over 350 exhibitors, reportedly benefitted from exceedingly strong CES attendance of more than 153,000 people—conservatively measured prior to an official final number—which, if accurate, would represent an all-time attendance high for the world’s largest consumer technology trade show. Designed as a dedicated area for Apple’s iPad, iPhone, iPod, and Mac products, the iLounge Pavilion has been receiving rave reports from exhibitors. Thousands of new products were shown inside the Pavilion, top picks from which were spotlighted in iLounge’s 2012 Best of Show Awards.

Apple releases Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, joins Fair Labor Association

Apple today released its 2012 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report (PDF Link) as part of its ongoing efforts to provide acceptable working conditions for those that are involved in building its products. The report itself includes data from 221 audits of Apple’s overseas suppliers, and was accompanied by a list of 156 suppliers (PDF Link) that represent 97 percent of the company’s supply chain, the first time the company has offered such as list. In addition, Apple joined the Fair Labor Association (FLA) as a Participating Member. According to a FLA press release, the group will “independently assess facilities in Apple’s supply chain and report detailed findings on the FLA website”; Apple is the first technology company to join the Association as a Participating Company. In an email to his employees that was subsequently published by French-language MacGeneration, CEO Tim Cook discussed the moves:

“Team,

We’ve just released our sixth annual update on conditions in Apple’s supply chain, and I want to personally share some of the results with you.

We insist that our manufacturing partners follow Apple’s strict code of conduct, and to make sure they do, the Supplier Responsibility team led more than 200 audits at facilities throughout our supply chain last year. These audits make sure that working conditions are safe and just, and if a manufacturer won’t live up to our standards, we stop working with them.

Thanks to our supplier responsibility program, we’ve seen dramatic improvements in hiring practices by our suppliers. To prevent the use of underage labor, our team interviews workers, checks employment records and audits the age verification systems our suppliers use. These efforts have been very successful and, as a result, cases of underage labor were down sharply from last year. We found no underage workers at our final assembly suppliers, and we will not rest until the number is zero everywhere.

We’ve also used our influence to substantially improve living conditions for the people who make our products. Apple set a new standard for suppliers who offer employee housing, to ensure that dormitories are comfortable and safe. To meet our requirements, many suppliers have renovated their dorms or built new ones altogether.

Finding and correcting problems is not enough. Our team has built an ambitious training program to educate workers about Apple’s code of conduct, workers’ rights, and occupational health and safety. More than one million people know about these rights because they went to work for an Apple supplier. Additionally, Apple offers continuing education programs free of charge at many manufacturing sites in China. More than 60,000 workers have enrolled in classes to learn business, entrepreneurial skills or English.

Finally, we are taking a big step today toward greater transparency and independent oversight of our supply chain by joining the Fair Labor Association. The FLA is a leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving conditions for workers around the world, and we are the first technology company they’ve approved for membership. The FLA’s auditing team will have direct access to our supply chain and they will report their findings independently on their website.

No one in our industry is driving improvements for workers the way Apple is today. I encourage you to take some time to read more about these efforts, so that you can be as proud of Apple’s contributions in this area as I am.” [via Mac Rumors]

Portable Sound Labs at 2012 CES: Most Improved Award

We have to give Portable Sound Labs credit as the “most improved” developer we spotted at CES: after some stale past products, the new design direction it was showing off at this year’s International CES has us genuinely excited. On display were some unique speakers, many of which are still in the prototype phase but are slated to be released later this year. The first is Aire SideKick, an iPad 2 speaker that doubles as a cover for the tablet. It attaches with magnets much like Apple’s Smart Cover, and the final version will be made out of aluminum. This will make the flat speaker thin and light.

Next up are Pipeline and Base, both portable wireless speaker systems. Each is modular and works in sets, or as individual pieces. Pipeline’s central unit is a long horizontal tube, and it comes with two satellite speakers called Drops that attach to either side with magnets. Base, on the other hand, is a large dish-sized cylindrical shape, with detachable speaker units called Slices.

 

What’s unique is the satellites are also Bluetooth-enabled, which means they can serve as standalone units on the go. Both Pipeline and Base come with two of the smaller speakers, but more will be able to be added if purchased individually.

 

We also saw AllSpark, which has a very different design from anything we saw on the show floor. The set is made up of two pyramid-shaped speakers that attach to one another with magnets in their bases, creating a cube that can be held at an angle in the included stand. AllSpark supports a Bluetooth connection, with one speaker acting as the receiver and carrying the audio to the other over a cable. Each of the items is being targeted for very aggressive pricing; AllSpark for instance is slated for a $100 selling price.

CES iLounge Pavilion Day 4: Accessory Highlights for Kids

One of the Apple accessory areas of particular interest to iLounge’s editors are products for kids—speakers, cases, and headphones if they’ve been designed to be safe for little ears. Here are a few of the more noteworthy items we saw at this year’s CES, which is just now winding down in Las Vegas.

Case-Mate: Showed off a huge collection of kids’ cases, including many made from multi-layered rubber with different cool artwork—ice cream, animals, and the like. Some of the cases are abstract versions of animals, others are obviously so. Case-Mate also showed Marvel/Disney-licensed hard shells that had great iconic art from the comic company’s biggest-named series.

 

Electric Friends: This division of Noetic showed four different animal speaker systems targeted at a sub-$60 price point, and they were seriously cute—like Chew Chew the Dog, each has its own name and backstory, with two big speaker grilles protecting eye-shaped audio drivers. The price is right, the design is right, and the sound is respectable.

More images and details are below.

CES iLounge Pavilion Day 4: High-end Highlights

While our focus tends to be on mainstream consumer products, there are several companies here at the iLounge Pavilion that are aiming at the higher end of the market, including the ones we’re spotlighting below.

Known for their carbon fiber cases, Moncarbone is taking the material to the next level with its Art Collection, which features graphics that are subtly integrated into the material using dye injection methods. A nice change of pace from standard carbon fiber cases, which have become a bit stale recently. The cases are priced at $60 each.

 

We’ve seen loads of leather cases for the iPhone over the years, but few as simple or elegant as Eblouir’s slim pouch. Made from high-quality leather, it features two interior slots—one for the iPhone and one that’s cash-sized—as well as a simple closure that uses a long strip of leather to hold the entire thing closed. It sells for $45.

 

Continuing an ongoing trend, there are a number of exhibitors here focusing on female users—and among them is Tyla Rae. This fashion-focused brand offers a wide range of bags for the iPhone , iPod, and iPad. The bags are made primarily from leatherette, and range in price from $60 to $220.

Verizon: LTE a ‘hard requirement’ moving forward

Speaking with Cnet, Keith Lampron, associate director of device marketing with Verizon, has said that the company will require LTE on all new smartphones and tablet devices launched on the network in the future. Calling LTE a “hard requirement”, Lampron said the only exception will be for phones on Verizon’s push-to-talk network, which will be 3G-only until further notice. Apple has yet to announce any LTE-compatible devices, but the statement by Verizon strongly suggests that any future iPhone and iPad devices with cellular data capabilities will be able to connect to the 4G network.

Apple Store pelted with eggs over iPhone 4S delay

Apple’s planned Chinese iPhone 4S launch was marred by an unexpected delay, leading to angry crowds and vandalism. Bloomberg reports that a crowd of shoppers outside Apple’s main store in Beijing began pelting the store with eggs after a man announced that the phone would not go on sale today. The announcement came roughly 15 minutes after the store was scheduled to open, giving the crowd—which was waiting in sub-20 degree temperatures, and began chanting “Open the door!” and “Liars!”—no explanation for the delay. The delay was not country-wide, however, as Apple’s store in Shanghai opened an hour earlier than scheduled to begin selling the device.

Update: Apple has since released a statement on the matter. “The demand for iPhone 4S has been incredible and our stores in China have already sold out,” an Apple spokeswoman told Reuters. “Unfortunately, we were unable to open our store at Sanlitun due to the large crowd. And to ensure the safety of our customers and our employees, iPhones will not be available in our retails stores in Beijing and Shanghai for the time being.”

2012 iLounge Pavilion: A Photo Tour

We can tell you it contains over 350 companies. We can tell you it’s over 80,000 square feet in size. But until you see the iLounge Pavilion with your own eyes, it’s hard to understand its enormousness. This panoramic, birds-eye shot shows you the whole of our North Hall area in all its glory, including overhead booth shots of a wide variety of familiar companies from the Apple accessory universe. Click on the image above to view it full-size, keep reading for more photos from the Pavilion, and don’t forget to check our dedicated mini-site for more coverage from the 2012 International CES!

iLounge Best of Show 2012 video now available

It’s been a busy last few days here in Las Vegas, and we’ve now posted a YouTube video highlighting the best items we’ve seen at the 2012 International CES. The video contains pictures and details of all 25 award winners—the highest number in recent memory—including exciting new products and the best booths we saw at the show. It’s the best five minutes you’ll spend checking out new Apple products this week.

Boostcase at 2012 CES: Snap-On Battery Pack

It’s not the only battery case of its style being announced at the 2012 International CES, but Boostcase has taken the opportunity to unveil its Hybrid Snap-On Case & Detachable Extended Battery for iPhone 4/4S; it’s scheduled for a January 2012 launch. The solution combines a hard plastic shell that features a pear-shaped cutout surrounding the Apple logo and a 1900mAh battery that snaps into place, using the opening to anchor it. At launch, the shell will be available in seven colors while the battery will come in black or white. Boostcase says pricing hasn’t been finalized, but it’ll sell for between $70 and $80.

Lethal Protection at 2012 CES: Out of this World Holder

Lethal Protection’s Life-Phorm is certainly one of the standout accessories we saw at this year’s International CES, and accordingly, it was a finalist for our Best of Show award. The stand and holder works with all of Apple’s handheld devices and with its six articulating plastic legs, can stand on or wrap around pretty much any surface. When it launches in March 2012, Life-Phorm will be available in black, gunmetal grey, or army green, and sell for $60.

DBEST at 2012 CES: Wired and Bluetooth Speakers

U.K.-based DBEST has introduced two new speakers at the 2012 International CES, although no price or release date has been announced for either. The first is Transformative Bluetooth Hi-Fi System (a.k.a. PS4007BT). Packed with two 3W loudspeakers, a microSD slot, an auxiliary port, and Bluetooth connectivity, the speaker can be used for music playback or as a speakerphone. It has rechargeable batteries that last for up to 50 hours of continuous playback per charge. Eiffel (PS4501), on the other hand, is a much smaller speaker but has the same input options. Nicknamed by DBEST as “The Terminator of Mini-Speaker,” Eiffel has an 800mAh battery inside and allows you to customize the colors based on your preferences.

Haier at 2012 CES: Huge Soundbar

Although it’s not nearly as large as the comically oversized iNuke Boom, Haier’s Evoke Soundbar with 3D Sound is still one of the biggest speaker systems we’ve seen at the 2012 International CES. Measuring in at 40” long, it’s certainly the widest practical docking station we’ve come across, and it supports not only iPhones and iPods, but iPads as well. It’ll retail for $400 when it’s released in early 2012.

IDAPT at 2012 CES: Multi-Device Charger + Speaker

IDAPT has previously been in the business of making multi-device chargers, but now has added a speaker system to its lineup with the introduction of S1, which will launch this February for about $150. Not only is the device a Bluetooth 2.0 speaker capable of working with pretty much any gadget you may have lying around, but it also has two docking chargers with interchangeable tips and a USB port too. On top of that, there is FM radio and alarm clock functionality built-in. The design seems to fall somewhere in between classic and modern; some of our editors see allusions to famous Dieter Rams Braun pieces.

Camalen at 2012 CES: Leather iPhone 4/4S Case

At its booth in the 2012 International CES iLounge Pavilion, Camalen has introduced Hexa case for iPhone 4/4S. Borrowing from the design of the company’s previously released iPad 2 case of the same name, the protective leather holder can be used as a stand in a number of angles and either landscape or portrait orientation. No release date has been announced, but the case will sell for $59.

Kanex at 2012 CES: Charging Station for Multiple iPads

It may not be a necessary addition for the average home user, but Kanex’s Sydnee definitely stuck out at the 2012 International CES. This docking station—which will be available for$149—allows users to charge up to four devices at once off of its four 2.1A USB ports. That means that it can fully power that many iPads at full speed, but iPhones and iPods are also supported. There’s also a built-in cable management system, although none of the cables are included; you must provide your own.

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