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Analyst: Apple may be forced to offer subscription service [updated]

Apple’s iTunes Music Store is facing its strongest challenger in subscription services from Napster and others. At least one analyst says that subscriptions will outpace downloads within the next five years.

“Subscriptions are a great thing for real fans because you get access to a lot of music. The appeal is it’s on-demand. As long as you keep paying, its all there,” Jupiter Research analyst David Card says.

Many believe Apple CEO Steve Jobs will change his stance on subscriptions (he says they won’t succeed because consumers want to own, not rent) if iTunes and the iPod are challenged.

“The only reason they have iTunes is to sell iPods. If it turns out subscription services are important to sell iPods, they’ll probably get into that business,” Card says.

Update: Today at the iHollywood Forum Digital Living Room conference taking place in San Mateo, California, RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser said that one day Apple CEO Steve Jobs will have to move iTunes to subscriptions. “The day that they introduce subscriptions is the day that Steve Jobs has the brilliant revelation that subscriptions are a good thing,” Glaser said.

Motorola iTunes phone to be announced this week?

Motorola is expected to announce its first handset with iTunes integration on Thursday, March 10, according to a Newsweek article. While not noted by the publication, CeBIT 2005, an electronics event considered to be the largest in the world, will kick off in Hannover, Germany, on Thursday. Previous reports have said the flagship iTunes phone will be called “ROKR.”

“The music phones to be launched this month will allow customers to play their existing iTunes songs, and presumably buy new ones, on their Motorola phones,” writes Newsweek’s Brad Stone. “The problem for Motorola and Apple is that wireless operators like Sprint are interested in setting up those stores themselves.” Motorola CEO Ed Zander argues that consumers will “demand brands like iTunes but concedes that the carriers will ultimately get the first shot at selling songs on phones.”

iTunes Music Store tops 300 million songs sold

Apple today announced that more than 300 million songs have been purchased and downloaded from the iTunes Music Store since it launched. The company also said that the benefit single “Across the Universe,” available exclusively on the iTMS, debuted at No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, making it the most successful exclusive digital track ever in its first week of release.

Apple, Napster in spat over music security

Apple CEO Steve Jobs contacted top record industry executives Tuesday, alerting them to a security flaw in the Napster To Go service, the Los Angeles Times reports. “Thought you should know if you haven’t heard about this,” Jobs reportedly wrote in an e-mail that directed recipients to a website detailing how to convert Napster’s copy-protected downloads into unprotected files.

Napster CEO Chris Gorog countered with his own e-mail to the labels later Tuesday, saying that such copying schemes were neither new nor a Napster exclusive problem. He said such programs are time-consuming because they “essentially work like a tape recorder,” converting files as they play. Gorog said it is “trivial” to download a free utility to circumvent Apple’s digital rights management to unlock “a large collection of iTunes music in seconds.”

Motorola E1060 not the iTunes phone

As first reported by MobileTracker, Motorola’s E1060 mobile phone is not the long-awaited iTunes phone as widely thought. Motorola said Wednesday that the E1060, shown earlier this week at the 3GSM conference in France, was only used to demonstrate iTunes and is not the iTunes phone despite a widely cited Reuters report that said the opposite.

“The E1060 was used to demonstrate the iTunes client; however, it is not our iTunes product,” Motorola said in a statement acquired by iLounge. “As you would expect, for competitive reasons, we are holding information (including specs and design) very closely until the appropriate time and venue for a product launch.”

MobileTracker said the iTunes phone could be officially introduced at CTIA Wireless 2005, which takes place next month in New Orleans, LA.

Motorola debuts iTunes-compatible E1060 mobile phone

pic At the 3GSM trade event in France today, Motorola unveiled a slew of new mobile phones, including the first music handset to support Apple’s iTunes. The Motoroal E1060 features a 1.3 megapixel camera for still photos or video, a VGA camera for 2-way video conferencing, Bluetooth wireless technology, and audio and video streaming with playback support for MPEG4 (AAC), WMV/WMA and MP3 files. The phone will ship with 32MB of internal memory and is expandable up to 512MB with removable memory.

Motorola said iTunes will become the default music player on Motorola handsets, but that it won’t be an exclusive deal. “We’re committed to have iTunes as the default music client, but we’ll also continue to support other music players such as RealPlayer (from RealNetworks),” said Amer Husaini, vice president for Motorola’s mobile devices group in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

The Motorola E1060 is expected to be available in the fourth-quarter of 2005. Pricing was not announced.

Apple offers discounted Grammy award-winning music

Apple announced today that it is offering special pricing on all albums that include a Grammy award-winning track on the iTunes Music Store (iTMS) in the US. Starting today, all qualifying albums can be downloaded for $2 off its original cost, which brings the price of most albums down to $7.99.

The special version of “Across the Universe” performed live during the CBS Grammy telecast by leading artists including Bono, Stevie Wonder, Norah Jones, Alicia Keys, Velvet Revolver, and Tim McGraw is also available as a 99 cent download exclusively on the iTMS in the US and Canada, with all proceeds going to the Southeast Asia tsunami relief efforts.

Pepsi-iTunes Super Bowl ads rank poorly; Napster bombs

Both of Pepsi’s Super Bowl commercials for this year’s iTunes promotion were ranked poorly by consumers in USA Today’s Ad Meter survey released Monday. The 45-second spot, which features various tunes coming out of Pepsi bottles when the caps are lifted, placed 27th out of the 55 most popular ads with a score of 6.01. Pepsi’s 30-second spot, which features Gwen Stefani and Eve and their hit song “Rich Girl,” ranked 45th with a score of 5.31.

Unfortunately for Napster, its anti-Apple commercial came in dead last of all the Super Bowl commercials in 55th place. The Napster ad, which received a score of 4.37, featured the company’s cat icon at a football game holding up a sign comparing the price of the new Napster To Go service with Apple’s iTunes Music Store.

For a record seventh year in a row, Anheuser-Busch won USA Today’s Ad Meter consumer ranking. This year’s winner featured a skydiver who refuses to jump. An instructor tosses out a six-pack of Bud Light to try and get him to. The guy still doesn’t jump, but the pilot does.

All of this year’s Super Bowl ads can be viewed at iFlim in QuickTime format.

Apple adds 1,000+ Chinese tracks to 15 iTunes stores

“Apple and Universal Music are expanding their range to online music consumers by selling Chinese-language pop music for the first time in North America and Europe,” reports the Financial Times.

“More than 1,000 tracks by top Chinese artists on the books of Universal, the world’s biggest record company, including Jacky Cheung, Kelly Chen, Hacken Lee and Alan Tam, will be available from Apple’s iTunes stores in 15 countries, including the US, UK and Canada.

Universal says it is the first time this range of Chinese music will be legally available online outside its region of origin.”

Second Pepsi-iTunes ad features Gwen Stefani, Eve

The second Pepsi-iTunes commercial—which will air alongside the ad released earlier this week at the Super Bowl on Sunday—has been leaked onto the Web. It features the song “Rich Girl” by Gwen Stefani featuring Eve, who both make a brief appearance at the end of the ad. The track comes from the Gwen Stefani album Love, Angel, Music, Baby. The new commercial can be viewed here. The first Pepsi-iTunes spot, called “Bottle Songs,” can be seen here.

Pepsi to air ‘Bottle Songs’ iTunes ad during Super Bowl

Pepsi today announced details of the four commercials it will be running during this Sunday’s Super Bowl. As previously reported, the company will air an ad for this year’s Pepsi-iTunes promotion, which kicked off on Monday. Pepsi said the iTunes ad is called “Bottle Songs” and features “a number of popular tracks from a series of music genres” and “illustrates how winning a free song from the Pepsi iTunes promotion is as easy as opening a bottle of Pepsi.” It will be shown in 30 and 45-second spots.

As part of the Pepsi-iTunes music giveaway, Pepsi is giving away 200 million free songs from the iTunes Music Store. Those who redeem a free song download will also be automatically entered in a sweepstakes to win one of 1,700 iPod minis.

Update: The ad can now be viewed here or here.

Celebrities line up to get their playlists on iTunes

The Boston Herald reports that Apple’s iTunes Music Store now has over 150 celebrity playlists, and that more and more stars are offering up their favorite songs every week.

“Celebrities usually approach iTunes, wanting to participate,” said Alex Luke, Apple’s director of music programming and label relations. “We work with them to schedule the playlists when it makes sense for everyone as their movie premieres or as their new album is released.’‘

Luke said Apple does not provide free products or music downloads to the celebrities. “No, everyone loves music and participates simply to share their favorites,” he said. “We’ve seen that everyone, celebrities included, love to play the role of DJ.”

iTunes Music Store users report errors

Several members of both the iLounge Forums and Apple Discussions websites are reporting a number of issues with the iTunes Music Store regarding both previewing and purchasing music.

Purchasing: The “Error -50” message appears when the user attempts to purchase a song or is in the process of downloading a purchased song.  The purchase and/or downloads subsequently fail.

Previewing: The previewing issue causes many of the 30-second streaming previews offered in the Music Store to terminate prematurely after anywhere from 3 to 22 seconds.  It appears that this issue is independent of the current streaming buffer size and prebuffering options offered in iTunes Preferences.

Though the reasons for the errors are unclear, the issue may have something to do with the recent upgrade to iTunes 4.7.1, which coincided with the release of the iPod shuffle.  We invite users to post their experiences/problems in the comments below.  Please be sure to include such information as your location and iTunes software version.  Click on Read More if you need additional details.

iTunes Music Store tops 250 million songs sold

Apple today announced that more than 250 million songs have been purchased and downloaded from the iTunes Music Store since it launched. The company said that iTunes users are now downloading 1.25 million songs per day—an annual run rate of nearly 500 million songs per year.

“When we launched the iTunes Music Store we were hoping to sell a million songs in the first six months—now we’re selling over a million songs every day, and we’ve sold over a quarter billion songs in total,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “iTunes is leading the way into the digital music era and together with iPod is changing the way millions of music lovers find and enjoy their music.”

NFL, Audible bringing game broadcasts to iPods

The National Football League and Audible today announced an agreement to make recordings of this year’s remaining playoff games available for portable audio players, including Apple’s iPod. Football fans will be able to purchase the recordings at Apple’s iTunes Music Store starting next week. The first recordings for sale under the agreement will be this Sunday’s NFL conference championships, according to the two companies. Replays of the Super Bowl will also be available under the deal.

Apple to launch new Pepsi-iTunes promotion [updated]

pic Apple will kick off another promotion with Pepsi later this month to give away 200 million free songs from the iTunes Music Store and nearly 2,000 iPod minis. Apple revealed details of the new promotion earlier this evening on its Web site, but later removed the page. As readers may recall, Apple and Pepsi launched a huge promotion at last year’s Super Bowl to give away 100 million downloads. The two companies also recently launched a similar promotion in Canada.

Starting at midnight on January 31, consumers will be able to look for codes under the caps of specially-marked 20-oz. and 1-liter bottles of Pepsi products for alphanumeric codes and a “Free song” message, which provides one free song download from the iTunes Music Store. After redeeming your free song code, you will automatically be credited with one entry in the iPod mini sweepstakes, which will give away one iPod mini every hour (24 a day) from February 2 to April 11, with one final drawing on May 2. Apple said it will be giving away approximately 1,700 iPod minis—all of which will be silver with an engraved Pepsi logo on the back.

Free iTunes downloads must be redeemed by May 23, while the iPod mini sweepstakes period ends on April 30. Apple said the odds of winning a free song are 1 in 3 and that code entry limits are 10 per day or 200 total. The company said the odds of winning the daily iPod mini drawing depends on the total number of eligible entries received that hour/day. According to the official rules, all non-winning entries will be eligible for the next day’s drawing and all subsequent drawings.

Game pieces will be printed underneath caps of Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Wild Cherry, Mountain Dew, Diet Mountain Dew, Mountain Dew Code Red and Sierra Mist and under the rim of specially-marked 32 oz. and 44 oz. fountain cups available at participating locations. It should be noted that last year’s promotion did not include Mountain Dew products, which many complained about.

Like last year, Apple and Pepsi are expected to air a new commercial for the promotion during the Super Bowl on February 6. An official announcement from the two companies regarding this year’s promotion should be dropped tomorrow.

Click “Read more” for a screenshot of the promotion page that appeared on Apple’s site. Thanks to iLounger Carlos Pero for the news tip.

Update: Apple has now reposted the promotion page and official rules on its Web site.

OSS 3D plug-in for iTunes released

Subband Technologies has teamed up with 4Front Technologies to release of OSS 3D for the Mac OS X version of iTunes. OSS 3D “utilizes state of the art DSP technology allowing for the addition of Bass/Spatialization, 3D Surround, and various other real-time enhancements of the sound played in iTunes.” OSS 3D also provides additional functionality such as speaker resonance correction, a virtual subwoofer, brainwave inductance, high frequency restoration, center channel control, and more. Also included is a studio quality 10-band equalizer with built-in peak limiter to replace the one built into iTunes.

iTunes, iPod software updates released

Apple has released iTunes 4.7.1 and iPod Updater 2005-01-11. The new version of iTunes includes support for the new iPod shuffle and other performance improvements. iPod Updater 2005-01-11 includes iPod shuffle Software 1.0 for iPod shuffle. The update also contains the same iPod software included in iPod Updater 2004-11-15 for all other iPod models.

Macworld: Matias offers iTunes-friendly Key Maestro

Matias Corporation, maker of iLounge favorite iPod Armor, has introduced Key Maestro ($19.95), a software package for Macintosh users that eases use of iTunes in the background while you work in other applications.

“Lots of people like listening to iTunes in the background while they work, but it’s a pain to have to go into it just to skip a song or pause it or whatever else.  With Key Maestro, you can keep working in the application you’re in, and control iTunes in the background using a keyboard shortcut. It’s really handy,” said Matias’ Vesna Vojnic. A free trial is available at Matias’ website.

Motorola shows iTunes-compatible phone

During a keynote presentation Thursday at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, a Motorola executive previewed a new iTunes-compatible mobile phone with an iPod-like interface. “It syncs with a computer and the iTunes Music Store like an iPod does, and incorporates the iPod interface for navigating and playing digital music, said Ron Garriques, a Motorola executive vice president. The phone is the first of many Motorola devices that will support iTunes this year, said Garriques. He didn’t provide product details for the phone or say when it would be available.” Motorola in July announced a licensing deal with Apple to bring iTunes to its mobile phones. Last month, an Apple executive said the phone was due in the first half of 2005.

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