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Further confirmation for new international iTunes stores

All but confirming five new international iTunes Music Stores, Apple’s servers now host flag image icons for Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, Norwary, and Denmark.

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As reported on Sunday, Apple is expected to launch new stores in these five countries this Thursday — the second anniversary of the iTunes Music Store.

Griffin ships AirClickUSB Remote

imageGriffin Technology is now shipping the AirClickUSB Remote for Mac and PC computers. The $39.99 device uses RF technology that allows you to control your computer from up to 60 ft. away from anywhere in your home or office.

The AirClickUSB enables you to wirelessly control several popular applications, including: iTunes, PowerPoint, and QuickTime. Griffin said future software updates will add support for additional applications.

The small remote control — which features play/pause, next track, previous track, volume up and volume down buttons — is identical to the AirClick for iPod remote and can be used to control either your iPod or your PC if you already own the iPod AirClick.

Report: New international iTunes Music Stores Thursday

Apple this week may use the second anniversary of the iTunes Music Store to launch new versions in Australia and a handful of European countries.

Actor/musician Russell Crowe told listeners to a radio station that an Australian iTunes Music Store would open on Thursday, April 28. Crowe said that the store would sell his new solo music offerings, and that songs would cost AUD$1.80 a track.

Meanwhile, German site Music.ch reports that Apple will also use Thursday to debut iTunes Music Stores in Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway.

Motorola CEO: iTunes mobile phone still coming

Motorola’s iTunes-compatible mobile phone will see the light of day in the next few months, the company’s chief executive, Ed Zander, said Wednesday. During Motorola’s first quarter financial conference call, Zander confirmed that the phone is still coming out despite questions that arose after the company cancelled the introduction of the phone at the CeBIT conference in March.

“There has been some speculation that Motorola might delay the launch of its music-playing mobile phone because of lack of enthusiasm among US network operators,” reports The Financial Times. “Zander sees innovative mobile phones, such as the sleek and successful Razr, as the key to competing with Nokia, the market leader.”

Report: Apple to launch iTMS in Japan by year-end

Apple plans to launch a version of its iTunes Music Store in Japan by the end of the year, according to the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, which cites Apple Japan’s representative director Yoshiaki Sakito.

“Apple previously held back from starting such operations due to problems such as the strict management of copyright ownership by Japanese record companies. But the rapid growth in the digital music market in Japan as well as a more open approach by record companies has made the move toward offering online music services possible.”

Lawmakers consider digital music file standard

During a hearing Wednesday to discuss enforcement of digital music compatibility standards, a House panel said it does not want to force interoperability on the industry, but may have to consider actions in the future.

Lawmakers met in part because of “concerns that had been mounting about Apple’s overwhelming hold on the digital music market after the company altered its iPod and iTunes technology to prevent the playing of files downloaded from competitor RealNetworks’ Harmony system,” according to Elana Schor of the Medill News Service.

“Government intervention can probably prohibit innovation,” said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. “Consumers will choose interoperability over closed platforms” like the iPod.

Digital music subcommittee chairman Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, was reportedly vocal in his skepticism of Apple’s closely guarded system, and was not happy that the company turned down an invitation to appear before his panel. “Generally speaking, companies with 75 percent market share of any business… need to step up to the plate when it comes to testifying on policy issues that impact their industry,” he said. “Failure to do so is a mistake.”

Hacker reopens iTunes Music Store back door

Only a day after Apple blocked the original version of PyMusique,  Jon Lech Johansen says that he has posted an updated version of his software that allows users to once again tap into the iTunes Music Store and buy songs without digital rights management (DRM) protection.

In a post on his blog entitled “So sue me,” Johansen writes: “The iTunes Music Store recently stopped supporting iTunes versions below 4.7 in an attempt to shut out 3rd party clients. I have reverse engineered the iTMS 4.7 crypto which will once again enable 3rd party clients to communicate with the iTMS.”

Apple blocks iTunes Music Store DRM hack

Apple today confirmed that it has closed a security hole that allowed users to connect to the iTunes Music Store and purchase songs without digital rights management (DRM) restrictions. The company said that iTunes users will need to upgrade to version 4.7 or higher in order to buy songs. While not specifically stating so, Apple apparently updated the store to block access with PyMusique, recently released software created by three programmers including “DVD Jon” Johansen that enabled users to tap into iTunes to buy DRM-free tracks.

“The security hole in the iTunes Music Store which was recently exploited has been closed, and as a consequence the iTunes Music Store will now sell music only to customers using iTunes version 4.7,” Apple said in a statement provided to iPodounge. The company went on to note that approximately only 15 percent of iTunes users will be affected by this forced upgrade.

Apple uses SXSW to unveil custom iTunes cards [updated]

pic At the South by Southwest music festival last week in Austin, Apple debuted a new series of prepaid iTunes cards that feature song download codes specific to more than 200 artists. Unlike Apple’s current prepaid cards, which are available in retail stores such as Target, the custom iTunes cards can only be used to download predetermined songs or albums by a certain artist.

“The cards can be used to obtain a specific single from iTunes and are being distributed at shows, press conferences and other events throughout the festival,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. “As one example of what is possible from the promotional and marketing perspectives, Virgin/EMI recording artist the Gorillaz distributed a limited-edition iTunes card good for the premiere of their unreleased new song, ‘Dirty Harry,’ to everyone who attended its world premiere listening party in Austin.”

Update: More information on iTunes Custom Cards can now be found on Apple’s site.

Volvo to showcase Scandinavian artists on iTunes

To coincide with the launch of iPod connectivity in its 2005 model line, Volvo announced today that it will showcase music from Scandinavian artists on the iTunes Music Store. The car company will present a live music event in Times Square to launch “nu: the sounds of new Scandinavia” on March 23, with music available on the iTunes Music Store to help promote developing Scandinavian artists. Volvo’s “nu” will feature a monthly 12-song compilation, and select tracks will be available for free.

The Volvo iPod Adapter will be available for S60, S80 and V70/XC70 models and will connect by plugging an iPod into a cable located in the car’s armrest compartment. The Volvo S40, V50 and XC90 feature a dashboard mounted FM transmitter. The Volvo iPod Adapter allows users to listen and control their music through their Volvo sound system and steering wheel controls.

iTunes phone delay due to clashing styles at Motorola, Apple

Motorola did not debut its mobile phone with support for Apple’s iTunes earlier this month because of the companies differing approach to launching new products. Motorola said it tends to show its phones weeks and sometimes months before they’re ready to ship, but Apple CEO Steve Jobs does not.

“The first thing you’re seeing here is a merger of two different industries with different ideas of launching products,” Ron Garriques, president of Motorola’s mobile phone division, said at a news conference at the CTIA wireless show in New Orleans. “Steve’s perspective is that you launch a product on Sunday and sell it on Monday.”

Garriques made it clear that the delay was not due to a disagreement with mobile phone carriers. “I’ve got lots of carriers fighting to be the first one we go with,” Garriques said.

Etheridge/Stone track on iTunes to benefit cancer research

At last month’s Grammy Awards, Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone performed a medley of Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby” and “Piece of My Heart.” The live track is now available exclusively on the iTunes Music Store, with all proceeds benefiting two premier cancer research organizations - City of Hope and Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation.

“I’ll never forget those two-and-a-half minutes on stage,” says Etheridge, who recently completed a course of chemotherapy to battle breast cancer. “It was the best get well present a girl could have.” Stone added, “Singing with Melissa was a dream come true. She’s an amazing singer, songwriter and without a doubt an amazing person, definitely a woman to look up to.”

Motorola reveals iTunes phone capacity; ROKR due this month

Today at the CeBIT conference in Germany, Motorola said it is working on several iTunes-compatible moble phones and that some will be able to store up to eight hours of music. The Motorola ROKR, which has yet to be shown, will be the flagship phone. The ROKR is expected to be unveiled later this month at the M3 music event in Miami, Florida.

“Over the course of the year, you’ll see more (iTunes) devices,” said Alberto Moriondo, Motorola’s global director of entertainment for mobile devices. “The Walkman for the 21st century is the Apple brand.”

Update: The Chicago Tribune reports that Motorola was set to publicly unveil an iTunes phone today at CeBIT, but that “a last-minute message from a wireless carrier or carriers indefinitely postponed the announcement—a highly unusual occurrence.” The company had previewed the iTunes phone to the media earlier this week. It was said to have “a display screen akin to the iPod” and could hold up to 100 songs.

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.

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