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Motorola MOTONOW event begins; iTunes phone not being shown (Updated x3)

MobileTracker’s Jon Gales reports exclusively to iLounge from Motorola’s MOTONOW media event in Chicago, Illinois:

A black and gray, candybar-style phone some have suggested would be a ROKR iTunes-compatible phone is now on stage, with what looks like a gray scroll wheel by the keypad. The scroll wheel appears to be full-sized (roughly as large as the iPod mini’s), while the keypad resembles one used on Motorola’s SLVR series of phones. Gales reports that this phone is a 3G phone.

Update: In the first five minutes of the event, Motorola’s Ed Zander read a statement from Apple stating that the iTunes phones will not be unveiled today, but instead will be unveiled at a separate music event within the next 66 days, and shipped this quarter. “We’re not going to launch the iTunes phone today,” the statement read. “Steve Jobs is not going to jump out of a cake.”

Update 2: Engadget has an early photograph of the non-iTunes ROKR.

Update 3: The full text of the Apple/Motorola statement is now available at Read More below.

Radio Disney songs now on iTunes Music Store

Radio Disney, “America’s leading music destination for kids, tweens and families,” announced on Tuesday that songs from its playlist are now featured on Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Listeners of Radio Disney will be able to “easily find the music they hear on Radio Disney on the iTunes Music Store, including special features and exclusives,” the company said.

“The iTunes Music Store makes it easy for families to find and purchase the music they hear on Radio Disney,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of Applications. “Fans can now buy their favorite Radio Disney songs, as well as DJ picks, special remixes and other exclusive content from the world’s number one online music store.”

Over half a billion songs sold from iTunes Music Store

imageLess than two weeks since Apple announced its countdown to half a billion songs sweepstakes, the 500 millionth song has been purchased and downloaded from the iTunes Music Store.

While Apple has yet to release an official announcement telling who the winning customer is, or what track they purchased, the company has posted a large banner on apple.com announcing the milestone. “Thanks to all the music fans in 19 countries for making the iTunes Music Store the #1 music download store,” the banner reads.

The winning downloader will receive 10 iPods, a “gold” iTunes gift card for 10,000 free songs and an all-expenses paid trip for four to see Coldplay in concert. Those that bought winning songs at each 100,000 interval will get an iPod mini and an a 50-song iTunes gift card.

Update: Apple has now posted a complete list of winners and their purchased song.

Apple kicks off countdown to half a billion songs

Apple today announced its countdown to half a billion songs sold on the iTunes Music Store.

To celebrate, the company is giving away an iPod mini and an a 50-song iTunes gift card to the iTunes customer who purchases the winning song at each 100,000 interval. The person who downloads the 500 millionth song will win 10 iPods of their choice, an iTunes gift card for 10,000 songs and an all-expenses paid trip for four to see Coldplay on their world tour.

Apple has posted a live song counter online to help users “participate in the race to purchase and download the 500 millionth song.”

“As we prepare to cross this major milestone of half a billion songs, we want to thank our customers, the artists and the music labels who have helped make iTunes a global success,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of applications. “iTunes continues to be the world’s number one online music store featuring the world’s best digital music including special performances such as the Live 8 concerts.”

Icons, dialog show iTunes 4.9 ready for ‘iPod Phone’

imageIn further confirmation that iTunes 4.9 is ready for the long-awaited Motorola iTunes-compatible phones, which Engadget suggests will begin with the TransFlash-card capable Motorola E790, iLounge forum member “celebi23” has discovered several mobile phone icons and dialog strings in the application.

Following on the heels of an earlier discovery of an icon that resembles the popular Motorola RAZR phone, and reports that some current Motorola phones can already communicate with iTunes, Celebi23 uncovered a generic mobile phone icon that will appear in the source column of iTunes.

As previously reported, hidden files in iTunes 4.9 are riddled with references to an “iPod Phone.” Celibi23 verifies this information and provides details of preferences for such a phone, including options very similar to those of the iPod shuffle, crediting most of the dialog discoveries to Macshrine.com.

Users will apparently be able to use AutoFill with an iTunes-compatible phone, convert songs to a lower bit rate before loading them, display album artwork on the phone, and choose how many songs versus data to store. Additionally, iTunes will seemingly enable users to name their phones, transfer podcasts to them, and update their contacts. A reference to “iPodmobile” remains obscure.

Apple ‘clear winner’ in music download web traffic

Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Munster has used web traffic information from Alexa to estimate the market share of download stores in his “traffic report card.”

Not surprisingly, Apple.com received an “A” rating. “In our minds, Apple.com earned an A as a result of having the largest 3 month percentage change in web traffic rank, which was up 11% and a reach increase of 11%,” Munster said. “Clearly, not all visitors to Apple.com use iTunes, but we do believe Apple traffic is indicative of interest in Apple’s iPod and iTunes.”

Munster also gave Napster an “A,” noting that Napster.com is the only other audio download website with an increase in rank (7%) and had a 21% increase in reach. “Napster’s marketing appears to be having a positive impact on traffic,” the analyst said.

Others included in the survey were Audible.com (Grade: B) and Real.com (Grade: C), both of which experienced drops in average traffic for the 3 months ending 6/30 over the three month average ending 3/30.

“We believe that Apple.com is the clear winner in our second grade report on the audio download industry,” Munster concluded. “Apple has the highest web traffic rank (64) of the four and also has seen the most increase in web traffic rank and reach over the past 3 months.”

Analyst: Family of iTunes phones due by Christmas

BusinessWeek reports that Apple and Motorola will roll out an entire range of iTunes-compatible mobile phones this year. Citing a recent research note by RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Sue, the magazine said the family of phones will range from low end to high end and will be available before Christmas. Sue said the first phone will be announced within a month and will be marketed by Cingular.

“All parties involved—Motorola, Cingular, and, perhaps most of all, Apple—have much to gain from the hookup,” says BusinessWeek. “The move could help them take the pole position in a promising new market—delivering digital music to cell phones, a device that has become the center of the digital lifestyle for millions of people around the world.”

The BusinessWeek report says that Cingular could get a short-term exclusive right to iTunes. “The carrier also will likely get a share of revenues from music downloads, which will, at least at first, be done the old way: Users will download a song onto their computers and then move it onto their iTunes phones. Eventually, should Cingular unveil a service for wireless downloads direct to a cell phone, it might get a larger share of the revenues or keep any premium charged for the on-the-go service.”

Apple releases iTunes 4.9, featuring podcast downloads [updated]

image As widely expected, Apple has today released iTunes 4.9 for Mac and Windows, the first version of the popular music management software to include built-in support for downloading of podcasts.

As described by the company, “With iTunes 4.9, you can now browse and subscribe to podcasts from within the iTunes Music Store. Podcasts are frequently updated radio-style shows downloadable over the Internet. You can also transfer podcasts to iPod, for listening on the go.”

Apple has also launched a “Publish Podcasts to the Music Store” information page for submitting your own podcast RSS feed for consideration.

Update: Apple has now officially announced the new version of iTunes, saying it is “taking Podcasting mainstream” by offering “everything users need to discover, subscribe, manage and listen to Podcasts.”

The company said the new Podcast Directory in iTunes 4.9 features over 3,000 free audio programs, with content from ABC News, Adam Curry, BBC, Clear Channel, The Dawn and Drew Show, Disney, Engadget, ESPN, Newsweek and NPR member stations such as KCRW in Los Angeles and WGBH in Boston.

Supreme Court rules against file-sharing services

In a unanimous decision today, the Supreme Court ruled that peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing services could be held responsible if their software was intended primarily to swap music and movies illegally.

“We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement,” Justice David Souter wrote in the majority opinion.

Earlier today, financial research firm Piper Jaffray said that Apple’s iTunes Music Store “would be the primary beneficiary

Report: Cingular to offer iTunes phone

Cingular is considering whether to sell Motorola’s long-awaited iTunes mobile phone, according to a Reuters report on Friday. “Motorola and Apple have been talking to Cingular about it using the iTunes phone,” a source told the news agency.

In further confirmation, RBC Capital analyst Mark Sue said in a research note this week that Apple and Cingular, the No. 1 U.S. carrier, were finalizing details on revenue sharing.

Cingular and Apple representatives declined comment, while a Motorola spokeswoman said the company is on schedule to ship the first iTunes phone in the third quarter. [via Mobile Tracker]

European iTunes Music Stores top 50 million songs

Apple today announced that more than 50 million songs have been purchased and downloaded from its European iTunes Music Stores in their first year of operation. Apple launched iTunes stores in the UK, France and Germany in June 2004, and now have them in 17 European countries including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

“We’re thrilled to have sold and delivered over 50 million songs in our first year

Apple hit with lawsuit over iTunes interface

Contois Music Technology has filed a lawsuit against Apple over the user interface of iTunes, according to an AppleInsider report. Contois alleges that Apple violated a patent it holds, and seeks damages and the ability to stop Apple from distributing iTunes as the application looks and behaves now.

“The suit, filed on June 13th in Vermont District Court, alleges that Apple’s iTunes software design infringes on Contois’ six-year old design patent (US Patent No. 5,864,868) entitled ‘Computer Control System and User Interface for Media Playing Devices.’ Contois is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining Apple from further distributing its iTunes software in its current form. The company also asked the Court for an unspecified amount of monetary damages resulting from Apple’s ‘copying and willful infringement’ of its design patent as well as reimbursement of legal fees associated with the lawsuit.”

Apple, 7-Eleven launch Slurpee iTunes sweepstakes

imageApple and 7-Eleven have kicked off a new promotion to give away 8 million songs from the iTunes Music Store. According to the official rules, specially-marked 32 oz. Slurpee fountain cups at participating 7-Eleven locations will have a 12-digit alphanumeric code redeemable for one free song from the iTunes Music Store. It appears every cup is a winner.

Strangely, Apple said that the “Slurpee Summer Prize Fest” began on May 23, despite no word from the company or our readers in the more than two weeks since, hinting that these cups have yet to reach stores. The Slurpee sweepstakes, which should be noted is co-sponsored by Coca-Cola, ends on July 31, 2005. Apple said free song codes must be redeemed by August 31, 2005. The maximum number of valid codes per person that can be redeemed is 10 per day and 200 total during the promotion.

Report: iTunes Music Store coming to Japan in August

Apple will launch a version of its iTunes Music Store in Japan this August, a Japanese newspaper reported Tuesday. The Nihon Keizai business daily said that major Japanese record labels, including Columbia Music Entertainment, Avex Group Holdings and Toshiba-EMI, have agreed to provide songs for the service, but that Sony Music Entertainment has yet to agree on contract terms with Apple. The paper said Japanese users will be able to download songs for around 150 yen ($1.40).

European iTMS get Click&Buy option, affiliate program

Apple announced today that European iTunes Music Stores now accept Firstgate’s Click&Buy as a payment option. The third-party service lets customers purchase music via debit card, direct debits, invoice or bank transfer. The Click&Buy option will be available for all European countries except Switzerland.

Apple today also launched its iTunes Affiliate Program in Europe, which lets European users earn 4% commission on sales generated by direct links to the iTunes Music Store from a Web site or email. Affiliates that sign up for the program before June 30th will be automatically entered to win an iPod.

“We think giving our iTunes customers the option to use the Click&Buy payment option is going to be a hit,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of Applications. “And, with over 15,000 iTunes affiliates in the US, the introduction of our affiliate program to Europe will drive even more customers to the world’s best online music store, while providing affiliate Web sites a quick and easy way to generate commissions.”

Merrill Lynch offers possibilities for iTunes video

With the recent addition of video support in iTunes, Apple is in good shape to partner with record companies to sell music videos or to offer a subscription video service, according to one Wall Street analyst.

“The music industry doesn’t have an outlet to sell music videos and likely would cooperate with Apple,” Milunovich said in a research note obtained by iLounge. “In addition, Netflix said that given Apple’s recent hiring and lease of space, the company has designs on subscription video of some kind. And Apple has expressed interest in high definition video.”

Like many others, the analyst said the videos could hint at a video iPod. “Selling videos may be a precursor to a video iPod,” Milunovich said. “The new features within iTunes allow users to download full versions of Quicktime music videos. We previously speculated that iPod video capability for short clips could be available by Christmas.”

Podcast support coming to iTunes [updated]

At the D: All Things Digital executive conference on Sunday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs demonstrated new podcast features in the next version of iTunes (presumably 4.9). Jobs said the new version of iTunes will be released within the next 60 days.

“He was slightly dismissive of populist podcasting, describing it as ‘Wayne’s World for radio’, and celebrating the arrival of professional radio stations into the market, but nonetheless, he was very high on the podcasting phenomenon, and the excitement that millions of users have displayed about it,” reports O’Reilly. “In the Q&A, Jason Calacanis of Weblogs, Inc. asked if there was any possibility of using the iTunes music store for paid podcasting. Jobs replied that for the moment they were only considering it as free content, but that he was open to looking into it.”

Update: The Wall Street Journal has further details (paid subscription required): “That will go away in iTunes 4.9, which Mr. Jobs demonstrated for conference attendees and said would be available within the next 60 days. ITunes 4.9 will integrate free podcasts as a menu item, allowing users to listen to podcasts and subscribe to them, with new podcasts they subscribe to downloaded to their iPods when the devices are synched to an iTunes-enabled computer.”

Coldplay featured in new iTunes TV commercial

imageApple took advantage of Coldplay’s appearance on Saturday Night Live this week to air the first of what appears to be a new style of iTunes commercials.

The 30-second spot, which is a vast departure from the company’s cartoon-like silhouette ads, features Coldplay performing their new single “Speed of Sound” in order to promote the band’s new album, X&Y, on the iTunes Music Store. It is not clear whether the commercial was created from original footage or if it was taken from Coldplay’s music video for the song, which has yet to debut on the band’s website, MTV, or on iTunes. The commercial ends with “Coldplay’s new album. Plus exclusive tracks on iTunes.” followed by the Apple logo and “iTunes.com.”

Unsurprisingly, Apple is heavily promoting the much-anticipated X&Y on the iTunes Music Store. “Pre-order Coldplay’s X&Y now and enjoy two exclusive tracks when the album is available for download June 7 (you’ll receive an email confirming the album’s availability),” Apple says. “Pre-ordering the album is the only way to get the exclusive bonus tracks ‘Proof’ and ‘Things I Don’t Understand.’” It is not known if Apple’s Coldplay/iTunes commercial was a one time deal to utilize the band’s SNL appearance or if it was simply the first of several ads to come featuring other artists.

The ad has yet to be made available for viewing on Apple’s website as of this posting.

Apple support docs on iTunes 4.8 posted

Apple recently posted three new support documents for the latest version of iTunes. The first two show users of the application how to add and watch compatible videos. The third is for Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger users and shows them how to sync their contacts and calendars with iTunes.

The documents include: “iTunes 4.8: Adding videos to your library,” “iTunes 4.8: Watching videos,” and “Mac OS X 10.4: Use iTunes 4.8 or later for iPod syncing.”

Analyst: Apple could ‘flick the switch on subscriptions’

Merrill Lynch analyst Steven Milunovich said today that Yahoo’s low-priced subscription music service could cause Apple to offer a similar plan of its own through iTunes. “Apple could flick the switch on a subscription model,” Milunovich said in a research note obtained by iLounge. “Yahoo clearly is a problem for Real Networks and Napster, but will it hurt Apple? We do think Yahoo’s entry could cause Apple to offer iTunes as a subscription model later this year, especially if there is evidence of share loss.” He noted that subscriptions account for about 15% of the legal download market with iTunes holding over 70%.

Milunovich also said Apple is working to protect iPod profits. “Meanwhile, Apple isn’t standing still,” he said. “Industry observer Robert Cringely examined the new Tiger OS and found unused icons and support of the H.264 codec that hint at video capability on the iPod and an iTunes video store. Similarly, we have speculated that an iPod running video clips could be out for Christmas and that H.264 was important to future hi-def plans. Cringely also believes Tiger may have support for competing music formats, indicating that if iPod margins get squeezed Apple might license its software and switch to software-driven profits. That’s more of a stretch though Apple does appear to have learned from past mistakes.”

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