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iPod shortages expected this holiday season

If you plan on buying an iPod for someone as a gift this year, you may have quite a search ahead of you. BusinessWeek reports that numerous retailers are already warning that they won’t be able to keep up with demand for the hot devices.

“With the holiday shopping season at hand, two truths are swiftly emerging about Apple’s iPod,” says BusinessWeek’s Peter Burrows. “First, the product is going to be a gigantic hit. Second, there are going to be shortages. The only question is how big the shortfall will be. Some retailers say they’re getting far fewer iPods than they requested—in two cases, fewer than half of their weekly orders. Also, retailing giant Circuit City expects demand to outstrip supply through the end of the year.”

Crutchfield, which currently has $4 million of all iPod models on order, said that Apple typically ships less than 30% of what the online retailer requests each week. “If you want to get an iPod for someone this Christmas, I’d advise you to get it now—if you can find one,” says Scott Anderson, merchandising manager for online retailer Crutchfield.

TVMyPod offers pre-loaded video iPods

TVMyPod is a new service that allows consumers to buy fifth-generation (video) iPods pre-loaded with the DVDs of their choice.

“With nearly 100 television shows from ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and HBO and over 100 movies, sports events and concerts to choose from, TVMyPod offers something for everyone,” says the company. “Can’t find the DVDs you want? No problem—TVMyPod will locate what you want and customize your order. Here’s how it works: Customers purchase the iPod and the DVDs of their choice; TVMyPod then converts the DVDs to iPod format and loads them onto the iPod at no extra charge. The customer receives the loaded iPod in its original packaging, along with each of the DVDs he or she purchased.”

Apple signs flash supply agreements; ships 30 millionth iPod [updated]

Further solidifying the iPod’s future, Apple today announced that it has reached long-term agreements with Hynix, Intel, Micron, Samsung and Toshiba to secure a large supply of NAND flash memory through 2010. Apple said it will prepay a total of $1.25 billion for flash memory components during the next three months. “We want to be able to produce as many of our wildly popular iPods as the market demands,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Apple also subtly announced that it has now shipped over 30 million iPods.

Update: In a separate announcement, Intel and Micron Technology said that they will be launching a joint venture to produce NAND flash memory, with Apple prepaying $500 million to secure its place in line for the chips.

“Intel will own 49 percent of the new company, IM Flash Technologies, with the remaining controlling stake held by Micron,” reports CNET News.com. “Intel and Micron will each initially contribute $1.2 billion to building plants in Idaho, Utah and Virginia, with plans to add another $1.4 billion each over the next three years. The joint venture is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.”

Another related story notes that Samsung plans to invest about $615 million to build a new production facility to meet rising demand for its NAND flash and DRAM chips. The new plant will be based in Hwaseong, south of Seoul, and is expected to open in the first half of 2006.

TiVo adds iPod support to TiVoToGo service

TiVo on Monday is expected to announce plans to enable users of its digital video recorders to transfer television shows onto Apple’s fifth-generation (video) iPods, as well as Sony’s PlayStation Portable, with the company’s TiVoToGo service.

TiVo admitted that the process of encoding and transferring video content to the new iPod won’t be speedy. While the new software automates the synchronizing of a TiVo and iPod, users are expected to set the devices to do the transferring overnight.

“Getting TiVo to work with an iPod isn’t as simple as downloading music and videos to Apple’s device from iTunes,” reports The Wall Street Journal [paid sub. req.]. “First, a user’s TiVo records a show onto the machine’s hard drive. Then, the program is transferred over a home network to a PC, where it is translated into a video format compatible with the iPod. Next, the video must be transferred to the iPod from the PC. The whole process of getting an hour-long show onto an iPod could take more than two hours from the time a TiVo device finishes recording it.”

The TiVoToGo service, introduced in January, has allowed users to transfer recorded shows to Windows PCs and portable devices based on Microsoft’s Portable Media Center platform. With the added support for the MPEG-4 video format, the company is also adding new copy-protection measures at the same time.

Tivo said the shows recorded with the new TiVoToGo software will have digital watermarks to prevent piracy. The recorded programs will have the watermark embedded in the video file, allowing TiVo to trace and identify the origin of the recorded show.

Tivo will reportedly begin testing the new TiVoToGo software with iPod support “within the next couple of weeks,” according to the Journal, and will make the service available to all of its users in the first quarter of next year for a one-time fee, likely to be between $15 to $30.

Steve Jobs debuts iPod micro, pequeño, invisa on SNL sketch

In an obvious spoof of the frequency of new iPod announcements and the device’s increasingly smaller form factor, Apple CEO Steve Jobs was portrayed on yesterday’s Saturday Night Live introducing three new iPod models.

During the Weekend Update segment of the show, a cast member playing Jobs told Weekend Update anchors Tina Fey and Amy Poehler that the iPod nano and video iPod are now “both obsolete” and pulled the tiny iPod micro from his pocket, noting that it held 50,000 songs. Jobs said, however, that it would be obsolete by Thanksgiving and then introduced the even smaller iPod pequeño, which holds 1 million songs, but said it too would be obsolete by this Christmas. Jobs then proceeded to debut the iPod invisa (just the actor’s two fingers pressed together) and said it held 8 million songs and “every photograph ever taken.”

A video of the sketch can be viewed here.

iPod battery settlement appealed

The settlement to the iPod battery class-action lawsuit, which was approved by a judge in August, has been appealed. Apple reportedly said that it did not file the appeal, but declined further comment. The appeal will delay the benefits owed to eligible iPod owners.

“On October 24, 2005, a notice of appeal was filed in the Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo, against the approved iPod Settlement,” reads a note on the settlement’s official website. “As a result, Settlement benefits will not be provided unless and until the appeal is resolved. This could take an extended period of time (up to a year or more). Until that time, Apple’s normal policies are in effect. Please check this website periodically for updates regarding the status of the appeal.”

Under the settlement, consumers who bought first- or second-generation iPods before May 31, 2004 are entitled to either $25 cash or a $50 credit at the Apple Store. Owners of third-generation iPods are entitled to a free replacement battery if their battery fails or a $50 credit. iPod owners who already paid to have their battery replaced can get up to half of that cost back from Apple.

Apple disputes EMI’s iPod compatibility claims

Record label EMI said late Thursday that music from its upcoming copy-protected CDs will be compatible with iPods—a claim Apple quickly denied. EMI said the discs will use new digital rights management technology from Macrovision.

“Apple is nearly finished with the technical work necessary to enable consumers to transfer music from content-protected discs to their iPods,” the label said in a statement. “This is an important step for EMI and Apple, but even more so for music consumers who will soon be able to legitimately port music from protected discs they own to the iPod.”

However, Apple dismissed EMI’s claims in its own statement. “The information EMI provided regarding iTunes and iPod compatibility with Macrovision’s technology is not true and we have no idea why EMI made this statement,” Apple said.

EMI said consumers will be able to rip one copy-protected version of an album to their computer and transfer it to MP3 players like the iPod. The company said three copies of the disc can be burned to blank CDs, and each individual track can be burned to CD seven times.

Analyst: New shuffle coming, RF interference, EMI playing nice

American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu has released a new research note that touches upon three topics of interest to iPod owners. Wu discusses the the possibility of a new iPod shuffle in January, the presence of minor RF interference with GSM cell phones and new iPods, and EMI making iTunes-friendly copy-protected CDs.

Wu said the iPod shuffle is due for a refresh as early as January, possibly at Macworld Expo in San Francisco. “We believe this is a key reason why Apple is adding Hynix as a third NAND flash provider in addition to Samsung and Toshiba,” Wu wrote in the report obtained by iLounge. “We are hearing of an even smaller form factor (smaller than a stick of gum) and the potential for the re-introduction of multiple colors, particularly popular among women, including black. We believe price points ($99 and $129) and storage capacities (512 MB and 1 GB) will be similar to the current offerings to minimize overlap with the iPod nano.”

The analyst also explained the RF issue that some iPod users have experienced. “We believe there may be a minor RF (radio frequency) interference problem with the new iPods in isolated cases when they are placed very near a ringing GSM cell phone,” Wu wrote. “From our checks, it appears to impact GSM and not CDMA phones and only on nanos and vPods. When a ringing GSM phone is directly in front of the click wheel, the iPod could go ‘crazy’ and its volume could fluctuate uncontrollably (reminds us of R2D2 when shot by a laser gun). We do not believe this impacts most users in everyday use. We believe this problem could be easily fixed by applying better or more foil tape inside the iPod similar to cell phones and other devices in shielding interference.”

Finally, Wu notes that EMI is planning to ship new copy-protected CDs that are compatible with iTunes. “This is a significant change from its previous stance of shipping Windows PlaysForSure DRM CDs that do not work with iTunes,” the analyst said. “We view this as a positive development and believe other labels could follow.”

Analyst sees strong iPod demand, expects 14 million units in Q1

Bear Stearns analyst Andrew Neff helped send Apple shares to an all-time high of $64.22 on Wednesday by writing in a research report that iPod demand shows no signs of letting up. The analyst also noted that Apple appears it will be able to meet increased demand for the new iPod and iPod nano this holiday quarter as evidenced by improved shipping times on the online Apple Store.

“Our channel checks with retailers and component vendors indicate that demand for iPods (both nano and video iPod) continue to remain strong and could be significantly higher than our initial assumption for the holiday season,” Neff wrote. He added that “hot” products have historically seen sequential sales growth of 75 percent to 100 percent during the holiday season. Neff now expects Apple to ship 14.1 million iPods this quarter (Q1 2006), compared with an earlier estimate of 10.4 million.

Video dating site for iPod users launched

PodDater.com is a new video dating service that offers downloadable clips of potential matches formated for the video-capable iPod.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a video worth when looking for love? Or making new friends? Imagine a site that allows you to look, listen to, and watch videos of potential matches… and the best part is that you can do it on the go. PodDater is the world’s first dating/social networking site that brings together the growing popularity of the online dating space and the enormous success of the iPod. Visitors to PodDater can come to our community, become a member, identify potential matches and then download them to their iPods. All for free.”

iPod and iTunes No. 1 in Japan

Apple today announced that the iPod and iTunes are leading the digital music market in Japan with iPod market share at nearly 60 percent, according to Business Computer News (BCN).

“Since the launch of the iTunes Music Store this summer and introduction of the iPod nano and fifth generation iPod, market share in Japan has grown rapidly, solidifying iPod’s position as the number one digital music player in Japan by a wide margin,” Apple said in a statement on Wednesday. “iTunes is the number one online music service in Japan and its library has grown steadily with the addition of dozens of independent labels.”

iPod retail chain launching in UK

PopXpress, a new chain of stores in the UK dedicated to the iPod and iPod accessories, has announced the opening of its first store. Located at London’s Liverpool Street, the shop is the first of 12 stores and will open on November 21.

“We are thrilled to be opening this store concept at such an exciting time in the iPod’s development,” said Jonathan Cole, CEO of popXpress. “The iPod has created a new market for consumer mobile music players and has resulted in an array of accessories. We have been planning the rollout for over a year and our plan is to have a second London West End store open before Christmas and 12 more stores nationwide by the end of 2006.

iPod still leading MP3 player mindshare at retailers

Following his second MP3 player retail recommendation survey, Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Munster says that Apple is easily holding its ground in U.S. retail stores, with iPod mindshare rising when it comes to high end devices. Like the first survey in June, Munster collected recommendations from reps at 50 non-Apple retail stores such as Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, and Fry’s Electronics about what portable digital audio devices they recommend to customers and why.

“In our Nov-05 retail survey, 68% of sales reps recommend purchase of an iPod or nano vs. any other portable audio device priced over $150. This is up from 63% of salespeople that recommended purchase of an iPod or mini in Jun-05,” Munster writes in a research noted provided to iLounge. “In the low end category, we saw iPod mindshare fall from 52% in Jun-05 to 38% in Nov-05. We believe this change is the result of 2 key items: 1) with the Nov-05 survey we changed the survey question to include only the shuffle on the low end vs. the shuffle and the 4GB mini in the Jun-05 survey, and 2) we believe the nano is stealing some mindshare from the shuffle within the iPod family.”

Munster said that the most common reasons given by MP3 player sales reps on why they recommend iPods are: video capability, ease of use, and a large assortment of accessories. Conversely, the analyst said that those who don’t recommend iPods point to two missing features—an FM radio tuner and screen (vs. iPod shuffle with no screen).

Portable Media Expo & Podcast Conference Roundup [updated]

Several iPod accessory makers and digital audio companies made announcements and revealed new products today at the Podcasting & Portable Media Expo in Ontario, California. iLounge is at the event and has rounded up all of the show news below. We’ll be updating this story as other announcements are made.

Griffin Technology
Griffin Technology announced that its new iTrip FM transmitter is now shipping. The new iTrip, which connects through the dock connector port and features a backlit LCD screen, works with all dockable iPods—3G/4G/5G iPods, iPod mini and iPod nano. It sells for $50. The company also showed off its RoadTrip all-in-one car solution in a charcoal color and delivered its iVault for the iPod shuffle in three new colors—green, blue and purple.

Speck Products
Speck announced at the show that it is now shipping its new ToughSkin for the 5G iPod. The rugged rubberized skin sells for $35 and has a screen protector and a detachable belt clip. The company is also shipping its See-Thru cases for the iPod nano. The tinted hard cases come in 3-packs of various colors for $30. Speck was also showing prototypes of its Cloud FunSkin and See-Thru cases for the 5G iPod.

Tunewear
Tunwear today announced the Tetran earbud cable winder. The spiked creature lets you wrap your earbud cords around its to reduce cable mess. It comes in pink, green, yellow, and orange for $13. The company also showed off its recently announced Icewear for the iPod nano and its leather Ambassador case for the 5G iPod.

Power Support
Power Support used the event to introduce its Crystal Film Cover Set for the 5G iPod. The 3-piece set covers the front, back and click wheel to protect the new iPod from dirt and scratches. The adhesive side is made of a newly developed, static cling polymer plastic for easy installation and removal. The company also has on hand its Kimono 2 case in new colors for the 4G iPod, iPod mini and iPod shuffle, and a new car cupholder for the iPod nano and 5G iPod.

Audible
Audible today announced AudibleWordcast, “a pioneering set of Web-based tools that enables podcasters to build multiple revenue streams around capabilities such as advertising management, dynamic ad-insertion, underwriting and secured transactions.” The company said: “For the first time, podcasters will be able to manage, accurately measure, and monetize their audio content without significant infrastructure investments, allowing them to focus their resources and energy on creating superior audio programming.”

Belkin
Belkin is showing off its Auto Kit in black. The $40 product lets you charge your iPod in the car and provides an adjustable amplifier and 3.5mm audio-out jack for use with a cassette adapter or FM transmitter. The company also debuted an XM Satellite Radio Boombox.

BlueTake
BlueTake used the event to introduce the iPhono mini, an updated version of its Bluetooth iPod headset. The product uses a top-mounted receiver that requires a 3G/4G iPod or iPod mini. The iPhono mini features a less rigid earphone system with a loose cable instead of hard plastic neck piece.

Otterbox
While the company did not have any on hand, Otterbox provided shipping dates for its upcoming waterproof iPod cases. The company said it will be shipping its Otterbox for iPod nano in December and the Otterbox for 5G iPod in February.

Battery Technology Incorporated
Battery Technology Incorporated (BTI) told iLounge it is updating its powerful iPod Battery ii to turn it into a combination stand/add-on battery unit. Targeted at 5G iPod users, the product adds 40-50 hours of additional playback time to full-size iPods.

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iLounge Giveaway Winners
Friday winners: Peter Kong, Rick Balian, Marilyn Madsen, Doug Dobbies, Derek Dukes, Adam Raimer, Ralph Maese, Thuy Tran, and Greg Pene.

Analyst sees terabyte iPod in Apple’s future

Apple could possibly create an iPod with 1 terabyte of storage, as well as a true “iPhone” says one analyst. “A terabyte iPod might sound crazy today, but we believe in five years a terabyte iPod will emerge as a portable home media center,” says Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Munster in an research report obtained by iLounge. “We continue to believe that Apple will enter the mobile phone market. We would not expect an ‘iPhone’ to be launched for at least 12-18 months.”

The report also discusses possible future plans for iTunes and the Mac mini. “The key to iTunes in the next 12-24 months will be gaining access to more video content… Apple will work with networks, film studios, and other content providers to coerce them into offering more content via iTunes,” continues Munster. “Expect Mac to become a hub for consumer digital media as Front Row technology gets incorporated into the Mac Mini.” The report also mentions a possible AirPort Express for video to stream video from iTunes to TV.

SylviusVG neuroanatomy glossary now on iPods

Members of the the Sylvius project have released an iPod edition of their human neuroanatomy glossary, which is currently in use at Duke University. SylviusVG, iPod Edition is a “visual glossary of the human brain and spinal cord, combining audio (MP3 files), visual (album art) and text (notes) content into a pedagogically-sound learning tool for the iPod, containing over neuroanatomical 400 structures and terms.” SylviusVG, iPod Edition is available for any color screen iPod at an introductory price of $10.

RadioShack becomes authorized iPod reseller

RadioShack today announced that it has become an authorized Apple reseller and now offers all iPod models in its more than 5,000 stores across the U.S. The consumer electronics retailer, which had previously sold HP-branded iPods, will also continue to offer a large range of iPod accessories.

“iPod owners already know RadioShack as the place to go for add-on accessories to enhance their overall experience and enjoyment of these great digital devices while at home, work or on the run,” said Jim Hamilton, RadioShack’s senior vice president, chief merchandising officer. “Now, this new robust assortment allows us to be a complete turn-key destination for iPod players and accessories alike.”

Apple offers King Kong trailer in iPod format

imageApple has released the first official movie trailer formatted for the fifth-generation iPod. Several iLoungers note that Apple is now offering the theatrical trailer for Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” in iPod video format alongside small, medium, full-screen, and high definition versions. The free video weighs in at 12.2 MB. “King Kong” hits theaters on December 14th.


ZoomAndGo.com offers iPod-compatible travel videos

ZoomAndGo.com, a website featuring traveler videos and in-depth hotel reviews, has announced that it is now offering its entire library of video clips for fifth-generation iPods.

“Current clips range from on-camera hotel reviews and insider advice about tourist attractions to tips from travelers on-camera about the best hotel beds and finding bargains overseas,” explains the company. “Zoom And Go will have video for most major destinations and hotels by the end of this year. Users can download Zoom And Go videos onto their iPods by clicking on the Download to iPod link beside each clip.”

Analyst: 5G iPod sales ‘ahead of expectations’

Sales of Apple’s video-enabled fifth-generation iPod are stronger than expected, according to one Wall Street analyst. “In our recent proprietary checks with industry and channel sources, we believe sales of 5G iPods are coming in ahead of expectations,” American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu said in a research note provided to iLounge. “In some cases, in Apple’s own channels, including its physical stores and online store, we believe 5G iPods are surprisingly outselling even the very popular iPod nano.”

Wu said he believes that buyers of the new iPod are “mostly installed base users attracted to its high storage capacity, video capability, and reasonable price points,” while more mainstream customers are purchasing nanos. “We do not believe this trend is true through all distribution channels, particularly retail including Amazon.com, Best Buy, and CompUSA, where iPod nano remains the best seller,” he said.

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