Following a lengthy attempt of nearly three years, Apple has reportedly failed to patent the software interface of the iPod.
“The company’s patent application, which lists Apple VP Jeff Robbin and Apple CEO Steve Jobs as two of its primary inventors, received a final rejection last month from the United States Patent and Trademark Office,” reports AppleInsider. “Standing in Apple’s way appears to be a prior filing by inventor John Platt, who submitted a patent application for a similar software design for a portable device in May of 2002—just five months before Robbin submitted his claims on behalf of Apple.”
Platt’s application describes his invention as a system that “generates playlists for a library collection of media items via selecting a plurality of seed items, at least one which is an undesirable seed item,” according to the Apple enthusiast site. “The process by which the iPod’s software displays its own menu-based interface is very similar to the process Platt’s filing goes on to describe.”
Apple will soon begin providing refunds to Canadian customers who bought iPods when levies were being imposed on digital music players in the country.
“Apple is pleased that the Supreme Court of Canada let stand a lower court ruling that blank media levies on iPods are invalid, and will shortly announce a claims process so consumers can request a refund for the levies they paid,” Apple said in a statement.
Late last month, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear any further arguments over the levy, ending a dispute over the so-called iPod tax, which has collected approximately $4 million in total.
The Canadian Private Copying Collective (CPCC) has collected a tax on MP3 players since December 2003 on behalf of musicians and record companies. The organization was forced to stop charging the levy in December 2004 by the Canadian Federal Court.
Following meetings last week with digital music companies such as Apple and RealNetworks, American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu said he is “more convinced than ever that Apple has a substantial lead and advantage” over competitors.
In a research report obtained by iLounge, Wu said that the tightly integrated combination of the iPod, iTunes and iTunes Music Store shows no sign of giving up ground to competing companies and formats. “This is despite competitive efforts over the past 2-3 years and continued efforts to erode its dominance,” he said.
“Progress is being made by the Windows Media camp, but coordination and integration are proving difficult because of the many vendors involved including systems, semiconductor, software, content, and service providers, with their various agendas and diverse geographies,” Wu said.
Wu also said that Apple could introduce more than just new iPods at the Apple Expo this September. “We believe Apple could use the upcoming keynote by Steve Jobs at the Apple Expo 2005 event in Paris to make a significant announcement beyond just new iPods,” Wu said. “We believe this could be new markets including music subscriptions and video and the ever-elusive Motorola iTunes cell phone.”
Party-Pod Pro 5.0 is the latest version of the software that “gives your iPod a database of partygoer necessities.
Earth VideoWorks has announced the release of iCandy, a new product for color screen iPods that offers more than 40 slideshows with over 1200 unique pictures of sunsets, wildflowers, forests, beaches, contemporary art, and more. iCandy also comes with 500 kaleidoscope images.
“Earth VideoWorks has been publishing fine art and nature DVDs for over three years, and has an extensive digital photo library of over 25,000 images,” says the company. “These same images are now available in slideshows for iPod Photo owners!”
The iCandy package sells for $14.95 and works with both Macs and PCs.
Copy-protected albums from Foo Fighters, Dave Matthews Band and others continue to sell well despite complaints about their incompatibility with iPods.
“Aiming to curb piracy, labels like Sony BMG, which released both records, are rolling out copy-protected albums in the United States, which let users make three exact duplicates of a CD, and store files on a PC in Microsoft Corp.‘s Windows Media format,” reports Reuters. “But the copy-protection bars users from importing music onto iPods since Apple’s Fairplay software is incompatible with Windows.”
The news agency notes that about a third of the 252 customer reviews of the new Foo Fighter CD this week on Amazon complained about the protection. “This CD has a copy protection scheme that makes it totally useless to 30 million iPod owners,” wrote one reviewer. “How could a band be so stupid as to alienate such a huge percentage of their fans?”
Record executives are continuing talks with Apple to make the CDs compatible with iPods, and point out that they have released versions of the albums on Apple’s iTunes Music Store for iPod owners. “That appeased some iPod users, but others are still angry because they like to physically own a disc before importing it to iPods,” said Reuters.
American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu said that both Apple and the record companies would benefit if they reach an agreement on the copy protection. “Apple’s the leader in digital music. It doesn’t make sense to release too many copy-protected CDs if they’re incompatible with iPods. But Apple could also be at risk if these CDs keep selling well,” he said.
A higher capacity iPod shuffle and color screen iPod mini are both likely to be introduced this year, though a video iPod isn’t expected before the end of 2005, according to one Wall Street analyst. In a research note obtained by iLounge, Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Munster offered an overview of potential new Apple products, including his speculation on the future iPod line.
Munster said he expects a higher capacity iPod shuffle to debut before the end of 2005, noting that Apple Expo in Paris at the end of September will likely be the venue for its introduction. “Comments from iPod supplier PortalPlayer seem to indicate that there will be some form of new flash-based device in the market toward the end of the Sep-05 quarter,” Munster said. “We believe this is likely a high capacity shuffle or another new flash-based iPod.”
Munster said a much anticipated color screen iPod mini is likely to be introduced this year and could also debut at Apple Expo in Paris. “We believe that this is a natural extension of the existing 4GB/6GB mini and given Apple’s move to color on the 20GB iPod, we would not be surprised to see the company add a color screen to the mini,” he said. “In our view, a color screen iPod mini would be a home-run product for Apple in the upcoming holiday season.”
Finally, Munster said that a video iPod is unlikely anytime soon. “While speculation regarding the launch of a video iPod within the next 2-3 quarters is growing, we do not expect a video iPod within the next 12 months,” Munster said. “Based on comments from the company regarding the portable media center market and the current lack of significant consumer interest for feature film downloading, we believe Apple will wait at least 12 months—until the market is ready for such a product.”
Alongside the Japanese iTunes Music Store and Abkco announcements, Apple today also said that Nissan, Mazda and Daihatsu have joined other car makers in Japan to add iPod integration to their 2006 model lines. The new companies join BMW, MINI, smart and Alfa Romeo and others.
“We’re delighted to have such a wide variety of car companies in Japan offering iPod integration,
While advertisers struggle to reach consumers who have abandoned traditional radio in favor of their iPod, Apple says it has no plans to allow commercials on its device or iTunes.
“We have gone out of our way to not take advantage of advertising opportunities,” said Greg Joswiak, vice president of iPod product marketing. “We don’t think it’s part of the experience we want to give.”
Except for a handful of podcasts, industry experts believe there’s little opportunity to place ads on devices such as the iPod.
“People are using an iPod because they want to choose the music they listen to,” said Craig Davis, chief creative officer of WPP ad agency JWT Worldwide. “To interrupt and intrude on that with advertising would be pretty unwelcome.”
Hewlett-Packard has decided to stop reselling Apple’s line of iPods, the Wall Street Journal confirmed Friday [paid sub. req.]. HP spokesman Ross Camp told the paper that “the iPod doesn’t fit in with our digital entertainment strategy,” and said the company will quit selling the iPod at end of September.
“The deal between the two companies, which compete against each other in the PC market, was originally viewed as a major step for both companies, but the breakdown of the partnership isn’t likely to be a big loss for either side,” The Journal reports. “H-P on average accounted for only about 5% of iPod sales, which totaled about 6.2 million of the devices, worth more than $1.1 billion in revenue, for Apple last quarter.”
Camp told CNET News.com that HP’s “current plan” is to continue including Apple’s iTunes on its desktop and notebooks like it has done since 2004. The HP representative also said that under the terms of the partnership with Apple, HP cannot develop or market a rival digital music player until August 2006.
Apple and HP first announced their partnership in January 2004 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. HP started selling iPods in August 2004, then later added the iPod mini and more recently the iPod shuffle to its HP-branded line.
American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu expects Apple to ship its video iPod in October.
In a research note discussing Portal Player’s second quarter financial results, Wu wrote: “We believe new iPods including color iPod minis, higher capacity flash, and a video-capable iPod will not likely ship until the October timeframe in the December quarter.”
Wu said he expects Apple to ship 7.1 million iPods this quarter, 3.1 million of which will be iPod shuffles. He also believes that Portal Player has “secured the design win in a new 2GB iPod mini using flash” and that Apple will discontinue its 4GB iPod mini.
iPod chip maker PortalPlayer said it expects to see “significant demand” in the second half of the year for “exciting new models” from its partners, hinting that Apple does indeed have at least one new iPod coming this Fall. Analysts believe that since more than 90% of PortalPlayer’s sales come from Apple, the company is forecasting upcoming demand for a new iPod.
“We have completed the design win activity for our customers’ exciting new models intended to ship in the second half of 2005,” PortalPlayer CEO Gary Johnson said. “In addition, we worked with the supply chain to prepare our operations for significant demand in the second half of the year.” Johnson went on to say that his company is “excited about the upcoming back-to-school and holiday season and believe we are very well positioned for significant growth in the second half of the year.”
Johnson also said that PortalPlayer will soon benefit from its flash-based designs and wireless technologies. The company believes that “market demand for high-capacity flash players (1GB or greater) has accelerated.” Johnson also noted that PortaPlayer “accelerated its investment in innovative wireless technologies that we believe will help fuel our growth in 2006 and beyond.”
After being left in the dust by Apple’s iPod and iTunes, Microsoft is working harder than ever to become the “gatekeeper for the home video business of the future,” according to an LA Times article published today.
The software giant has taken rather large steps recently to persuade Hollywood that it is the right company to lead the next wave of digital media. Microsoft has already made pacts with Time Warner, Walt Disney Co. and News Corp., the Times reports.
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates says he vows not to play the victim in “Son of iPod.” After being humbled by Apple’s success with digital music, “we’re really having to work more closely with partners in the hardware industry and content industry, to really think through the whole end-to-end experience and make it better,” Gates said. “That’s where we’ve done our mea culpa. We are fixing that.”
The Times reports, however, that content creators “may stand pat, place their bets with multiple technology partners or choose someone other than Gates.” The paper says that “few in Hollywood would be shocked to see Apple founder Steve Jobs pull another rabbit out of his hat, unveiling a perfectly thought-out system for moving paid video to computers and portable devices.”
Rumors of a video iPod have gained further credence thanks to a report in Monday’s Wall Street Journal [paid sub. req.] that says Apple has recently held discussions with major recording companies about licensing their music videos to sell through the iTunes Music Store.
“The negotiations are a possible prelude to a version of Apple’s hit iPod that would play video, a widely expected gadget that Apple has told some entertainment-industry executives that it could announce by September,” the paper says.
The Journal reports that Apple has approached Warner, EMI, Universal and Sony BMG to license music videos which could go on sale as early as September for $1.99 each. Apple is already bundling music videos with select albums on iTunes.
In addition to the four major music companies, Apple has also had talks with media companies about licensing television shows, “though securing rights to sell television shows over the Internet is highly complex and is likely to take longer than other forms of video,” the paper says.
Reporting its fiscal 2005 third quarter financial results on Wednesday, Apple announced that it shipped more than 6.1 million iPods during the quarter, topping all analyst estimates, which ranged from 4.8 million to 5.55 million.
With today’s report of Apple shipping 6,155,000 iPods during the quarter—about 800,000 more than last quarter and 5.3 million more than a year ago—the total number of iPods sold now stands at over 20 million.
Apple’s net profit for the quarter was $320 million, or 37 cents per share, on $3.52 billion in revenue—the highest earnings and revenue in the company’s history. These results compare to a profit of $61 million, or 8 cents a share, and revenue of $2.01 billion last year.
In an SEC filing, Apple said all iPod models accounted for more than $1.1 billion in revenue during the quarter, an increase of 343 percent compared to last year. Apple’s “Other Music Products
Etchamac has expanded its custom laser etching service to include the iPod and iPod mini. The company uses a CO2 laser to professionally etch the image or text (or both) of your choice directly to the backside of your iPod. Text costs $30 for both iPods and iPod minis, while an image and text costs $50 for full-size iPods and $40 for iPod minis.
“The process is done at low power and can not damage your iPod,” explains Etchamac. “The process is quick, clean, and permanent. From family pictures to corporate logos, line art, or your favorite team. You give us the art and we will etch your iPod or Powerbook.”
ThinkFree has announced ThinkFree Office 3 Show, iPod Edition, new software that allows iPod users to create, edit and transport PowerPoint presentations and use them on any PC or view them on color screen iPods. ThinkFree Office 3 Show, iPod Edition is currently in beta and will be released in August for $39.95.
“Bringing the mobility of professional expression to another level, ThinkFree Office 3 Show, iPod Edition lets anyone create and edit powerful presentation graphics on any PC or Mac, then (with the color iPod or portable multimedia player) display them anywhere, from the campus to the golf course,” says ThinkFree. “This means that sales professionals, executives and students can leave their laptops at home and can literally put sophisticated graphic presentations in the hands of their prospects.”
PumpPod is a new “portable training program” for color screen iPods and other handheld devices.
Each “PumpPod Trainer” is a collection of detailed JPEG images that are synced to your iPod, allowing you to view the exercises, instructions and tips just like you would a normal photo. The workout training is available in several levels—from cardio to abs to weights. The company behind PumpPod said that most PumpPod Trainers, which start at $29, “make up a progressive 4-6 week exercise program.”
“PumpPod is like having an elite personal trainer that fits in your pocket and goes where you go,” the company says. “The bright images and simple instructions demonstrate how to do exercises properly and effectively for better results. Best part? PumpPod is a visual training aid that won’t get in the way of you, your music, or your workout. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”
In a phone call to the father of the 15-year-old boy who was fatally stabbed over his iPod last week in Brooklyn, Apple CEO Steve Jobs conveyed his sympathies and told the man not to hesitate to ask if there was anything Jobs could do for him.
“I didn’t know who he was,” Errol Rose, father of the slain Christopher Rose, told The New York Times. “He called me on my cellphone, at 4 maybe. Or maybe it was 5.”
“He told me that he understood my pain,” Rose said. “He told me if there is anything—anything—he could do, to not be afraid to call him. It really lightened me a bit. Some people talk to you like they’re something remote,” Rose said. “He was so familiar. After every word, he paused, as if each word he said came from his heart.”
“We live in a world which is changing rapidly,” Rose said. “We have the technology that can give us the iPod and everything else, but it’s not all these things. We have to work on the minds and the hearts. We’re failing these kids. We’re not loving them like we’re supposed to.”
Clarifying ambiguities over the actual “generation” or version number of the updated iPods released this Tuesday, a senior executive with Apple Computer confirmed to iLounge this evening that the new color-screened devices are still considered by the company to be “4th generation” (4G) iPods.
While the executive did not provide further naming details, Apple has been calling the new models “iPod with color display” in various support documents and software release notes. The company has publicly referred to the last two major iPod revisions, the iPod With Dock Connector (with a touch wheel and four touch-sensitive buttons) and the Click Wheel iPod, as “third-generation” and “fourth-generation” models, respectively. With Tuesday’s iPods still considered part of the fourth-generation family, one can now safely assume that Apple is saving the “fifth-generation” moniker for an all-new iPod yet to be revealed, perhaps conveniently at the same time as version 5.0 of iTunes.