In addition to expanding its Rhapsody subscription service today, RealNetworks also quietly restored iPod support for songs purchased from its online music store with an update to its Harmony technology. A RealNetworks executive confirmed the move to CNET News.com. “Harmony now supports all shipping iPods, including iPod photo,” said RealNetworks Chief Strategy Officer Richard Wolpert.
RealNetworks released Harmony without Apple’s blessing last year making the company’s online store the first to offer copy-protected digital music (other than the iTunes Music Store) that could play on the iPod. Apple said at the time it was “stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod,” and updated the iPod firmware a few months later to break compatibility.
It should be noted that songs downloaded from RealNetworks’ new subscription services do not work with the iPod and are only compatible with a small number of Windows-based MP3 players.
The iPod is featured prominently in a radio broadcast by BBC Radio 2’s Steve Lamacq, who explores the boom in digital music and its impact on the music industry.
“In this one hour authored documentary, Steve Lamacq investigates how we have arrived at this point and what impact the ‘digital technology revolution’ will have on the future of the music industry as we know it: we talk to the record labels, retailers, consumers, artists and the kids who get music in a different sort of way to how we used to.”
The role of the iPod is among topics discussed, and comments are included from Apple’s Greg Joswiak, Vice President of Hardware Marketing, and Eddie Cue, VP of Applications. To hear the program on BBC Radio 2 Replay service, visit Listen Again. The broadcast is available until Saturday, April 30, 2005.
Synaptics, which supplies touchpad components used in Apple’s iPod, said last week that its fourth quarter earnings are expected to be less than Wall Street estimates because of “softness in its music player business.”
In a research note obtained by iLounge on Monday, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said iPod demand remains strong and gave his thoughts on the cautious guidance from Synaptics.
“On Friday, Synaptics provided guidance slightly below Street estimates for the June quarter based on expectations for softness in its portable music player business. From a headline perspective, Synaptics comments are negative, but it is important to keep in mind: 1) we do not believe there have been any significant changes to Apple’s dominant market share, and 2) while not a positive, it is reasonable to assume that due to seasonality, June quarter iPod unit shipments would fall from December and March quarter levels.”
Munster said he expects Apple to ship approximately 3.5 million iPods (excluding iPod shuffles) in the June quarter.
Banc of America Securities expects Apple to introduce a new iPod “as early as June” to help increase demand which is expected to slow this quarter. The firm forecasts that iPod shipments will decrease to 4.8 million units in Apple’s fiscal third quarter ending in June from 5.3 million units last quarter.
In a research note to clients, Banc of America Securities said that its model incorporates “some seasonal softness,” and with flat revenue guidance from Apple’s last financial conference call, “we imagine that investors are looking to flat to slightly down MP3 sales, and strength in CPUs.”
NBC “Today” show tech editor Corey Greenberg has admitted to charging $15,000 to Apple and other companies to talk about their products on television, reports the Washington Post. In July, Greenberg praised the iPod on the show, saying it was “a great portable musical player… the coolest-looking one.” He said, “This is the way to go.” Greenberg has also appeared several times on CNBC touting Apple products including the iPod photo.
However, Greenberg says he was never paid to promote products on national TV — only local news. “I have never accepted payment to place a product on NBC News,” Greenberg says. “I have never accepted payment to say nice things about a product in any venue.” He says companies hired him as “a spokesperson who could talk credibly and understandably about consumer products,” but that he would no longer accept payment for appearances on local news shows.
The financial relationships Greenberg and another man, Child magazine’s Technology Editor James Oppenheim, separately have with companies was first reported yesterday by the Wall Street Journal, as noted by iLounge Backstage. Further details about the dealings can be found in that article.
iLounge reader Adrian from Germany writes to tell readers that “the packaging of the regular iPod 20GB has been changed recently. Instead of the packaging featuring images from the silhouette ads, the iPod 20GB is now packaged similarly as the updated iPod photo models (i.e. black box with silver writing). The only difference is that it lacks the ‘photo’ box and the size obviously reads ‘20GB’ instead of ‘30GB’ or ‘60GB’. The display images are also not in colour. Glad the box looks nicer again, but it’s confusing for customers.”
For pictures of the new 20GB iPod box, click on Comments above or photos below. For iLounge’s box opening gallery for the 30GB iPod photo, use this link. Thanks to Adrian for the 20GB photos!
Update: iLounge editor Jerrod H. has confirmed that black-boxed 20GB iPods still contain their predecessors’ FireWire and USB cables, as well as their AC adapters. Thanks, Jerrod.
While Apple does not break down iPod sales per model in its earnings reports, Piper Jaffray estimates that in its first quarter of availability the iPod shuffle accounted for approximately 1.8 million of Apple’s 5.3 million iPods shipped. The firm had estimated Apple would ship 1 million iPod shuffles during the March quarter.
In a research note obtained by iLounge, Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Munster also comments on the iPod halo effect that has been cited in the past year as a positive force for Mac sales, and notes that he expects Apple to ship 25 million iPods in 2005 for a total of more than 35 million iPods in four years.
“Our confidence in the halo effect has increased based on Mac sales of 1.07 million units in the March quarter compared to Street expectations of about 970,000 units,” Munster said. “We believe the halo effect is the primary driver of upside to Mac units. We expect the halo effect to accelerate in 2005 as the total installed base of iPods increases from 10.3 million at the end of 2004 to an estimated 35 million by the end 2005.”
U.S. shipments of portable MP3 players will grow 35 percent to 18.2 million units in 2005, according to a new report from JupiterResearch. “MP3 players will reach critical mass this year, fueling demand for digital music services and stores,” the firm said. Jupiter forecasts that digital audio devices will maintain an annual growth rate of over 10 percent through 2010, reaching an installed base of 56.1 million, up from 16.2 million in 2004.
“Apple shows no signs of losing momentum,” said Michael Gartenberg, VP and Research Director at JupiterResearch. “The iPod is a consumer phenomenon. Apple dominates this sector and will dominate portable MP3 player growth over the medium term,” added Gartenberg. The firm raised its near-term forecast “mostly due to the iPod’s success,” but projects that shipments of flash-based players will surpass those of hard-drive models in 2007.
As expected, Hewlett-Packard has expanded its line of HP-branded iPods to include Apple’s new 30GB and 60GB iPod photo models. HP’s versions are identical to the Apple iPod photos save for packaging and HP’s Total Care customer support service, which includes one year of phone support and a one-year warranty.
The two new HP iPod models will not refer to their photo capabilities in their names, and will each only be called the “Apple iPod from HP.” An HP representative told iLounge the reasoning behind this decision: “We did not call this the iPod photo because we wished to avoid confusion between these products and our other photo offerings such as digital cameras. So, while our packaging and other marketing materials will make the photo viewing and sharing capabilities of the product clear, we chose not to include the word photo in the product name.”
The new HP iPods will soon be available for the same pricing as Apple ($349 for the 30GB model and $449 for the 60GB model) on HP’s online store and at a number of major retailers, including Circuit City, Radio Shack, Sears and Wal-Mart. HP confirmed that it will continue to offer the 20GB iPod with monochrome display for $299. Unsurprisingly, the 40GB HP iPod, which was based on the now discontinued Apple version, is no longer offered.
Today’s Wall Street Journal features an article [paid sub. req.] on the challenges Apple is facing from the $100 billion mobile phone industry. Apple’s digital music lead “may not last much longer,” the article says, because cell phone makers and wireless carriers are “piling into mobile music, with an array of new services and phones that could radically change a game that until now has been defined largely by Apple.”
“Despite Apple’s domination of the digital music sector the market remains in its infancy. The balance of power could tip suddenly and dramatically, especially if Apple doesn’t race to get its music technology into cell phones — an effort that’s had some hiccups. Last year, manufacturers sold an estimated seven million MP3 players in the U.S., a figure dwarfed by the roughly 80 million cell phones sold in the country.”
The article also cites a recent survey by Jupiter Research which showed that 76% of those asked said they carry a mobile phone regularly, while only 7% said the same about a music player.
Some analysts, however, believe consumers will still want devices designed for a specific purpose, and not an all-in-one gadget that does several things, but none of them great. “It’s hard to view the music phone as a direct threat to music players, any more than camera phones have put cameras out of business,” says Michael Gartenberg, director of research at Jupiter Research.
Yamaha has created a special version of its EC-02 electric scooter that features built-in stereo speakers on the sides and a docking area for a fourth-generation iPod just in front of the seat. The iPod-equipped EC-02 also features an amplifier, an extra battery, and an Apple wired remote that’s molded into a compartment on the right handlebar.
According to iLounger Kazutoshi Otani, this version of the EC-02 is just a concept and is not for sale to the public.
O’Reilly has announced the release of “iPod & iTunes: The Missing Manual, Third Edition” by New York Times tech columnist J.D. Biersdorfer. The $24.95 book is an updated version of the popular title that aims to help readers get the most out of their iPods.
“This book is one-stop shopping for iPod reference and information,” promises Biersdorfer. “It takes you on a joyride through the iPod subculture. And it guides you through all the cool musical and nonmusical things you can do with your iPod, from looking up phone numbers to checking the weather report. You’ll also find heaping helpings of the Three T’s: tips, tricks, and troubleshooting.”
In an unusually detailed look at the music collection of a sitting President, The New York Times’ Elisabeth Bumiller reports that the “First iPod” has become the “indispensible new exercise toy” of George W. Bush, and is “loaded with country and popular rock tunes”, “heavy on traditional country singers like George Jones, Alan Jackson and Kenny Chesney.” Received from his daughters as a birthday gift in July 2004, the iPod contains only 250 songs, and is used “chiefly during bike workouts to help him pump up his heartbeat, which he monitors with a wrist strap.”
Most interestingly, The Times reports that Bush “does not take the time to download the music himself;” rather, he has had his personal aide buy songs from the iTunes Music Store, and “also has an eclectic mix of songs downloaded into his iPod from Mark McKinnon, a biking buddy and his chief media strategist during the 2004 campaign.”
Duke University said today that it will continue its educational iPod program, but that not every incoming first-year student will receive one like last year. Following a preliminary review of the year-long program, Duke said the iPods will only be offered for specific courses upon the request of faculty members.
“We weren’t sure what to expect when we launched this project, but we’ve been pleased by how it’s succeeded in encouraging many faculty and students to consider new ways of using the technology in fields from engineering to foreign languages,” said Peter Lange, Duke’s provost and senior academic officer. “We’ve been focusing on iPods and other mobile computing, but our wider goal is to integrate technology broadly into the teaching and learning process. The iPods have helped jump-start this process, and we plan to keep pushing ahead.”
According to a report by Silicon Valley Watcher, Apple has entered into an agreement with UK-based Alphamosaic to produce a powerful multimedia chip that could make its way into future iPod models.
Acquired last year by leading US chipmaker Broadcom, Alphamosaic developed the VC02 chip, which has been called the world’s most advanced mobile multimedia processor. It offers support for playback of 30 frame per second, VGA-quality video, and includes the ability to capture 8-megapixel digital still images. The chip uses a “VideoCore II processing engine” that supports new video and audio standards such as H.264 and aacPlus, each likely in a portable Apple-developed multimedia device. It also “excels in high-quality 3D graphics performance with the capability to support pixel shading and volumetric lighting with low power consumption, making it ideal for use in mobile gaming applications and comparable in performance to home consoles.”
The first VC02 chip is Broadcom’s BCM2702, which offers direct NTSC and PAL video output, realtime MPEG-4 video encoding for live recording of video, and support for digital rights management. Broadcom has also developed the BCM2705, which it describes as “the lowest power multimedia processor currently available for mobile phones,” that “for the first time in the industry, provides high-end video, gaming and music capabilities to mid-range feature phones” at a price point of around $30 per chip in small quantities. The BCM2705 drops support for direct TV video output and includes less memory than the BCM2702, both decisions made to reduce price and tailor features to midrange mobile phone buyers. The specific features and pricing of any iPod-specific version of the VC02 chip are currently unknown.
The iPod remains the leading digital audio player among teenagers by a significant margin in current and expected ownership of the devices, according to a new survey of 11 high schools released Wednesday.
Piper Jaffray’s bi-annual “Taking Stock With Teens” survey found that 56% who said they own a portable music player own an iPod, compared to 40% in the Fall 2004 survey. The next closest competitor was Sony, which was chosen by 14% of device owners. The survey found that Apple also has a significant lead in expected future purchases. Of the 59% of students expecting to buy a device within the next year, 70% expect to buy an iPod. Only 15% said they expect to buy a Sony device.
For teens, the pricing “sweet spot” for digital audio players remains $100-$199, which the investment firm notes includes three iPod models — both iPod shuffles and the 4GB iPod mini.
Like the iPod, Apple’s iTunes Music Store is also rated highly by teenagers. The results of Piper Jaffray’s survey found that iTunes has “significantly higher penetration into the high school demographic than all other services,” with nearly 60% usage. The next closest online music store is Napster with 9% usage by teens surveyed.
Odeo is a startup company that aims to make podcasting easier for the millions of iPod users who want to take advantage of the new web-based broadcast medium. iLounge recently spoke with co-founder Evan Williams about the company and what exactly it will offer podcasters and listeners. Williams previously created the Blogger.com weblogging service and later sold it to Google. If his part in the blog phenomenon is any indication, podcasting is here to stay — and is set to go mainstream in a hurry.
The Odeo services are currently in beta stage and are only available by invitation. No announcement has been made on when Odeo will have its official launch for the public. Continue reading for some details of the new services and for a screenshot of the company’s website.
Mercedes-Benz is testing iPod-compatible Audio Books at the New York Auto Show, which is taking place at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City until April 2. The Audio Books are designed to educate potential Mercedes buyers about a car’s features by providing digital “walk-around” audio narrations with an iPod. Consumers at the show can download the Audio Books to their own iPod for $2.95, or use loaner iPods for free. Mercedes-Benz said downloads of the Audio Books will also be available on the iTunes Music Store. The car maker has developed Audio Books — that cover everything from the engine to trunk — for the M-Class, CLS, SLK, and SLR McLaren. All proceeds from the Audio Book sales during the show will be donated to Automotive High School in Brooklyn, New York.
iLounge is proud to announce that in only the first four days since its release, the new issue of our Buyers’ Guide (Spring/Summer 2005) has already been downloaded more than 100,000 times directly from iLounge’s servers. This number does not include any of the downloads that have taken place through the numerous mirrored download servers available, or downloads made through file-sharing networks. iLounge has encouraged sharing of the Buyers’ Guide through such networks in an effort to promote responsible and legal use of these technologies.
The magazine-format digital Buyers’ Guide includes over 100 pages of iPod culture, products, and expert advice from iLounge. You’ll find tons of previews and reviews, a Beginners’ Guide to the iPod, sneak peeks at upcoming accessories (including Griffin’s iTripLCD), a first look at the new iLounge web site design, and much more. Downloads are now available in two formats: one for single-page viewing and easy home printing, and another for widescreen magazine-style viewing in double-page spreads. Both versions are completely free for iLounge users, and are available here.
The first Buyers’ Guide, which was released in November of last year, has been downloaded approximately 350,000 times so far, and contains its own collection of feature articles, reviews, and contest entries from iLounge readers. It remains available for free download at this link.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says that Apple’s product availability is improving based on the shorter estimated ship times on the company’s online store, particularly for both versions of the iPod shuffle and Mac mini. In a research note provided to iLounge, Munster says that over the last several weeks, the ship time on every Apple product — from desktops to iPods — either remained the same or was reduced except for the special edition U2 iPod. The 512MB and 1GB iPod shuffle models are now ready to ship on the same business day from 1-3 days and 5-7 days, respectively.
Munster also noted that in a recent check of Amazon.com’s Top Seller list for MP3 players, 8 of the top 10 were versions of the iPod. “This is the first time we have examined the iPod’s popularity on Amazon.com, but we believe it shows that Apple continues to be the dominant producer of portable MP3 players,” he says.