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.
Hewlett-Packard is showing a renewed interest in the iPod, announcing the first computer with a built-in docking area for the device and saying that it will soon offer a branded version of the iPod photo.
HP said it is planning to add a spot for the iPod in its new Media Center m7000 desktop PC. The computer “doesn’t have a dock itself, but rather features a molded piece of plastic that fits around Apple’s own dock to allow the device to gracefully dock atop the PC,” according to CNET News.com’s Ina Fried.
Siobhan O’Connor, HP’s vice president of consumer brand and marketing, said that the company will be releasing new HP-branded iPods in the coming weeks, including an HP version of the iPod photo as former CEO Carly Fiorina said in January. “Expect us to have, like we did with the original products, a very similar lineup to what Apple has,” O’Connor said.
HP has recently been criticized for not taking full advantage of its partnership with Apple. Goldman Sachs said HP needs to make “substantial changes” in its relationship with Apple and that “HP’s iPod sales are likely to decline markedly over the next few quarters unless HP is able to bring out new iPod models in a more timely manner.” The firm says HP could drop from 7% of Apple’s iPod shipments in the December quarter to 2% in the March quarter.
The Hilton Family of Hotels has introduced its new Hilton Family Alarm Clock, which will be installed at its hotels nationwide this spring. The custom-designed clock features an easy-to-set alarm, four pre-set music selection buttons, and allows guests to plug in an iPod or other music device to listen to their tunes without headphones.
To celebrate the rollout of the new clock, Hilton has put together a large Apple giveaway and created the Hilton Family Virtual Clock — a software replica version of the in-room clock that can be used as a desktop alarm. The downloadable clock also helps users play the Hilton Family Timing Is Everything Sweepstakes by sounding an alarm at the beginning of each of the four phases of the giveaway.
Prizes include: 100 winners of a $10 iTunes gift certificate (Phase 1), 100 winners of a Hilton Family Alarm Clock (Phase 2), 250 winners of an iPod mini (Phase 3), and 10 winners of a Two Night Stay at a participating Hilton Family hotel (Phase 4). The grand prize is a 4-night stay at a participating Hilton hotel, a clock, an iPod mini and a $10 iTunes gift certificate.
The giveaway starts today and ends July 7, 2005.
Two of the new documents reveal further interesting details of the device. According to Apple, you can use the the Camera Connector to not only import photos, but to also transfer videos and audio (with a supported camera) to your iPod photo.
“Though you can’t view movie files on iPod photo, you can view it on your computer after you connect your iPod to your computer and transfer the file,” Apple says in one document. “If you select the file on your iPod, you will see the following message: ‘This media file cannot be viewed or played on iPod. Use QuickTime to open this file on your computer.’” The company says you will get the same message if you try to open an imported audio file.
Apple also says that the Camera Connector can import photos in the RAW image format, but that an iPod photo cannot display them. In addition, iPod photo software 1.1 enables you to use an iPod remote to control an iPod photo slideshow (previously, you could only use the Click Wheel).
The new support documents include:
How to use the iPod Camera Connector
iPod Camera Connector: Using the USB port
iPod Camera Connector: Supported Devices
iPod Camera Connector: Choosing a photo importing protocol on a camera
iPod photo: Understanding Browse Roll icons
iPod photo: Use Delete Roll to delete imported photos
iPod photo: Use your camera’s erase function to erase a media card completely
iPod photo: Update software to use iPod Remote for slideshows
iPod photo may seem to stop responding when importing movies
iLounge is pleased to provide a downloadable QuickTime movie clip (.MOV format) of the new photo slideshow transition effects available to iPod photo owners. The transitions, which were added in today’s release of iPod Software Updater 2005-03-23 and its included iPod photo system software version 1.1, are as follows: Push Across, Push Down, Wipe Across, Wipe Down, and Wipe From Center. There’s also a Random effect, which chooses from the five transitions at random. All of the transitions are smooth, and as you can see in the video, look great.
Previously, the only transition available was Wipe Across, and the new transitions continue to add only two-dimensional effects to the iPod photo’s arsenal. Three-dimensional transitions such as Droplet, Mosaic, and Page Flip in Apple’s Mac OS X application iPhoto, are unlikely to appear on current generation iPod photo hardware. See our earlier news story for additional interesting details.
Apple today quietly released iPod Updater 2005-03-23, which provides support for Apple’s new Camera Connector accessory. According to the release notes from the Mac OS X Software Update utility, the update includes iPod Software 1.1 for “iPods with color displays.” Interestingly, this is the first time that Apple has referred to “iPods with color displays” instead of “iPod photos.” Apple’s website does, however, say it is for “iPod photos.” The 28.9 MB download also offers updated slideshow transitions, which include: Push across, Push down, Wipe across, Wipe down, Wipe from center, random, and off.
Fiction author Scott Sigler today announced the release of EarthCore as “the world’s first Podcast-only novel.” Sigler said he will release an hour of audio each week, creating a format similar to weekly drama TV shows with continuing storylines. The free Podcast feed will run for 20 episodes.
“EarthCore is the first Podcast novel because it is not available in any other format. Listeners can’t buy the book and peek at the last page, they have to wait each week for a new episode,” Sigler says. “You can listen to them on your iPod or MP3 player, letting you enjoy the story while driving, at the gym, walking — anywhere you want to listen. Listeners don’t have to be in a specific place at a specific time. You listen whenever you want.”
In a seven-page Business 2.0 article [paid sub. required] on Apple’s possible plans for the future, Paul Sloan speculates that the company will continue its dominance in the digital media and consumer electronics businesses with a lineup of iPod-based products. The magazine has also posted renderings of these possible products, which include “PodWatch,” “iPod Wireless,” “vPod,” “iHome” and “iPhone.” The mock-ups were created by Robert Brunner, Apple’s chief designer from 1989 to 1996.
“Discussions with past and present company officials, Apple partners, and longtime acquaintances of Jobs, as well as clues in patent applications and other evidence, point to a gargantuan effort to leverage the iPod’s success by creating an entire line of breakout consumer electronics devices,” Sloan writes. “Dozens of gadgets — from an iPod phone to wireless iPods that talk to one another to the ultimate all-in-one home-cum-car media hub — appear to be on the drawing board or, in some cases, already in prototype.”
Sloan says a wireless iPod could use Bluetooth to sync with your computer, or use Wi-Fi to connect to the iTunes Music Store from a public network. He also mentions that the device could morph into a “super iPod” that would “wirelessly communicate with a car, providing an iPod-like interface on the dashboard that handles not only music but also addresses, calendar information, and even a navigational system.” An iPod/mobile phone combination device could be controlled “with the iPod’s scroll wheel, and the numbers could work with a slide-out keyboard or a simple touchpad system on the screen,” Sloan says.
“For the first time in more than a decade, Apple has a chance to become a commercially powerful company — not just a very cool place with a superstar CEO and brilliant designers, but a leader in new markets that are exponentially bigger than the very computer industry it pioneered,” he says. “The sizzle is in what Apple comes up with to turbocharge the iPod — or to create entirely new devices so irresistible that, iPod-like, they’ll blast open vast new markets.”
Other interesting details in the article were the fact that the iPod is selling at a rate of about 40 per minute, and that Microsoft recently hired a former Apple design executive to help the software giant be more like Apple.
UK’s Playlist Club has teamed up with iLounge to bring its unique iPod-DJing experience to the US. Playlist Philadelphia will be held on Monday, March 28, at The Khyber, 56 S. 2nd Street (2nd & Chestnut) at 8:00 p.m. Admission will be free.
“Playlist invites music lovers, mixers and makers to turn up with their best 15-minute set of tunes on their iPod and play their songs through the club PA for our audience of music fans and critical judges. The best DJs on the night win great prizes, and judges get a free drink on us.”
The top three sets win prizes courtesy of iLounge. The top vote-getter will receive a 512MB iPod shuffle. Second place will be awarded a pair of Etymotic ER6i earphones, and third will get a $50 iTunes Music Store gift card.
Sales of portable digital audio players are set to grow 57 percent in 2005 after more than doubling last year, a global survey by iSuppli found. The market research group said today that over the next five years, shipments of MP3 players will expand to 132 million units in 2009 from 36.8 million in 2004. Sales of hard drive-based digital audio players are expected increase to 56.2 million units in 2009, up from 9.8 million in 2004, and account for 43 percent of the total MP3 market.
iSuppli said that less is more when it comes to portable players. “The so-called ‘Swiss Army Knife’ approach has not succeeded in the MP3 market. Simple, elegant products that perform a few functions with easy-to-use interfaces have sold well in the marketplace, while the do-everything approach has failed.”
PodGuides.net has announced the release of PodGuide Generator, an application that allows you to easily create audio tour guides for your iPod. “Just fill in your PodGuide data (PodGuide name, track info, track pictures) and it generates a PodGuide for you. Add the mp3 files, zip it and submit it to PodGuides.net - a site for a community of people who want to make and share their own audio tours.” PodGuide Generator is available for both Mac and Windows.
Steven Milunovich of Merrill Lynch said today that Apple has little to worry about in terms of competition from new flash memory-based players and subscription music services from its rivals.
In a research note provided to iLounge, Milunovich said that Sony’s three new flash MP3 players will be the most likely to challenge the iPod shuffle in the coming months. “We believe these are likely to be solid sellers, but they don’t support iTunes and do not have the cache of an iPod,” he said.
Milunovich noted that the Sony players do have a small screen, but that they use AAA batteries as compared to the iPod shuffle’s rechargeable internal battery. “We view Sony as the most serious competitor, but since Apple will be supply-constrained on shuffles it will be difficult to assess the impact in the near term,” he said.
The analyst also said that Napster’s $14.99 a month subscription service could be easily matched if Apple wanted to. “We don’t see a big impact on Apple because (1) we are not big believers in the subscription model where consumers pay indefinitely to listen to their favorite songs, and (2) if we’re wrong, Apple can establish a subscription service with few barriers to entry,” Milunovich said. “Record label executives we spoke with believe the market could be bimodal with the majority people choosing to purchase and a niche for subscription services.”
CitizenPod has released SXSW4Pod, an interactive schedule listing for the 2005 South By Southwest (SXSW) Festival & Conference created specifically for iPods.
“Never before has SXSW been so easy to navigate. With our free download, CitizenPod puts the entire SXSW lineup on your iPod and into your hands. Access the festival as easily as navigating through your iPod! Using the built-in Notes feature of your iPod, you can search the SXSW Music Festival by band, venue, showcase, and genre. Search the Film and Interactive Festivals by event and location all with the simplicity of using an iPod.”
SXSW4Pod is the first of CitizenPod’s guide4Pod service. The company plans to partner with festivals, trade shows, record companies, night clubs, restaurants, museums and others for future guides.
Editor’s Note: iLounge publisher Dennis Lloyd will be at SXSW next week to discuss ways to trick out your iPod. He will be on a panel with other digital music experts on Tuesday, March 15, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Merrill Lynch analyst Steven Milunovich says he now expects Apple to sell 4.5 million iPods this quarter and 20 million for the year. Milunovich was previously looking for the company to sell 4 million devices in the March quarter. “Although iPod competition is strengthening, we believe demand for the iPod shuffle continues to outstrip supply,” Milunovich says in a research note obtained by iLounge.
Milunovich also said that digital music subscription services do not appear to be an immediate threat to iTunes. “We believe Napster’s results show that online music purchases continue to grow. We do not see the small rise in absolute number of subscribers (now at 270,000) as taking share from Apple’s iTunes,” he says.
A stand-alone iPod store has opened up in San Luis Obispo, California. Shane Williams, owner of the iPod Shop, said it’s the first such store in the country. “We were originally selling the iPods out of our Mac store [the Mac Superstore in San Luis Obispo], and when they became all the rage, we found that we didn’t have enough room for them and all of their accessories,” Williams said. The iPod Shop, which averages about $4,000 per day in revenue, offers 14 iPod models, more than 100 accessories, and “a comfortable chair in the middle of the room to listening stations along the walls.”
A recent consumer survey found that the average iPod owner in the U.S. spends about $150 on accessories—on average half of the value of the device. The study by market research firm Envisioneering Group averaged the price of an iPod at $300 and was taken before the introduction of the iPod shuffle.
“This is an amazing uptick in iPod accessory sales and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down,” Richard Doherty, research director at the Envisioneering Group, told the Mac Observer. “The iPod is a different phenomenon among electronic products. Music is a reflection of our soul and the iPod is becoming an emotional extension of people.”
Doherty said iPod accessory sales could go higher than $150 per device sometime in 2005. “I don’t think you’ll see the average hit 200% of each average iPod sold of $300, but it will creep up a little,” he said. “Demand will stay strong, for sure.”
PortalPlayer, which makes the chips that power all current hard drive-based iPods, today disclosed details of its next-generation PP5022 chip for portable digital media players. The PP5022 improves upon the current PP5020 chip, offering “up to triple the battery life” thanks to better power consumption. It should be noted, however, that many factors such as LCDs, hard disks, and other integrated components will have a significant impact on battery life. Currently, the 4G iPod offers 12 hours of playback time; the iPod photo 15-17 hours; and the iPod mini 18-26 hours. The PP5022 also builds on the multimedia capabilities of the 5020, with support for video playback and, like the iPod photo’s TV slideshow features, dual-screened control of video: a menu could be on the portable screen while video clips play on your TV.
In a related announcement, PortalPlayer introduced the PP5024 chip, a more limited processor intended for high-capacity flash memory-based music players. In future generations of the iPod shuffle, the PP5024 could eventually replace the SigmaTel processor Apple currently uses. There is currently no clear reason to make such a switch, however.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says Apple’s announcement today that it has sold more than 300 million tracks from the iTunes Music Store means that the daily average of downloads has held steady following a holiday uptick. In a research note to clients, Munster said the average per day since January is approximately 1.35 million downloads, in-line with the 1.43 million average after the holidays. “We had been anticipating a more significant drop off in iTunes sales from the levels seen in the weeks following the holidays,” he said, noting that iTunes sales have exceeded his estimate for the March quarter.