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Apple posts special event video, iPod commercial

Apple has now posted a streaming QuickTime video of today’s “One more thing” event, where Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the new iPod, iTunes 6, and updated iMacs. In addition, Apple has also made its latest iPod commercial available for download. The new spot features a U2 video playing on a new iPod with the tagline, “Watch your music.”

Apple intros fifth-generation iPod with video playback

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As widely expected, Apple today introduced the long-rumored new iPod with video playback capabilities. The new fifth-generation device, which is up to 30% thinner than the previous full-size iPod, features a larger 2.5-inch color screen (320 x 240 resolution, 260,000 colors) that can play videos, including music videos, video Podcasts, home movies and television shows, in addition to displaying album artwork and photos. It supports MPEG4 and H.264 video at 30 fps and also sports TV out. (See our report on iTunes 6 for further details on available video content). The new iPod is available in both white and black versions in 30GB ($299) and 60GB ($399) capacities. Both models will begin shipping next week.

iLounge Exclusive: New iPod revealed

iLounge has snapped exclusive photos of advertisements for the new iPod, which will be introduced today at Apple’s “One more thing” event in San Jose, California. The familiar silhouette posters clearly show an all-new iPod model with a noticeably larger display, approximately 2.5 to 2.6 inches diagonal, compared to the current full-size iPod’s 2-inch screen. Also of note, the headphone jack has been moved from the top-center to the top-right side of the device.

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Apple hints at new iPod announcement, sees ‘staggering’ nano demand

During Apple’s fourth quarter conference call with analysts and press Tuesday, a senior Apple executive said that the final phase of a complete iPod lineup revamp would be revealed before the holiday shopping season, hinting that full-size iPods would soon receive a makeover and new features—possibly at tomorrow’s special event in San Jose, California.

While discussing the iPod family and the new iPod nano, which just replaced the iPod mini, Tim Cook, Apple’s executive vice president of worldwide sales and operations, said that his company had some “very innovative new products that we have yet to introduce” for the holiday season. Cook noted that Apple began working on “revolutionary” new versions of its iPods more than a year ago, and that last quarter was the final quarter for the older models.

Also during the conference call, Cook said that Apple sold over 1 million iPod nanos in the first 17 days of the product’s availability (before the fourth quarter ended), and that the company is seeing “staggering” demand and an “enormous backlog” for the tiny device.

BBC 6 Music report: Video iPod set to debut in London next week

During a broadcast earlier in the day, BBC 6 Music news reported “Apple is set to unveil a new video iPod at the BBC Television Centre in London on October the 12th. The company is expected to reveal details of the new MP3 and video player as well as video bundles to be available from the company’s iTunes stores.” Conflicting reports about the rumored video iPod have run rampant across the web since Apple sent out the “One More Thing…” announcements yesterday. The broadcast is no longer available on the BBC site.

Analysts expect video iPod at special event next week

Like many others, two Wall Street analysts are expecting Apple to introduce the much-rumored video iPod at next week’s “One more thing” special event in San Jose, California.

“We would expect a video iPod to have a material ‘wow’ factor, but we believe that it would need to be priced reasonably (less than $400) and be accompanied by a significant library of iTunes accessible video content to not be anything more than a niche product in the near term,” Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Munster said in a research report obtained by iLounge. “That said, a first step into portable video would open the door for future product innovations as the company continues to branch out into more of central player in digital and mobile convergence.”

Munster said a smaller form factor high capacity (greater than 10GB) iPod could also be shown at the event, but he does not expect a new Mac computer (other than possible incremental changes to speed and memory), nor does he believe the company will introduce an Apple-branded mobile phone.

American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu also believes a video iPod will be unveiled next week, and is also looking for speed-bumped Macs. “After spending the past two years studying this market and negotiating with content partners, it appears Apple is ready to go to market with a 1st generation video-capable iPod,” Wu said. “Competitors Samsung, Creative Technology, iRiver, and Archos have shipped portable video devices for some time albeit without much success. We think a key area to watch is the price points Apple will set for these new devices. If Apple can charge under $400 and preferably $299, we believe it will sell well. At higher price points, we believe it may be difficult to drive high volume.”

Wu said he expects that the first set of video content available from the iTunes store will be music videos and video podcasts. “At this point, we do not anticipate full-length feature movies but would not be surprised to see some test movies in the future as the studios are still figuring out their future business model vs. today’s movie theater and then DVD approach,” he said. “We are also picking up indications that Apple could announce an optional external ‘video out’ module that attaches to an iPod video meaning one can output the video to a TV or external screen.”

Apple announces “One More Thing” event for Oct. 12

Apple has announced a “One More Thing” event on October 12, 2005, at the same California Theatre venue in San Jose where the iPod photo and U2 Special Edition iPod were announced last year. The event, promoted to select media, will begin at 10:00am Pacific, and is named after the famed oratory trick of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who uses the phrase as a prelude to a bombshell announcement at the close of a keynote speech. As contrasted with the blue jeans image used to tease the announcement of the iPod nano, the One More Thing event is promoted with a red theater-like curtain. iLounge will be on hand to provide coverage of the day’s announcements, which will come one day after the company publicly discloses its financial results on October 11.

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Forbes: iPod sales could top 10 million in Q4

According to analysts with UBS, sales of iPods could top 10 million in the fourth quarter, Forbes reports. Worldwide checks found the potential to exceed 10 million units based on “ambitious plans for the nano” and “recent reports that a handheld device capable of video playback may be in the works.”

“‘In short, our meetings were very positive for Apple into year-end and next, in terms of potential new iPods and possible build plans,’ said the firm. ‘We continue to believe that Apple could do more in terms of multimedia offerings into the year-end.’”

Microsoft demos Xbox 360-to-iPod connection, notes limits

image During its first demonstration of “final” Xbox 360 hardware in London, Microsoft showed off its upcoming game console’s ability to interface with an iPod, and explained the link between the two devices. According to German site Heise Online, Xbox 360 can connect to an iPod with a standard Apple cable using any one of three total USB ports, then use the iPod’s MP3- or WAV-format music as a soundtrack for games.

Though an iPod mini was used in the demonstration, other digital music players, USB storage sticks, digital cameras, external hard drives and Sony PSPs can also be connected in the same way. The Xbox 360 can apparently use both music and digital photographs from these devices to create on-screen slideshows, complete with audio accompaniment. However, says Heise, the console cannot store data it has transferred through the USB connections, nor can it play back movies stored on any external device.

‘Cult of iPod’ book being released in November

imageNo Starch Press will release Leander Kahney’s “Cult of iPod” book on November 1st. A follow-up to his “Cult of Mac” book, the title offers “a comprehensive look at how Apple’s hit iPod is changing music, culture, and listening behavior,” according to the book’s description. “The Cult of iPod includes the exclusive back story of the iPod’s development; looks at the many ways iPod’s users pay homage to their devices; and investigates the quirkier aspects of iPod culture, such as iPod-jacking (strangers plugging into each other’s iPods to discover new music) as well as the growing legions of MP3Js (regular folks who use their iPods to become DJs). 4-color throughout.”

iPod chief talks convergence, iPod sales

In a recent interview with a German newspaper, Apple vice president and iPod division head Jon Rubenstein expressed skepticism that consumers want a single device to replace their iPod and cell phone. “Is there a toaster that also knows how to brew coffee? There is no such combined device, because it would not make anything better than an individual toaster or coffee machine,” Rubenstein said. “It works the same way with the iPod, the digital camera or mobile phone—it is important to have specialized devices.” Rubenstein said he has a “wait and see” attitude on how Motorola’s iTunes-enabled ROKR phone is received.

Rubenstein also said that he sees iPod sales surpassing the number of Sony Walkman devices sold to date—340 million units—and noted that companies will have a hard time creating rivaling players in the years to come. “The iPod is substantially more difficult to copy than that Walkman was,” the Apple executive explained. “It contains a whole ecosystem of different elements, which coordinate with each other: hardware, software, and our iTunes Music store on the Internet.”

Apple Canada begins claims process for iPod levy refunds

Apple Canada has launched a refund claims process for iPod owners who were charged a levy that was applied to the purchase price of the device. Canadian customers who bought an iPod or an iPod mini from December 13, 2003 through December 21, 2004 are eligible to receive a refund on the “iPod tax.” According to Apple, “an iPod with up to 10GB was levied CA$15 and an iPod with over 10GB was levied $25.”

As previously reported, the Supreme Court of Canada earlier this year upheld a Federal Court of Canada decision to do away with the levy on digital music players. The Canadian Private Copying Collective (CPCC) had collected the tax built into the price of the devices since December 2003 on behalf of musicians and record companies, according to the Canadian Press.

To request a refund, you must have proof of purchase and download, print out and complete a form available on Apple’s website. The company said “qualifying purchasers should receive their refunds in four to six weeks from the date your claim form is processed.” All refund requests must be postmarked on or before December 31, 2005.

iPodulator lets you create iPod-compatible reading

iPodulator is a new web service that lets you convert a web page or RSS feed into the proper text format that can be transfered viewed on your iPod. The service works with 3G and 4G iPods and iPod minis.

“Enter a URL above (starting with http://) and hit ‘iPodinate.’ Some sites may not work, like Digg.com. It will take a moment to process. The URL can be a web page or an RSS feed. This will give you a plain text formatted version of the site you enter, perfect for reading on your iPod. Note: the page will look badly formatted on your computer. Don’t worry, it will look great on your iPod. To save it to your iPod: After hitting ‘iPodinate,’ use the ‘Save As’ command in your web browser to save this file to the ‘Notes’ folder of your iPod or save it to someplace on your computer for later copying to the ‘Notes’ folder. That’s it!”

iLounge Around the World: Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan

image Reporting from the streets of once famous electronics district Akihabara in Tokyo, Japan, iLounge reader Christian N. has sent a collection of pictures showing the local state of the iPod there, outside of Apple’s official retail stores. You can view the full-sized shots at Read More, below.

The pictures show an iPod time warp, with prominent posters of earlier-generation iPods, as well as display cases filled with new, used and discontinued iPods. Part of this is due to Akihabara’s thriving trade in hard-to-find older electronics; another part is the result of overstock. First-generation iPod minis are shown selling used for 14800 yen ($132), second-generation versions for 15450 yen ($138) to 18550 ($165) yen, third-generation iPods for around 21500 yen ($192), and fourth-generations for between 24800 ($221) to 30800 yen ($275). Japanese companies such as Power Support and Tunewear are shown with significant shelf space in stickers and guards for various iPods, while U.S.-based companies such as Speck, Griffin, and Belkin have major display space, as well. The story is obviously different in Apple’s own stores, which are stocked only with newer iPods and Apple-selected merchandise.

How is the iPod doing in your city? Earlier this week, we posted an iPod report from the streets of Paris, France, and would love to share your impressions and pictures with our readers. If you’re outside the U.S., e-mail jeremy (at) ilounge.com to submit your photos and brief reports. Thanks to Christian for his update!

Wireless group talks with Apple about Bluetooth iPods

Wireless technology group Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) has reportedly approached Apple about installing its Bluetooth wireless chips into future generations of the iPod.

“CSR’s chips would allow Apple to manufacture iPods with wireless headsets, an increasingly popular feature of mobile devices among consumers,” reports The Independent. “Apple has sold more than 22 million iPods and although it is possible to buy separate adapters that connect an iPod to earphones wirelessly, the music players do not come with Bluetooth as a standard. CSR confirmed it had approached Apple after publishing a bullish trading update yesterday that showed sales of its chips, which enable devices to provide wireless connections using the Bluetooth technology standard, are rising faster than expected.”

iPod Updater 2005-09-06 released

Apple has posted iPod Updater 2005-09-06 for download on its website. The update includes new iPod Software 1.0 for Apple’s iPod nano, but does not bring any new features to current iPods. According to the release notes, iPod Updater 2005-09-06 “contains the same software versions as iPod Updater 2005-06-26 for all other iPod models.” As reported yesterday, the iPod nano’s software includes a world clock with multiple time zones, stopwatch, and a screen lock feature.

Harry Potter iPod, digital audiobooks available

imageApple today announced that the entire Harry Potter audiobook series is now available exclusively on the iTunes Music Store. To celebrate the addition, Apple has created a collector’s edition 20GB iPod that comes engraved wtih the Hogwarts Crest, a symbol of the school of magic that Harry Potter attends. The collector’s edition iPod is priced at $299.

Customers can either download individual audiobooks (priced between $32.95-$49.95) or the complete Harry Potter Digital Box Set ($249) which includes a full color digital booklet as well as previously unreleased readings from author J.K. Rowling. The audiobook sample performed at the show featured rich, British male narration of the Harry Potter stories.

Apple teams up with three more car companies, four new makes

Apple said today that it has teamed up with more car makers to provide iPod integration with their car stereos. The company said it has formed partnerships with Acura, Audi, Honda and Volkswagen to include iPod connectivity for their 2006 model lines. Apple noted that there are now 15 car companies around the offering iPod integration and that more than 5 million cars - 30% of the total US market - will ship with iPod support in the US in 2006.   

Audi will add iPod integration in its A3, A4 and TT models in November, and Volkswagen will offer iPod connectivity “for the majority of their 2006 US lineup.” Certain Volkswagen cars dating back as far as 1999 model year will be capable of using the $249 iPod integration kit, which includes installation for that price. Apple said Acura and Honda will also feature iPod integration in “the majority of their lineup beginning later this year” and that the Honda and Acura Music Link will be the first to include text-to-speech capabilities or VoiceID, which is used to search for playlists, artist and album names or genre information. 

Apple representatives at the San Francisco special event told iLounge that there will be substantial variation between the kits offered by companies, noting that automotive companies are now tapping a wide variety of after-market car accessory designers (including Dension and others) to provide their in-car options. Dension, for example, has provided the Volkswagen integration system.

Our impressions of the systems we saw were mixed. Many used the simple “pick from five playlists” selection concept originally introduced in BMW’s iPod interface, but each added a new feature or two. Volkswagen’s car enabled you to shuffle songs with one of the car’s buttons. Honda’s system, by comparison, uses a text-to-speech interface to read letters and words from your collection for easier iPod navigation, but uses a confusing array of buttons and a one-line text display taken from a CD changer interface to display information.

Fairly describing the current system as a “stopgap” measure intended to offer as much iPod integration as is technically possible immediately, a Honda representative noted the inherent difficulties of adapting cars designed before the growth of the iPod phenomenon for use with devices with unique controls and the ability to output ID3 tag information. Honda and Apple representatives said that because of standard industry planning and timing issues, more sophisticated and intuitive iPod integration kits would begin to appear in cars released for model years 2008 and 2009.

Survey suggests interest in ‘iPhone’

Research firm Piper Jaffray recently conducted a 200-person survey that shows unsurprising interest in an Apple “iPhone.” The firm said in an in-depth report provided to iLounge that the hypothetical product would be capable of serving as both an iPod and a cell phone, and be manufactured and branded by Apple (different than Motorola’s upcoming line of iTunes-compatible mobile phones). On average, the respondents said they would pay $255 for such a device.

“We believe a normalized interest level of 18% is enough for Apple to be considering such a product,” said Piper Jaffray senior research analyst Gene Munster, noting that the phone market is 13x larger than the MP3 player market. “We believe Apple has a powerful brand that can be applied to markets not yet addressed. If Apple executives are tuned into the strength of the Apple brand, we expect the company’s target markets to expand in the years ahead to capitalize on its namesake.”

Creative considers legal action over patent violation

Apple may soon come under legal pressure from Creative Technology now that the Singapore-based company has been awarded a patent that it says the iPod infringes upon. Creative has already openly accused Apple of violating the patent, which covers the way users navigate music selections on a portable device, and the company told The New York Times that it is considering every option available to defend the patent, including possible legal action.

Craig McHugh, president of Creative’s United States operations, said yesterday that Apple was the only company identified so far that was in violation of the patent, though Creative was investigating others. “We are looking at all our alternatives right now,” McHugh said. “We have always been very vigorous in our defense of our patent portfolio.”

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