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.
Synergy Creations has announced the release of PeriodicPod 1.0, new educational chemistry software for the iPod. PeriodicPod, which works with third and fourth-generation iPods, gives you quick access to atomic properties. “Due to the limitations of the current iPod screen and interface, PeriodicPod is a reference tool rather than a visualization tool like our Periodic Table software,” the developer explained. PeriodicPod is $9 shareware.
The Wall Street Journal’s Jim Carlton writes with the following request:
“I am finishing up a story on how folks are using more computer gadgets these days while on vacation. I’d like to include iPod users in this story, and in particular am looking for someone who has used an iPod while on vacation for something unusual - like listening to a book on tape, or learning to speak French, rather than for just listening to music. If anyone has a story to share, please email me at: [link deleted]. My deadline is the next couple of days, and I’d ask that you include name/age/occupation/hometown, and details such as when and where you took the vacation. I’d be sure to email you copy of story once it is published. Thanks again.”
iLounge just might have someone reading who fits the description. If it’s you, please use the link above to e-mail Jim.
Update: Jim received so many responses in the first five minutes of the news story’s posting that he’s overwhelmed. Thanks to all who responded!
Synaptics has confirmed that its touchpad technology is used in the latest iPod photo and iPod mini models, putting to rest speculation that Apple would develop its own iPod touchpad interface using Cypress Semiconductor chips. “Yesterday Apple announced several new iPods and we are confirming that our interface solutions are being used in those products,” Synaptics said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this week. “As has been the case since our initial product introductions in fiscal 1996, we compete for designs on a product by product basis and have no assurances from any of our OEM customers that they will utilize our interface solutions in any of their future products.” Rumors first started to swirl when it was revealed earlier this month that Apple partnered with Cypress for the innovative touchpad on the latest PowerBook revision.
In releasing newly affordable iPod photo hardware, Apple Computer has changed the product’s packaging to a thinner and highly attractive black and metal foiled design. Metal foil is used for the box’s front text, while an all-black matte background highlights the metallic luster.
The new packaging, which you can see more fully with the Read More button below, dramatically de-emphasizes the word “photo” on its front, reducing it to a tiny badge underneath the letters “PC.” This contrasts markedly with Apple’s new iPod mini packaging, which continues to grant the word “mini” equal prominence with the iPod name.
In addition to its revamped iPod photo lineup, Apple today also announced the Camera Connector accessory, which gives users the ability to import photos directly from their digital camera for instant viewing and slide show playback on the devices. Apple did not give any further information or image of the iPod add-on except to say that it will ship in late March for $29.
Greg Joswiak, vice president of hardware marketing at Apple, revealed further details of the Camera Connector in an interview with CNET News.com. He said that it is a small white plastic device that is similar to a small docking station with a cable for connecting to the iPod and a USB port for connecting to a camera. Joswiak noted that pictures loaded onto an iPod photo directly from the Camera Connector will be able to be viewed immediately on the device. However, in order for the photos to be shown on a TV, the iPod Photo will need to be connected to a computer first.
Update: At an Apple press event in Japan to introduce the new iPod models, a presentation slide revealed what the new iPod Camera Connector will look like (see above-right).
This morning’s iPod updates will “widen the gap between Apple and potential competition,” Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said today. “We believe some will view the changes in the iPod product line as negative. Specifically, we expect to hear arguments that Apple is taking a hit to margins in reaction to competitive threats,” Munster wrote in a research note to clients obtained by iLounge. “We believe that Apple’s changes to the product line are more offensive than defensive. Apple clearly holds the leadership position on this market and we believe these changes will widen the gap between Apple and potential competitors that are trying to chip away at iPod market share.”
Apple has posted iPod Updater 2005-02-22, which includes updated versions of the software for use with various iPod models. According to the release notes, the update includes new software for the iPod mini (v1.3), iPod with Dock Connector (v2.3), iPod shuffle (v1.1), and iPod with Touch Wheel or Scroll Wheel (v1.5).
The iPod mini software update adds support for the newly introduced models and adds support for charging and syncing over USB with Mac OS X v10.2.8 or 10.3.4 or later.
The iPod shuffle software update adds support for the iPod shuffle Battery Pack and offers “increased software stability.”
The iPod software update for those devices with Dock Connectors, Touch Wheels or Scroll Wheels brings the Shuffle Songs and Music items into the Main Menu, and adds support for iTunes 4.7 or later.
Editors’ Note: Trivia buffs may be interested to know that Apple’s new 4GB and 6GB iPod minis come with an earlier “new” version of the iPod Updater, dated 2005-02-07, which differs from the company’s January 11, 2005 Updater only in that it contains version 1.3 of the iPod mini software. Was the 6GB iPod mini originally planned for release less than one month after the iPod shuffle?
In addition to updated iPod minis, Apple today announced a revamped iPod photo family, including a new “slim” 30GB model for $349 and a 60GB model for $449 - a $150 price drop from its previous level. Apple’s 30GB model loses 10 Gigabytes, $150, 0.5 ounces of weight and 0.12” thickness from the earlier 40GB iPod photo, while the 60GB model remains the same size. Both the 30GB and 60GB iPod photos are available immediately. Apple is also promising updated iPod photo software for a March release to include “new slideshow transitions” that can be picked “on the go.”
Both of the new models feature the ability to import photos directly from your digital camera via an optional new iPod Camera Connector for instant viewing and slide show playback on iPod photo. The Connector is expected to be available in late March for $29.
The new iPod photo models no longer include iPod photo Docks, iPod photo AV cables, or cases, and more surprisingly, Apple has also apparently dropped both FireWire cables and FireWire Power Adapters from the iPod photo boxes. Each iPod photo now includes only a single USB 2.0 cable and a USB Power Adapter, recently reviewed on iLounge, for wall power charging. Each of the other items is available separately.
On a related note, Apple has discontinued the 40GB fourth-generation iPod (previously $399) and the 40GB iPod photo ($499). The fourth-generation 20GB iPod remains at a $299 price point.