In addition to showing off podcasting support in a beta version of iTunes 4.9 at the D: All Things Digital conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs discussed the cell phone industry’s move towards digital music, Yahoo’s new subscription service, and even ribbed Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. The Wall Street Journal has the complete story (paid subscription required).
Jobs said downloading music from mobile phone carriers would be “a lousy buying experience” and likely to be two or three times as expensive as iTunes, adding that “it’s hard to see their customers as that stupid.”
The Apple chief also said that Yahoo’s $60-per-year music subscription plan was “substantially” below the company’s costs and would soon be raised. Jobs said Apple employees have a betting pool on when Yahoo will raise the $5-a-month rate. He said he put his money on five months from now.
And finally, Jobs took advantage of Gates being in the crowd (he spoke today). During his talk at the conference, Jobs asked everyone in attendance how many had iPods. After a number of hands went into the air, Jobs asked “Bill, do you have your hand up?”
Just one week after its last new iPod and iTunes commercial, Apple has aired yet another featuring silhouetted dancers. The new ad features the song “Technologic” by Daft Punk and is entitled “Pop-Lock” because of the style of dance moves used in it. Like last week’s “Rollerskating” ad, the commercial was shown during Saturday Night Live on NBC. Also of note, actor and Apple fan Will Ferrell wore an iPod shuffle in one skit.
A Melbourne, Australia teenager caused a “small explosion” when trying to fix his iPod with a screwdriver this week after his mother accidently ran the device through the washing machine.
“The boy was treated by paramedics at his Bayswater home for breathing difficulties after ingesting fumes emitted by the device as he pulled it apart in his suburban bedroom about 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday,” The Age reports.
Country Fire Authority spokesman Peter Philp said the iPod had been taken away for testing by CFA investigators, but noted that it was “more of a pop” than an explosion and that it was “more smoke than fire but it did leave a burn mark on the [bed] cover.”
Echoing comments from Piper Jaffray, Banc of America Securities said today that Yahoo’s new music service will “have very modest near-term impact” on Apple. “The stickiness associated with iTunes and Apple’s hardware has had a protective effect (as they are only compatible with one another), and Apple has held share in music downloads and gained shared in MP3 in the last few quarters,” the research firm said. “If the subscription model does prove to be popular, we would expect Apple to counter and match with a subscription model of its own, which would increase margins.”
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates sees consumers moving to mobile phones for listening to music on the go, and expects the iPod’s popularity to wane.
“As good as Apple may be, I don’t believe the success of the iPod is sustainable in the long run,” he said in an interview published Thursday in German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “You can make parallels with computers: Apple was very strong in this field before, with its Macintosh and its graphics user interface—like the iPod today—and then lost its position.”
“If you were to ask me which mobile device will take top place for listening to music, I’d bet on the mobile phone for sure,” Gates said.
Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Munster said today that he does not think sales of the iPod will be affected by Yahoo’s new subscription-based music service offerings. “We do not anticipate the market share of the iPod will be meaningfully impacted by the emergence of Yahoo! and other music subscription services,” Munster said in a research note obtained by iLounge. “In addition, if subscription services become more successful, we believe that by year end Apple will introduce its own version of a subscription based music service.”
“We have seen over the last two years that the success of online music services is driven by compatible devices,” Munster said. “As a datapoint, despite new music services in the past year, Apple has maintained its ~80% market share in the portable audio device market. In other words, the risk to Apple is a killer new MP3 player, not a new online music service.” Munster also reiterated his that by the end of 2005 more than 35 million iPods will have shipped.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster notes that various iPod models account for 8 of the top 10 MP3 players in Amazon.com’s Top Sellers list for the devices. “We believe this exhibits Apple’s dominance in the portable MP3 market and shows that the initial exploratory phase of other MP3 players has lightened,” Munster said in a research note to clients provided to iLounge.
Munster also commented on Apple product availability. “We believe that Apple is improving production efficiency as evidenced by the majority of its products being shipped on the same business day,” Munster said. “This is critical to the Apple story as Apple products continue to experience strong demand as supported by the solid overall performance of Apple products on Amazon.com’s Top Seller Lists.”
In an interesting article for PBS, tech pundit Robert X. Cringely says the iTunes Music Store is Apple’s future — not the iPod. He says Apple will license out the iPod technology at the right time to become a software-only company when it comes to digital music.
“Ultimately, what Apple wants to do is make its money through iTunes, where the profit margins are better in the long term and the system is easily scalable,” Cringely says. “It was necessary to create the iPod platform to make this happen. But downward price pressures will eventually hurt iPod profit margins and affect Apple’s stock price, so the trick is to know when to switch the business from being a mix of hardware and software to one that is software-only. That switch, which I believe to be inevitable, will happen shortly after Apple begins to license iPod clones.”
“As Apple’s profit drops on each iPod it makes, eventually the per-CPU figure will approach what Apple might receive from licensees,” he says. “At that moment it makes more sense for Apple to license clones than it does to make more iPods. Licensing clones at the right time would lead to huge clone sales, effectively killing any significant iTunes competitor. And in the long run, iTunes is where the money is.”
Cringely also notes that (previously mentioned) unused icons in the version of iTunes included with Mac OS X v10.4 hint that new audio format support and a video iPod are just around the corner. “And 10.4 gives us a peek at another evolution of iTunes, which is the inevitable expansion of the system to carry additional audio file formats,” he says. “Looking at the unused iTunes icons that shipped with your new version of 10.4, you’ll notice icons for currently-not-supported ogg vorbis and Windows Media Audio (wma), as well as several others including a variety of video formats, too.”
Apple debuted a new iPod and iTunes television commercial during tonight’s Saturday Night Live on NBC. It featured the new single “Feel Good Inc” by the Gorillaz. Like the previous ads, the spot features silhouetted iPod-toting dancers in front of colorful backgrounds — only this time they’re all on roller skates. This is the first new iPod commercial since January’s iPod shuffle ad, and the first for full-size iPods since October’s ad featuring U2. Apple has yet to post the new commercial. Update: The ad is now available on Apple’s website.
To say that Hollywood actor Bruce Willis loves his iPod would be an understatement. On his official website, he says that “iTunes has re-energized the singles market, iPod has revolutionized how you can enjoy music and I for one am a convert.”
“The Internet has turned me on to amazing music that I might otherwise have never heard of,” he says. “As a Mac enthusiast I have taken the iTunes playlist concept to a new level. My friends will turn me on to a new (or old) musical influence and before you know it I’ve purchased the whole catalog and downloaded it to one my trusty little iPods, played it in all of my classic cars through the cassette players (what a re-invention of the cassette/car radio) although now they offer special attachments for the USB cable. Whether on the set or in the car an iPod is always near.”
Third-party iPod developer Engineered Audio, maker of the RemoteRemote 2 RF remote control system, has provided to iLounge an excellent explanation of the radio frequency (RF) interference issue affecting certain iPod photo hardware. The company’s findings follow up on iLounge’s exclusive March 31, 2005 report, “Yes, the new iPod photo -is- different,” in which we detailed an interference issue that prevents current RF-based remote controls from fully working with “first-generation” (pre-February 2005) 40/60GB iPod photos. As a result of the interference, the RF remotes work at only one-sixth to one-twelveth of their performance ranges with all other iPods.
“The current crop of RF remote controls for the iPod operate at or near 433.92 Mhz,” explains Engineered Audio. “The reasons for this frequency choice are not particularly relevant, except to say that this particular frequency is usable (or certifiable) in the US and in Europe. Further, most of the receivers for these remote control systems are simple super-heterodyne or super-regenerative. And without very careful filtering at the antenna, both types may suffer a degradation in performance when there is a nearby noise source.
“In this case the iPod photo is generating an undesirable RF noise source at 432.00 Mhz (see plot 1). Some might consider the difference between the two frequencies to be enough to not cause interference, however, this is simply not the case. Most of these simple receivers have a fairly wide bandwidth with relatively high gain, and so are easily swamped by an interferer that is within a few megahertz of desired signal. What’s inside the iPod that is generating this signal we can only guess at (perhaps an harmonic of the primary clock for the processor…) At any rate, it would appear that Apple has since modified the iPod photo to either reduce or eliminate this particular signal.” A spectrum analysis photo (“Plot 1”) and additional details are available by clicking on Read More below. We thank Engineered Audio for explaining the interference, and all iPod RF remote manufacturers for being forthright with consumers about the incompatibility.
Apple’s iPod shuffle has now captured 58 percent of the flash memory-based audio player market, according to NPD data cited by Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer in a meeting with Merrill Lynch analyst Steven Milunovich. The number is up from 43 percent share in February.
In a research note to clients obtained by iLounge, Milunovich said Apple isn’t concerned about mobile phones gaining more music capabilities. “Management argued that iPod will remain the best way to manage and listen to music with MP3 capability in handsets more complementary than a replacement,” he said. “The negatives of music on a handset include a worse user interface and limited battery life. Mr. Oppenheimer said he ‘doesn’t foresee problems working with carriers,’ implying that negotiating shared economics wouldn’t be a deal killer.”
Interestingly, Milunovich also said he expects wireless and video features in iPods for the holidays. “Our guess is that iPod will run short video clips, such as Britney Spears gyrating while ‘Toxic’ plays,” he said.
Following last month’s news that Hewlett-Packard has added the iPod photo to its lineup, Engadget reports that the company will soon start selling branded versions of the iPod mini and iPod shuffle. The gadget site says to expect both models on June 12.
While Froogle searches show HP product numbers of PW753AA (iPod mini), PX765AA (iPod shuffle 512MB) and PX766AA (iPod shuffle 1GB), the company would not confirm that it will offer the iPod models when contacted. “HP has not made any such announcements, and we do not comment on plans for future (or potential) products,” an HP representative told iLounge.
Party-Pod Pro 2.0 is the latest version of the software that “gives your iPod a database of partygoer necessities.” According to the developer, Party-Pod Pro is the most comprehensive party companion for your iPod. It includes 650 drink recipes, 55 drinking games, a Bar & Club database for every major U.S. city, and 100 pick-up lines for men and women. Version 2.0 adds photos (iPod photo required) to the top rated and most popular drinks, and information for 10 additional cities.
Emerils.com, the website of famous chef Emeril LaGasse, has now made ReciPods and ReciPods Too available for download. The free recipe collections can be transferred to and read on your iPod.
“We tried to cram 1000 recipes into one iPod app, then discovered that we had 20+ related recipes (sauces, etc) that crashed the app,” says an Emeril representative. “So we divided the app into two equal halves. ReciPods has 510+ recipes and ReciPods Too has 510+ recipes.”
As noted in February, Emerils.com also offers two other free iPod software titles: mFinder (information about Emeril’s 9 restaurants) and PodMeals (weekly menu provided on Emerils.com that comes from the cooking section).
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says that PortalPlayer’s upbeat second quarter guidance is a positive sign for sales of hard drive-based iPods. He also notes a new trend that he calls iPod mini up-selling.
PortalPlayer, which supplies the chips that power the iPod, iPod mini and iPod photo, yesterday reported first quarter earnings of $7.8 million, or 33 cents a share, on revenue of $44.5 million. The company forecast second quarter earnings of 21-27 cents a share on $41.6 million to $47.6 million versus street estimates of 17 cents on $37.3 million in revenue.
“We believe that PortalPlayer’s Q2 guidance is positive for Apple’s HD based iPods and may be consistent with a trend that we have been picking up on in the channel related to iPod shuffle to 4GB iPod mini up-selling,” Munster said in a research note obtained by iLounge. “Specifically, we have been hearing from Apple retail stores and independent Apple VARs that customers are consistently being up-sold to 4GB iPod minis ($200) when intending to buy the 1GB iPod shuffle ($149), given the minimal ($50) difference in price.”
Munster said that more than 85 percent of PortalPlayer’s first quarter revenue was from sales to Apple.
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.”