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.
As more and more digital music players get color screens, companies will be adding more integrated photo capabilities, including the ability to connect directly with cameras and printers, according to Gary Johnson, CEO of PortalPlayer, which makes the chip that powers the hard drive-based iPods.
“There are already plenty of MP3 players on the market, including Apple’s iPod photo, that can show digital photos while playing music,” reports CNET News.com. “But soon, we are likely to see music devices that can download and display pictures directly, without using a computer as a go-between… Johnson was careful not to say whether it will be Apple’s player that does this, though. An Apple representative declined to comment.”
A recent job posting from Apple on Gamasutra, a recruiting site for the game industry, suggests that the company may be ready to expand the iPod’s bundled games. The posting seeks a programmer with “experience working with embedded systems” who would in part be “responsible for rapidly developing memory and performance optimized software solutions to complex problems.” The optional qualifications for the position include “ARM7 RISC processor experience,” “Flash [game] experience” and “2D or 3D graphics programming” knowledge.
Apple plans to introduce an iPod or accessory with Bluetooth wireless technology, according to Bogdan Nedelcu, automotive product manager at Motorola. In an interview on radio station France Info, Nedelcou reportedly said that Motorola is close to releasing a system that allows users to listen to music from their iPod through their car stereo speakers. He also said that users will be able to have hands-free conversations with their mobile phone through their car speakers.
At the [email protected]! conference in Scottsdale, Arizona earlier this month, Motorola showed off a forthcoming product called “iRadio.” According to the company, iRadio will “mobilize hundreds of commercial-free Internet radio channels and your personal music collection, letting you enjoy your favorite genres, artists, and tunes whether at home, in the car, or on the go.” Motorola went on to state that the service “uses a high-speed Internet connection, Bluetooth technology, and a mobile phone to offer listeners a continuous entertainment experience—you can start a song on your car radio at exactly the point where you stopped it on your living room stereo.”
iRadio is planned for launch “later this year.”
The official website of well-known chef Emeril LaGasse now has a “Pod Stuff” section highlighting three new iPod software titles that will soon be available as free downloads.
mFinder 1.0 - “Now can you have Emeril’s restaurant information in the palm of your hand. You’ll find addresses, phone numbers, hours, management, attire and parking for all of the restaurants in five different cities!”
podMeals 1.0 - “Now can you have EMERILS.COM weekly menus in the palm of your hand. Jamming to tunes in the grocery and can’t think of what to make for dinner - check your Apple iPod for podMeals!”
ReciPods 1.0 - “10,000 songs in your pocket? Big deal! How about 1,000 Emeril recipes in your pocket? Go home, put on some tunes and create a little love and magic in the kitchen!”
There’s no word on when they will be released.
Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates said Wednesday that while the iPod has been “a great success,” he doesn’t use the Apple music player and doubts claims made earlier this month that the majority of his employees are iPod owners.
In an interview with ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, Gates said: “I’m not an iPod user. I use the Creative Zen which is a fantastic product. That’s another space where, even what we have today, whether it’s iPod or the other things are only the start of what we’re gonna have in a few years. People are gonna want choices. These things are going to be smaller or better, cheaper.”
When asked about a recent Wired News article that reported about 80 percent of Microsoft employees who own a digital music player own an iPod, Gates said: “Well, I doubt that’s the case. Certainly, the iPod’s a great success.”
Gates went on to say that Apple “did a great job” with the iPod, but “what Apple’s done there is typically what they do.” He said: “It’s only their one music store, only their device. What we’re doing is providing choices.”
A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that more than 22 million U.S. adults—11% of the population—have digital music players such as Apple’s iPod. “It’s safe to say that there are several million more MP3 players owned in the teen world, but we did not survey teens in this poll,” explained Pew’s Lee Rainie.
According to the survey, men (14%) are more likely to have MP3 players than women (9%). Nearly one in five (19%) under the age of 30 have the devices, while 14% of those ages 30-39 have them and 14% of those ages 40-48.
The study also found that portable music players are more common with those with a higher income, internet users, and broadband customers. A quarter (24%) of those earning more than $75,000 a year have them. And those who use the internet are four times (15%) as likely as non-internet users (4%) to be MP3 player owners. Finally, the Pew survey reported that some 23% of those with broadband at home have the devices, compared to 9% of those who have dial-up.
The nationwide phone survey was taken between January 13 and February 9 and involved 2,200 people.
Apple has sold more than 10 million iPods since its introduction in 2001.
Mel Karmazin, CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio, said he recently spoke with Apple CEO Steve Jobs about adding satellite radio to the iPod, but that there is no plan for such a partnership.
“I’ve spoken to Steve Jobs,” Karmazin said Wednesday at a media conference in New York. He declined to elaborate, other than to say that the “current thinking” at Apple is that “they don’t need to put a satellite radio in their box.”
Karmazin said Sirius has been talking to many potential partners about integrating its satellite radio technology.
Napster today introduced a portable version of its digital music subscription service, backed by a $30 million print and broadcast ad campaign that takes aim at Apple’s iPod and iTunes Music Store. Napster’s promotion will include a Super Bowl ad, called “Do the Math,” that argues it would cost up to $10,000 to fill up an iPod, while it would only be $14.95 a month to load up an alternative player through the new Napster To Go service. The ad campaign also includes strategic alliances with companies that make rival players to the iPod—Creative, Dell and iRiver.
“Napster To Go provides infinitely greater value and is much more exciting than the iTunes pay-per-download model,” said Napster CEO Chris Gorog.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs said he does not believe that there is a significant number of music fans willing to pay $180 a year to subscribe to a collection of tracks that they do not permanently own. “When you rent stuff, in the end you’re left with nothing,” Jobs said.
Tuesday’s USA Today features a cover story on the impact Apple’s iPod has had since the device was introduced in 2001. The article touches upon several general topics, including the iPod economy, cultural trends, iPod-using universities, iPod naysayers, podcasting and more.
“Apple may have introduced its innovative digital music player in 2001, but of the 10 million iPods sold to date, 8.2 million of the $249 to $399 gadgets were purchased in 2004. Nearly 5 million were bought over the holiday season alone. With its new $99 Shuffle, Apple expects the streets to soon sprout even more iPod people,” writes John Zich.
Click “Read more” to see a full-size version of the USA Today front page.
Business 2.0 has included the U2 silhouette iPod ad campaign in its 2005 Smart List, the magazine’s “annual tip of the hat to the brightest minds in business and the miraculous feats they’ve accomplished.” The Apple-U2 creation was named the “Smartest ad campaign.”
“Thanks to a smart decision to cross-promote two well-known entertainment brands—a collaboration hatched by U2 lead singer Bono and Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who are longtime friends—each side contributed an edgy dose of cool to the advertising effort, which was produced by TBWA/Chiat/Day,” writes Thomas Mucha. “The pairing scored with music fans. Following its exclusive release on Apple’s iTunes Music Store, U2’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb went on to top the iTunes sales charts for weeks after its late-November debut. Offline the album launched at the top of the U.S. pop charts, selling almost twice as many copies as U2’s last U.S. release did during its first week.”
PortalPlayer, whose chip powers hard drive-based iPods, reported record revenue on Thursday thanks to strong sales of Apple’s music player. PortalPlayer said it had revenue of $44.7 million for its fourth quarter, up from last year’s revenue of $8.1 million—a 75 percent increase. The company posted a profit of $10.5 million, or 50 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $759,000 in the fourth quarter of 2003.
Synaptics, maker of the touchpad technology used in the Click Wheel of Apple’s iPod, said Thursday that second quarter profit jumped 178 percent due to increased demand for the iPod during the holidays. The company reported income of $9.7 million, or 33 cents a share, up from $3.5 million, or 13 cents, a year earlier. Synaptics said revenue rose 65 percent to $56.5 million from $34.3 million.
Stan Ng, Apple’s director of worldwide iPod marketing, is the latest Apple executive to dismiss a video-capable iPod. “There is no legal way today of taking a DVD and making it viewable on a portable device. There are issues with video, and no infrastructure for acquiring that content,” Ng said. “For a player with a 3.5-inch screen, you have to wonder if it would be worthwhile. You can’t watch video while you’re jogging or mountain biking. Fundamentally, at a corporate level, we’ve been clear about our involvement in music and photos—we’ll see what happens with video over time.”
Apple is looking for its new iPod shuffle to help boost its share of the digital audio player market in Japan to 80 percent from around 50 percent now. Apple Japan vice president Yoshiaki Sakito said Apple has already received more pre-orders for the tiny device in Japan than those placed for the iPod mini. Sakito also said that a Japanese version of Apple’s iTunes Music Store is expected to launch before the end of the year.
Creative CEO Sim Wong Hoo has offered some harsh words for Apple’s new iPod shuffle. “Actually, to me it’s a big let-down: we’re expecting a good fight but they’re coming out with something that’s five generations older,” Wong Hoo said. “It’s our first generation MuVo One product feature, without display, just have a (shuffle feature). We had that—that’s a four-year-old product.”
“So I think the whole industry will just laugh at it, because the flash people—it’s worse than the cheapest Chinese player,” he added. “Even the cheap, cheap Chinese brand today has display and has FM. They don’t have this kind of thing, and they expect to come out with a fight; I think it’s a non-starter to begin with.”
Speck Products today announced the first third-party plastic case for Apple’s new iPod Shuffle. Designed with shock-absorbing, tear-resistant plastic, the SkinTight for iPod Shuffle case “adds protection without adding bulk,” according to the company. The rubberized skin features a two-piece design that allows for easy synching and charging of the iPod shuffle. The SkinTight for iPod shuffle is scheduled to begin shipping in mid-February. Singles in multiple colors will be priced at $19.95 and 3-packs will be priced at $29.95.
iLounge has selected the following six new products as its 2005 Macworld Expo San Francisco Best of Show winners. All of the products were tested first-hand by iLounge staff members on the show floor of the large Mac event.
Best New iPod Case - Solio Urban Recycled Rubber Case
This rugged case is made from recycled tire inner tubes and exterior rubber. They’re all handmade and each one has its on individual style and texture.
Best New iPod mini Case - Miyavix Cloth and Leather Kimono Case
This affordable case is fashioned out of beautiful Japanese fabric with great Kimono patterns. It sports leather accents and may redefine iPod case fashion.
Best New iPod Expander - BTI 3-in-1 FM Radio Receiver/Transmitter/Remote
BTI’s first-to-market iPod FM radio receiver, transmitter, and remote control cable looks to be an impressive accessory. It connects through the iPod’s headphone jack and will offer real-time tuning of five preset radio stations, and more.
Best New iPod In-Car Accessory - Griffin Technology SmartDeck
This innovative cassette adapter lets you control your iPod using the built-in controls of any cassette player. By pressing fast-forward or rewind on your cassette player, your iPod will advance to the next or previous songs. The pause and stop buttons will also do the same on your iPod.
Best New iPod Wireless Accessory - TEN Technology NaviPlay
We selected this Bluetooth wireless audio system primarily for its enhanced portability and the company’s planned bundling of HP Bluetooth headphones.
Most Likely to Succeed - Apple iPod shuffle
While readers should expect an in-depth review shortly, we can say that Apple’s smallest and most affordable player is going to sell exceedingly well. Unsurprisingly, the company has another huge hit on its hands.
As always, iLounge notes that its Best of Show awards are made on initial appeal, practicality, and specifications rather than final build quality, which will need to be formally compared against competitors in iLounge reviews.
Speaking with iLounge at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco, comedian Sinbad expressed continued love and admiration for Apple’s Mac and iPod product lines, joking that the Mac mini was “the sort of thing you buy even if you don’t need it,” and claiming that he’d be buying several for rooms in his house. He also jokingly predicted that people would soon be wearing multiple iPod shuffles at once to hold a large music collection.