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.
Updated: Though multiple vendors on the show floor at San Francisco Macworld Expo told iLounge yesterday that Apple’s retail store in San Francisco had sold 20,000 iPod shuffle units in its first four hours of availability this week, it appears that the impressive number may just be the result of an Expo ‘telephone game.’ Other iLounge sources have subsequently reported that only 2,000 were sold at the store, a rate of roughly 8 shuffles per minute rather than the 80+ per minute required by the higher number. We apologize for the original report.
As iLounge notes in its upcoming review of the iPod shuffle, while some individuals purchased four, six, and nine of the 512MB, $99 units, the day’s record was apparently set by someone who purchased 24 at once. iPod shuffles are currently shipping to Apple retail stores.
Update 3: Reader David C. notes that Apple’s online store is already shipping 512MB iPod shuffle orders, with hardware leaving Ontario, California and “two-day shipping” delivery dates estimated at January 17. “This is well before the ‘1 week’ Apple.com was quoting,” says David, who is “VERY PLEASED!” However, reader Joe M. says that his 1GB iPod shuffle online order is listed with a 1/26 ship date.
Kirk McElhearn, author of the book “iPod & iTunes Garage,” announced today an update to his popular book. The update adds a 3-page iPod shuffle “cheat sheet” that aims to help readers “grasp the basics of this hot new device; that is, to help them determine what it is, how it works, and how it differs from other iPod models.” The update is available immediately as a PDF download from his weblog.
iLounge has discovered that Apple’s newly announced iPod shuffle does not offer support for high-quality AIFF or Apple Lossless audio files. According to Apple’s technical specifications page for the iPod shuffle, the tiny player only plays AAC, MP3, MP3 VBR, Audible and WAV, unlike the iPod mini, 4G iPod and iPod photo models. This omission joins the player’s lack of screen, Dock Connector port, and accessory port. It is not currently known if the iPod shuffle was intentionally crippled by Apple to not allow users to play these two high-quality formats, or if the technology inside the device simply not capable of handling them.
In a research note to clients on Wednesday, Merrill Lynch analyst Steven Milunovich said Apple’s new iPod shuffle could take the top position in the flash-based MP3 player market in the next few quarters. “If Apple can ramp up production, Apple could take the No. 1 position in the flash market in the next couple of quarters. If Apple hits 5 percent share this quarter, that could be 300,000 units,” Milunovich said. “If it takes off, the number could be much higher, possibly passing the 1million mark.”
Milunovich pointed out that Apple currently has 65 percent of the total digital music player market, compared to flash’s 29 percent share. According to research from IDC, the flash player market has three times the units as the hard-disk drive-based (HDD) music player market, but about the same revenue ($2.3-2.5 billion). “Now that 4.5 million HDD iPods were sold last quarter (possibly 2 million in December), it was time for Apple to attack the next market with a lower cost flash-based iPod shuffle,” the analyst said.
Milunovich dismissed the notion that consumers will balk at the lack of a display on the iPod shuffle. “Some have indicated that the lack of a display will be an issue, but we are less concerned,” he said. “The $99 version holds 120 songs and the $149 holds 240—does one really need a display with that few songs? We believe this is a better option than a 60-song version with a display for $149. If a display is need then one needs to move up to he HDD iPods at $249+. We believe this also ensures that cannibalization will be limited while snaring more in the iTune/iPod net.”
A huge new collection of photos (140+) from the first day of the San Francisco Macworld Expo has been posted to the iLounge photo galleries, including photographs of hitherto undisclosed iPod accessories and other amazing stuff on the show floor. You can see the gallery here. Stay tuned for more photos of Day 2 thru 4 of the Expo.
During his keynote presentation at today’s Macworld Conference & Expo, Apple CEO Steve Jobs revealed that more than 4.5 million iPods were sold in the December quarter—500 percent growth year over year. Jobs said the total number of iPods sold to date now stands at over 10 million units, with 8.2 million of those being sold in 2004. He said the 10 millionth iPod was sold on December 16, 2004.
Jobs also said that more than 230 million songs have been purchased from the iTunes Music Store worldwide since it was launched in April 2003. He said that Apple is now selling approximately 1.25 million songs a day and that the company is on pace to sell nearly half a billion songs a year. Jobs also noted that over 1 million pre-paid iTunes cards have now been sold.
Apple has posted a commercial for its newly announced iPod shuffle, which features the song “Jerk It Out
While potentially a mundane topic to some of iLounge’s readers, Apple today introduced the “Made for iPod” certification, a badge that iPod accessory developers can display to differentiate their Apple-authorized accessory products from unauthorized ones. The Made for iPod badge addresses a subject of increasing concern to iLounge in recent weeks - the proliferation of certain low-quality and potentially dangerous iPod accessories that may harm your hardware, even when used as advertised and intended. Currently, it appears that vendors receiving the badge are only those whose products interface electronically with the iPod, rather than case makers.
According to some vendors on the show floor at Macworld San Francisco, Apple’s motivations behind the Made for iPod program may be equal parts financially driven, marketing driven, and consumer protection driven, perhaps in that descending order of importance. iLounge was told that the Made for iPod badge was originally proposed as a potential royalty stream for Apple - a means by which the company would collect revenues from sales of “authorized” accessories, and suggested that vendors might be able to charge even more for officially sanctioned accessories. Key to the program is Apple’s continued interest in licensing its proprietary male Dock Connector plugs and female ports - now also called the “iPod Connector” - while warning iPod owners about the dangers of insufficiently tested accessories that may create electrical disruptions in iPod hardware.
Like other company seals - such as Nintendo’s once-famous Seal of Quality - the Made for iPod program may have benefits for consumers, or may just be an opportunity to increase company licensing revenues while offsetting marketing costs. As iLounge has itself witnessed and heard external accounts of peripherals that wreak havoc with iPods and their batteries, but remains concerned about the slowly upward-creeping price of iPod accessories, we will continue to closely monitor this story in the months ahead.
On a day in which Apple CEO Steve Jobs promised “a lot of firsts,” the company unquestionably delivered: most importantly, a $499 iPod-matching “Mac mini” was introduced with a January 22 release date, followed by the announcement of “iPod shuffle,” the least expensive and smallest capacity iPod at a $99/512MB configuration. Both products were touted as the cheapest ever introduced by Apple in their respective categories, and offered in modestly upgraded versions at $50 and $100 premiums. Prices for their higher-end brethren were left unchanged, such that iPods now range in price from $99 to $599, and Macintosh computers from $499 to $2999.
For the full story of all of the major announcements at Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ keynote speech in San Francisco, please click on Read More. Today’s major announcements are as follows: the introduction of the iPod shuffle, a $99-$149 flash memory-based iPod, the introduction of the Mac mini, a $499-$599 Macintosh computer to attract ‘switchers’, a collection of new iPod shuffle accessories from Apple, changes to iTunes, a Motorola phone with an ‘iTunes client,” updated sales figures, and new Mac software.
iLounge is proud to present the world’s first photo gallery of the new iPod shuffle, Apple’s $99 iPod (512MB). A limited quantity of iPod shuffle units were made available at Apple’s San Francisco retail store, and iLounge was on hand for the launch. Additional units are shipping from Apple’s factory in Asia today, and should be available nationally this week.
The 512MB unit includes 120 song storage capacity, a 12 hour rechargeable battery, and headphones. A 1GB unit will also be available at $149.
Ipodlounge has six iPod shuffles. We’re giving away three to our readers. Stay tuned for the giveaway details later today.
Confirming months of speculation and publicized leaks from suppliers, Apple today unveiled the newest member of the iPod family, iPod shuffle. The compact digital audio player—built with flash memory instead of a hard-disk drive like other iPods—is the lowest-priced model yet, but also offers the least amount of song capacity. It is available immediately in 512MB and 1GB capacities for or $99 and $149, respectively.
Physically smaller than an iPod mini but made entirely from glossy white plastic like the front casings of most full-sized iPods, iPod shuffle is so named for its dramatic departure from iPod norms: it lacks its predecessors’ now iconic screen and Click Wheel controls, and is intended for casual, randomized music listening rather than storage of a full music library.
“iPod shuffle is smaller and lighter than a pack of gum and costs less than $100,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “With most flash-memory music players users must use tiny displays and complicated controls to find their music; with iPod shuffle you just relax and it serves up new combinations of your music every time you listen.”
Apple said iPod shuffle takes advantage of iTunes’ new AutoFill feature, which “automatically selects the perfect number of songs to fill iPod shuffle from a user’s complete music library on their computer.” The company said that at any time, with a flip of a switch on the back of iPod shuffle, users can choose to listen to their music in order rather than shuffled.
Featuring a simplified four-direction control system to let users skip forward and backward, play/pause, and adjust volume upwards and downwards, iPod shuffle includes a headphone port at its top and standard Dock Connector port on its bottom to permit listening and file transferring, respectively.
The device, which can be plugged directly into a computer via USB, also doubles as a portable flash drive to back up and transfer personal files.
In addition to an included lanyard and earphones, Apple is selling an optional armband, clear sport case with neck strap, dock, USB power adapter, and battery pack that boosts battery life to up to 20 additional hours. All of the accessories sell for $29.
My, how the world has changed. Three years after Apple Computer’s October 2001 introduction of the iPod, the company famous in technology circles for its Apple ][ and Macintosh personal computers is arguably even more famous in the mainstream for its portable music players. And while the bi-annual Macworld Expo - the American exposition of new Apple and third-party hardware and software - seems to shrink with each passing year, the presence and importance of iPod developers within that expo continues to grow.
Leading iPod accessory vendors including Belkin, Dr. Bott, Griffin, iSkin, Marware and XtremeMac have rapidly expanded their Macworld Expo San Francisco show staff and floor space to accommodate new product lines, each seeking to broaden its offerings to provide more complete solutions to iPod owners’ needs. Last year’s smaller iPod vendors - TEN Technology, Eroch Studios of LiliPod fame, and MacMice, as examples - now have two, three or four times their previous number of offerings on display.
Some consolidation of even smaller vendors’ better offerings into large companies’ distribution networks is evident. Key case manufacturers are moving to sell plug-in iPod hardware developed by newly hired staff or smaller Asian affiliates. Larger companies are seeing executive-level changes, as evidenced by the just-announced movement of former Griffin Vice President of Marketing and Design Andrew Green to a similar position at rival Digital Lifestyle Outfitters.
And yet Macworld’s tent is getting smaller. On the heels of its announcement months ago that it would shrink the venue at its summer Boston Macworld to create a cozier atmosphere for the decreasing number of attendees and exhibitors, expo host IDG has now shifted the San Francisco show’s primary exhibition floor entirely into a single tent at Muscone Center South from its previous two-tent Muscone North and South spread. A few vendors are in smaller booths, or appear not to be represented on the floor at all. Though corporate inbreeding hasn’t recently been foreign to the world of Apple third-party development, the gene pool looks - but perhaps only looks - smaller inside Macworld’s convention hall.
New excitement and new blood may well be needed. And it is anticipated that lower-cost Apple products to be announced for release this year may begin that process. iLounge will be reporting live from Macworld Expo San Francisco all week with the details.
United Kingdom-based magazine and iLounge friend Macworld U.K. has exclusively reported the following on Apple’s new flash memory-based iPod:
“The micro iPod is white, and will hold 240 songs – but has no screen so will play the unlisted tracks in a set order or in random fashion. Four buttons are arranged in a square formation – two large buttons and two smaller ones.
Apple’s slogan for the iPod is ‘240 songs a million ways’.”