“It isn’t a major surprise that the recent initial public offering filing of semiconductor company PortalPlayer got lost in the shuffle. [...]
But PortalPlayer, which filed for its IPO on Aug. 4, bears watching over the next few months. Here’s why.
PortalPlayer gets most of its business from a Taiwanese company called Inventec. And Inventec is the company that makes this little device that you may have heard—it’s called the iPod.”
In its quarterly report (SEC form 10-Q) filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission today, Apple summarized several iPod and iTunes related details.
iPod sales increased $138 million or 124% during the third quarter of 2004 compared to the same period in 2003. Sales of iPods rose $545 million or 243% in the first nine months of fiscal 2004. iPod unit sales of 860,000 for the quarter show a year-over-year increase of 183%.
“This growth was driven by continued strength in demand for the iPod, introduction of the iPod mini, increased expansion of [our] iPod distribution network, and continued success of the iTunes Music Store,” Apple said.
Net sales of Apple’s other music products (iTMS and iPod related services and accessories) increased 508% in the third quarter thanks to an increase in overall iPod unit sales and the introduction of the iTMS in Europe.
Apple also noted that it has sold approximately 3.7 million iPods since the device debuted in 2001.
“I’ve been testing the system in a $54,000 BMW 330Ci convertible, lent to me for a few days by BMW. I have tried several different iPods in the car, including a brand-new, fourth-generation model. My conclusion: The BMW iPod adapter works, but in a pretty crude way that will likely leave the iPod cult hungering for more. It’s a decent first step, but that’s all. [...]
A couple of times, in several days of tests, I’d start the car and the system would freeze up. I had to switch to a different playlist to jolt the iPod into action. And once, when I increased the volume, it suddenly skipped a song.”
“Sony lost the plot”, said professor Dr. Michael Bull, the world’s leading expert on personal stereos, speaking to new London iPod club, Playlist. “The iPods’ mixture of function and pure technological beauty in an age in which we still get fed-up with impossibly complex technologies makes it iconic,” he said. “Events like Playlist show how impossible it is to categorize people’s listening habits,” he explained.
“That’s the message from the “Save the iPod’’ campaign. Holmes Wilson, an organizer of the Web-based movement, warns that the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act now pending in Congress threatens to silence the popular music player. In other words, your right to bear beats is in danger. [...]
The Induce Act would give the music industry and other copyright holders new legal grounds to sue any business that profits from encouraging people to illegally distribute songs, movies, software, games and other copyrighted works. The proposed law targets popular online file-swapping services such as Kazaa.”
Time Magazine’s Wilson Rothman named the new 4G iPod the “Gadget of the Week” and noted that “you should know that internally the new iPod is a ground-up reconstruction, and its really compelling applications — the ones that very well might get the goat of anyone unable or unwilling to upgrade — are still secret. All that Apple is saying is that there’s more to this than what’s being publicized.”
Updating our earlier news story regarding headphone port static and hard drive noise problems in Apple’s new fourth-generation iPods, iLounge has remained in contact with Apple and our readers over the past several days in an attempt to help the company determine the nature and extent of the problems.
iLounge’s editors returned both of their affected 40GB iPods at Apple’s request for testing, and replaced them with two new 40GB iPods yesterday. One of the new iPods exhibits no problems. The other exhibits the exact same defect as before. This brings our internal total of tested iPods to five, two (one 20GB unit, one 40GB unit) without the static issues, and three (all 40GB units) with them.
Of the 158 responses we collected from our initial story on the defect, 85 readers posted the results of their own 4G iPod testing, and of that group, 54 readers (63.5%) reported no problems, while 31 readers (36.5%) reported the same problems we had found. While we emphasize that the results of our inquiry are comprised of strictly voluntary submissions from readers, and should not be taken as scientific or conclusive, they do suggest that the problem may be more widespread than we had originally hoped. For a full discussion of testing procedures, please click on the “More info” link below.
Engadget has posted an interesting how-to on turning your iPod into an infrared remote control for your TV, DVD player, stereo, etc. Using Griffin’s Total Remote Software and IR device for Pocket PCs you can transfer the same technology used in the Total Remote to the iPod. You might remember that Griffin had originaly planned a remote device for iPod called the PodMate, but development was canceled before going to market.
In extended testing of Apple’s new fourth-generation iPods, iLounge has discovered and reported to Apple an apparent manufacturing defect affecting the headphone jacks of certain new iPod hardware. The defect manifests as audible static and noise interference in the earphones that is most prominent whenever a new iPod’s hard disk is accessed. Similar interference was not detectable through line out (Dock Connector) output.
Users of affected iPods will be able to hear a hard disk-like whirring sound in their earphones, coupled with several seconds of light static at the start of a song that has just been loaded. This should not be confused with the quiet hard disk loading sounds that an iPod makes, which sounds are not audible through earphones, or with normal static-like compression artifacts in your audio.
To test your iPod while eliminating the possibility that static from your music or headphones may be responsible, use iTunes to encode several three- to five-minute compact disc tracks using Apple’s Lossless Audio encoder, transfer them to your iPod, then connect the earbuds packaged with your new iPod. Find the directory or create a playlist with only the Lossless tracks, and skip back and forth between them. Hold your iPod at a distance or cover it up so that you can’t hear its normal internal hard disk sounds. If your iPod has a problem, at the start of each loaded song, you should hear a loading pause, then a whirring sound and light static in your ears at a normal volume level. If it does not have a problem, the song should load and play without audio interference.
iLounge has confirmed that this interference does not affect all new iPod hardware. Of the three units we purchased for evaluation, both of the 40GB iPods exhibit the same problem, but the 20GB iPod does not. Unfortunately, some new iPod users have reported that the problem exists in their new 20GB iPods, as well. The units we know to be affected were manufactured in China, shipped from Shanghai, and ordered directly from Apple.
An Apple representative is currently looking into the report, and the company has had no further comment. Please report your findings using the Comments link below.
“Tomorrow, without Apple’s authorization, RealNetworks will start to give away software that will allow people to buy and download songs from its online music store and then play them on Apple’s popular iPod portable devices in addition to those that use the Windows Media Player format and RealNetwork’s Helix format. [...]
So RealNetworks created technology that can create files to be read by iPods. Mr. Glaser [CEO, RealNetworks] declined to say how it did this. But Josh Bernoff, an analyst with Forrester Research, said that RealNetworks used a technique known as reverse engineering - observing how Apple’s software behaved as it encoded songs to be loaded onto iPods.”
To commemorate Apple’s launch of the fourth-generation iPod, and to thank all of our readers for their patience, iLounge will be posting its first review of the new 20GB and 40GB models later today, Friday, July 23, 2004.
Like our prior first review of the iPod mini, titled the Newbie Review, iLounge’s first fourth-generation review, conclusions, and product rating will be geared towards first-time iPod buyers. A subsequent review geared towards more experienced users (the Power Users’ Review) will follow shortly thereafter.
These reviews will also mark the launch of iLounge’s new product rating system, which will replace our prior Excited / Happy / It’s OK / Sad icons with a more versatile letter grading system, featuring A, B, C, D and F with plus and minus marks. We have been planning for this change for some time, and you will soon see its benefits in an easier-to-use report card for all currently released iPods and accessories. We’ll look forward to your thoughts and comments.
iLounge couldn’t wait until Friday to receive its 40GB iPod, so we went to our local Apple Store and picked up a new 4G 20GB iPod for review. It’s being put through its paces as we speak. And yes, though the numbers show only a .12” difference, the new 40GB version feels surprisingly thicker (3G size, even) than the new 20GB. Retail Apple Stores have received “lots of them” in both sizes, and they’re already going quickly. Check back here for updates.
Wired’s Leander Kahney has shed additional light on the making of Apple’s first iPod in an interview with Ben Knauss, formerly of PortalPlayer, co-developer of the iPod hardware. Highlights include
- Tony Fadell approached Apple with the business idea of a music player coupled with a music download service. Several companies turned Fadell down, but Apple said yes, and gave him a 30-person team.
- When Apple signed on, PortalPlayer dropped work for as many as 12 customers, including IBM, which had planned “a small, black MP3 player” with a “unique circular screen and wireless Bluetooth headphones” plus miniature IBM hard drives.
- Knauss claims 280 PortalPlayer employees worked for 8 months on the iPod design to incorporate Apple-requested features, many from Steve Jobs himself, including AAC, an equalizer, Audible audio book support, faster menus, louder output (“Jobs is partly deaf”) and better audio quality.
- Apple used a collection of confusing prototypes “to make sure it wasn’t predictable what the end design was.”
- The iPod project almost died when initial battery life proved out at 3 hours, even when powered down. But when the problem was fixed, Apple bought a majority stake in PortalPlayer.
Reader Mike S. reports he has taken possession of a new 4G iPod 20GB from a Mayfair Apple Store in Wauwatosa, WI. “Well people, I just stopped by my local Apple store and they had 9 of these babies ready for a home. No 40GB yet, nor did they have the new Click Wheel iPod docks. Also, seems like Apple hasn’t updated their retail software though, because they couldn’t register my iPod when I bought it, so now I can just register it when I need service on the baby.” Mike also goes on to report a few things he’s noticed about the new 4G iPod.
- Now you can turn it off completely by holding the Play/Pause button.
- Click Wheel is not backlit, but the screen has a white backlight.
- Clicker sounds slightly different from my iPod 3G.
- Click wheel is slightly stiffer than the iPod mini’s.
- No dock port covers are included.
- Seems my iPod was partially charged when I bought it. Only took me 1 hour and now it says it’s fully charged.
- The games menu can now be added to the main menu, YAY! (I think this is new to 4G).
- On-The-Go playlist can now be saved, when saved, a new playlist is created (NewPlaylist1, NewPlaylist2, etc.) and the songs are moved there, the OTG playlist is then cleared. Saving playlists actually took abut 5-10 seconds, which seemed a bit long for only 2 songs.
- Songs can be deleted from the On-The-Go playlist by holding the middle button for about 3 seconds, same as adding a song.
If you ordered one of Apple’s new 40 gigabyte iPods yesterday morning, this news is for you. As reported yesterday on iLounge and further detailed in Backstage, Apple unexpectedly changed its web site mid day to drop two accessories (the iPod wired Remote and 40GB carrying case) from its official list of 40GB iPod pack-ins. The change was first reported by iLounge administrators at 12:52PM Eastern Standard Time (9:52AM Pacific).
Apple Store’s customer service is working to make things right for those who placed online orders early in the morning with the understanding that those accessories would be packed in: a polite telephone call mentioning the web site change and requesting the two missing parts can restore them to your order. However, it appears that not all customer service representatives have seen the e-mail notifying them of the web site problems. Two iLounge editors called to confirm these reports this morning; one had the problem addressed quickly after mentioning the web site change, and the other had to go through two supervisor calls before the problem was fixed.
iLounge has previously praised Apple for its outstanding online store customer service, and hopes that all affected purchasers will have trouble-free experiences in getting all the items that they ordered. If you’re an affected 40GB iPod purchaser and have contacted Apple, please post your experiences in the comments thread below.
Following up on our Backstage report from yesterday, Apple is now shipping fourth-generation iPod orders placed online through the Apple Store. Shipments are coming from Shanghai, China, and at least some orders appear to have missed the cutoff time for delivery tomorrow.
After canvassing roughly a dozen bricks-and-mortar Apple retail stores in major cities around the country, all but one report that retail locations have not yet received the new iPods for sale. East Coast stores tended to indicate that they are expected in the next 24-48 hours, while Midwestern and West Coast stores have been less committal, stating that they will be available by week’s end.
A representative at one Apple retail store in Westchester, NY indicated that he believed that the store had received and sold out of its initial shipment, however, the representative said that he had not been at the store when it happened. Please feel free to use the comments thread of this news story to report your experiences in ordering, locating, and/or receiving the new iPod.
Apple’s comments come some weeks after Toshiba publicly announced that it was already supplying Apple with hundreds of thousands of 60 gigabyte, 1.8” drives per month, an announcement which was subsequently said to have angered otherwise secretive Apple executives. Whether these drives will be used in future music-centered iPods, or in other devices, is currently unknown.
MacMinute is reporting that “as part of a pilot program, Duke University has teamed up with Apple to give iPods to all 1,800 incoming freshmen this fall. The fourth generation iPods will be pre-loaded with school calendars and other information. Students will also be able to download supplementary class material in addition to being able to play music.” Lucky Blue Devils. Will these iPods be used for Intro to Copyright Law, or Music Appreciation 101?
iPod Updater 2004-07-15 supports all models of iPod and iPod mini, including the new Click Wheel iPod. This update includes the latest available software for each model of iPod or iPod mini. Download and install the iPod Updater 2004-07-15 then connect your iPod or iPod mini to your computer. The iPod Updater will automatically determine if an update is required.
- New for Click Wheel iPods
- Shuffle songs with one click
- Create multiple On-The-Go playlists
- Delete songs from On-The-Go playlists
- Select reading playback speed for audiobooks
- Hear the clicker user interface sound through headphones
- Charge via USB 2.0 connection
- Enjoy improved playback performance
- Updates for iPod with a Dock connector and iPod mini
- Compatibility with iTunes 4.5 or later and the iTunes Music Store
- Improved playback performance
- Support for the Apple Lossless Encoder, to enable compressed music encoding at high quality
- Updates for iPod without a Dock connector
- Compatibility with iTunes 4.5 or later and the iTunes Music Store
- Improved playback performance