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iLounge launches OS X Dashboard Widget

imageWant easy access to our news stories, latest reviews, and FAQs at any time? Mac OS X Tiger users can now download the iLounge Dashboard Widget, a free tool that provides immediate desktop access to all of our latest updates. Three sets of pages can be accessed independently by clicking on links in the upper right corner, and individual updates scrolled through using the window below. Search buttons permit easy access to all of iLounge’s online content, and Discussion Forums. Thanks to for developing this handy new way to enjoy iLounge. The next project is Konfabulator widgets for Mac and PC.

Download: iLounge Dashboard Widget

Mix: Steve Jobs, Japan tax, Microsoft store, China buses

Apple CEO Steve Jobs ranks No. 26 on Fast Company’s list of the “Greatest Business Leaders of the 20th Century.”

Japan’s publishing rights and collection group JASRAC is reportedly lobbying for a tax on digital music players, including iPods.

The NY Post reports: “Microsoft is on the prowl for a store in Times Square. The move would be the software giant’s first big stab at retail and may be an attempt to play catch-up with archrival Apple, which has hit a home run with its own branded stores, including its New York City flagship in SoHo.”

The Beijing Macintosh User Group has posted a report about the buses carrying Apple’s iPod ads in Beijing, China.

Creative wins patent for portable media player interface

In what can only be seen as a potential problem for Apple, Creative Technology said today that it has been awarded U.S. Patent 6,928,433 — which it is referring to as the “Zen Patent” — for portable media player navigation. “The Zen Patent was awarded to Creative for its invention of the user interface for portable media players, including many of the Creative Zen and NOMAD Jukebox MP3 players, and found in some competing players, such as the Apple iPod and iPod mini,” the company said in its announcement of the patent win.

“Creative’s invention for the user interface for portable media players enables selection of at least one track in a portable media player as a user sequentially navigates through a hierarchy using three or more successive screens on the display of the player,” the company explains. “One example would be the sequence of screens that could display artists, then albums, and then tracks. When the user selects an artist, the player displays a list of albums for that artist. Selection of one of the listed albums then displays a list of tracks on the album.”

Reports: iTunes phone coming, deal with Cingular struck

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has reached an agreement with Cingular to offer the first iTunes-compatible Motorola mobile phone. In addition, the paper said that Apple is on the verge of releasing new flash memory-based iPod minis.

The announcements could “come as soon as next week,” meaning they’ll likely be shown at Apple’s special event scheduled for September 7 in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has filed a similar report citing a telecommunications industry analyst that also claims Apple and Motorola will unveil the first iTunes phone next week. Ovum analyst Roger Entner said he had been told by an industry executive that the new phone would be marketed by Cingular Wireless.

Griffin intros TuneBox speakers for iPod shuffle

imageGriffin Technology has introduced the TuneBox speaker system for Apple’s iPod shuffle. The $39.99 accessory stands your shuffle between its two speakers, and connects to the device with a 3.5mm stereo jack input (compatible with other MP3 players and devices). It comes with an AC power adapter, charges your shuffle’s battery while it’s playing, and offers total power output of 2+2 watts.

“TuneBox’s micro drivers and efficient amplified speakers generate a powerful, dynamic sound, with unexpected clarity and great highs and lows,” says Griffin. “TuneBox keeps the shuffle’s clickwheel controls up front within easy reach. With a space investment of less than 4 square inches, TuneBox delivers impressive sound and functionality.”

MTV VMA iPod shuffle case designed by XtremeMac

imagePerformers at last night’s MTV Video Music Awards received a gift bag worth more than $26,000 that included an iPod shuffle featuring the awards show logo. However, the shuffle was not sporting a special paint job—it was a clear XtremeMac Ice Shieldz case with custom graphics.

“It was a custom piece that Apple requested from us to accompany the shuffles they donated to the VMA gift bag,” XtremeMac told iLounge today. “These custom Sheildz are not for retail sale, as they were an exclusive design for Apple and MTV.”

Apple plans special event next week

Apple appears to be set to introduce an all-new iPod next week as the company will hold a special event at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California. Apple has used similar events in the past to make such major announcements.

In an invitation sent to select media, including iLounge, Apple hints that it will unveil a significant new product at the event. The invitation reads in part: “1000 songs in your pocket changed everything. Here we go again.” The slogan “1000 songs in your pocket” was first used by Apple when the original 5GB iPod was introduced in 2001.

The invitation-only event will take place on Wednesday, September 7 at 10:00 a.m. iLounge will be in attendance to bring you coverage.

Rivet rolls out Grab iPod shuffle accessory

imageRivet International today announced the Grab for Apple’s iPod shuffle. The accessory includes a polycarbonate holder for the shuffle, a lanyard (with either colored glass beads or cloth with custom designs), and a removable belt clip.

“Add some color and wear it anywhere. The custom fit Grab secures your shuffle and gives you the freedom to wear it conveniently around your neck or attached to your belt, pocket or bag,” says Rivet.

The Grab comes in pink, blue, clear or graphite for $19.99.

Mix: Audiobooks, Party Shuffle, Godcasting, Mac OS X 10.5

Although iPods account for the vast majority of MP3 players, many U.S. libraries are now lending audiobooks available only in Windows Media Audio format.

OmniNerd has posted an interesting article on the iTunes Party Shuffle feature. “iTunes’ available song ratings of 1 to 5 stars allow users to quickly find their favorites and help the Party Shuffle feature play more of what they like most. This article explores the algorithm iTunes uses to pick what comes next in the playlist.”

The New York Times looks at how religious groups are embracing podcasting. “The number of people or groups offering spiritual and religious podcasts listed on Podcast Alley has grown to 474 from 177.”

PBS’ Robert X. Cringely says Microsoft’s biggest threat comes from Apple, and speculates that the company could release Mac OS X v10.5 and load it onto iPods for free to enable users to boot the operating system on Intel-based PCs.

Apple faces off with record labels over iTunes pricing

According to the New York Times, two major record companies are pushing for an increase to Apple’s 99-cent per song pricing on the iTunes Music Store.

“Two and a half years after the music business lined up behind the chief executive of Apple, Steven P. Jobs, and hailed him and his iTunes music service for breathing life into music sales, the industry’s allegiance to Mr. Jobs has eroded sharply,” the Times’ Jeff Leeds reports. “Mr. Jobs is now girding for a showdown with at least two of the four major record companies over the price of songs on the iTunes service.”

“If he loses, the one-price model that iTunes has adopted could be replaced with a more complex structure that prices songs by popularity. A hot new single, for example, could sell for $1.49, while a golden oldie could go for substantially less than 99 cents. Music executives who support Mr. Jobs say the higher prices could backfire, sending iTunes’ customers in search of songs on free, unauthorized file-swapping networks.”

Forums: More Brushed iPods, Forum Fun, iPoding Bikers, Hidden Songs

In the iLounge Discussion Forums this week: Members continue to show off iPod customizations achieved by brushing the backs with various designs.

In a repeat of the unofficial forum signature contest of last year entries are being accepted for the 2005 contest. Before you go looking for prizes, this is purely for fun - don’t get too excited…

Are you a motorcyclist who uses your iPod on the road? One member is looking for a way to go wireless - any suggestions?

Ever get to the end of the last song on a CD and wonder why there are still several minutes left to run to the end of the track? You may have found a hidden song - read what others have found…

New Podcast: The iLounge Week in Review 7, with Reviews

imageNow available is the seventh iLounge Week in Review podcast, hosted by iLounge Editor-in-Chief Jeremy Horwitz.

This week, we’ve used the podcasting format to bring you audio reviews of two products: Griffin’s iTalk 2 and iFM, both recorded using a color iPod equipped with the respective accessories. The remainder of our week in review includes news on Samsung’s bid to supply Apple with iPod mini-ready memory chips, the FCC’s approval of Motorola’s E790 phone, Logitech’s announcement of the Wireless Music System, and discussions of iLounge’s new iPod Directory, Blog the Book Contest, and Trivia Contest. Enjoy.

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iSkin Duo offers dual-layer protection for iPod shuffle

imageiSkin today announced the availability of its iSkin Shuffle Duo, a new dual-layer protective silicone skin for the iPod shuffle. “The iSkin Shuffle Duo features a unique design that includes both an inner and outer skin that combine to create the perfect barrier against impurities and even moisture,” explains iSkin.

The $19.99 case, first shown on iLounge in March, is moisture resistant and leaves all control buttons accessible and all status lights visible. The iSkin Shuffle Duo features an integrated headphone port cover and includes a custom neck strap.

The iSkin Shuffle Duo is available in four color combinations—Adrenaline (outer blue layer combined with an inner green layer), Vigor (red outer layer with a frosted clear inner layer), Oxygen (frosted clear outer and inner layer) and Impluse (grey with a frosted clear inner layer).

Judge approves settlement in iPod class-action suit

A San Mateo Calif. County judge on Thursday gave final approval to the settlement of the iPod battery class-action lawsuit. According to lawyers, the settlement will allow as many as 1.3 million iPod owners to get new batteries and could cost Apple $15 million.

“All these people are going to get relief, and we think that’s a big victory for them,” said Steve Williams, lead counsel for the suit and an attorney for Burlingame’s Cotchett, Pitre, Simon & McCarthy.

Under the settlement, consumers who bought first- or second-generation iPods before May 31, 2004 are entitled to either $25 cash or a $50 credit at the Apple Store. Owners of third-generation iPods are entitled to a free replacement battery if their battery fails or a $50 credit. iPod owners who already paid to have their battery replaced can get up to half of that cost back from Apple.

The iPod Battery Settlement: Your Rights and Compensation

Analyst: Apple may sell 7.1 million iPods this quarter

American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu believes Apple will ship 7.1 million iPods in the current quarter. The sales number would be a 15 percent increase over last quarter, but Wu warns that average iPod selling prices may come under “greater than expected pressure.”

“We have noticed very aggressive pricing, particularly on 4GB iPod minis”, Wu said in a research note. “We believe part of the reason is that iPod inventories remain relatively high on an absolute basis and this aggressive promotion is to ensure sales in an otherwise slower consumer period.”

The analyst also echoed recent speculation that Samsung is offering Apple heavily discounted prices on its flash memory chips. “Our sources tell us that Samsung was willing to drop its prices aggressively to lock in a marquee customer and win back some business from Toshiba, Apple’s other flash supplier. Interestingly, we believe Apple will also likely source from Hynix, adding a third flash supplier and thus further driving down pricing to protect its gross margin.”

Interestingly, Wu also said that he “is hearing” that Apple will likely source components for future portable devices (including iPods) from Intel, Broadcom and Sharp.

iTube FM transmitter for iPod shuffle announced

imageDigiana has announced the Audia X iTube for the iPod shuffle. The iTube is an all-in-one FM transmitter/dock/charger for using your shuffle in the car.

The unique looking device features two flexible necks and plugs into the cigarette lighter outlet. Your iPod shuffle connects via the USB plug. The iTube’s FM transmitter offers a full frequency range (88.1MHz - 107.9MHz), blue backlit LCD, and a 4 channel preset memory.

Digiana will begin taking pre-orders on Monday at MisticAudio and at Pricing for the iTube will be $44.99, and the anticipated shipping date is September 19.

Ped, Ped2 now available with FireWire/line-out cable

imageThought Out has announced that its Ped and Ped2 iPod stands are now available with a 7-inch combination FireWire and line-out cable.

The Sik din cable connects to any iPod with a Dock Connector port and features a 6-pin female FireWire port so you can charge/sync your iPod with a regular FireWire cable, and a line level audio output (3.5mm stereo jack).

The addition of the SiK din cable adds $18 to the regular pricing of the stands—the Ped with the cable sells for $43.99 and the Ped2 with the cable sells for $57.99.

Sharper Image offers unique iPod products

Sharper Image recently added three new ZipConnect products designed for the iPod and other MP3 players, including two speaker systems and a massage chair with built-in speakers.

Each ZipConnect sound system comes with a universal “play” ZipConnect module with a 3.5mm plug for connecting to the headphone jack of any iPod or other device. However, you can purchase a $9.95 iPod connector that lets you play and charge your iPod through the Dock Connector port.

imageThe aptly named iSphere ($149.95) is an all-in-one three-speaker iPod system that is “ideal where big sound is desired from a small footprint.” It has dual aluminum-cone speakers and subwoofer which “deliver amazingly rich, dynamic, full-range stereo sound.”

imageThe ZipConnect iPulse ($129.95) stereo speaker system features integrated ColorSync LEDs that create a lighshow that plays in sync with the music. It also features dual aluminum-cone speakers. “This colorful new stereo speaker system for your iPod or MP3 digital music collection is as fun to watch as it is to hear,” says Sharper Image.

imageSharper Image’s iJoy ($999.95) is a massage chair with built-in speakers and subwoofer that “blends music and massage into the ultimate relaxation experience.” The chair’s armrest has a small alcove for your iPod, and features “incredibly realistic” Human Touch Technology (HTT) Robotic Massage, one-touch power recline, and a built-in cup holder. [via DAP Review]

Mix: Taiwan podcasts, iPod scrubs, MTV VMA, Pearl Jam

Apple has added a Podcast Directory service to iTunes in Taiwan. “We are working with 10 radio stations here and consumers will be able to listen to them over at iTunes within a month,” said Yeo Eng Yiong, Apple’s product marketing manager for portables in the Asia-Pacific region.

iPod scrubs is a new site dedicated to sharing small sequential image clips for the iPod that provide the illusion of animation when manually scrolling through them.

The performers at this Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards will each receive a gift bag worth more than $26,000 that includes “an iPod shuffle with an MTV logo, an orange vinyl Paul Frank watch and a glass checker-set from José Cuervo.”

Pearl Jam next month will launch a digital music store on its official website to offer its authorized “live bootleg” series as DRM-free MP3 files.

ezGear offers ezShuffle Starter Kit for iPod shuffle

imageezGear today announced the ezShuffle Starter kit, a new accessory bundle for the iPod shuffle that includes “everything you need to use, sync, charge, and protect your iPod shuffle.” 

The package includes: ezCharge Shuffle car charger, ezLink Shuffle USB extension cable, ezSkin Tankini silicone case, ezCassette car stereo cassette adapter, and ezAudio earphone splitter.

The ezShuffle Starter kit is priced at $29.98. ezGear said the five products would cost over $65 if purchased separately.

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