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Apple reports record earnings, revenues [updated]

As expected, Apple today announced record financial results for its fiscal 2006 first quarter ended December 31, 2005. Apple’s net profit for the holiday quarter was $565 million, or 65 cents per share, on $5.75 billion in revenue—the highest quarterly earnings and revenue in the company’s history. These results compare to revenue of $3.49 billion and a net profit of $295 million, or 35 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

During his keynote speech at Macworld Expo last week, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced that more than 14 million iPods were sold during the quarter, which represents a 207 percent growth in iPods compared to last year. The total number of iPods sold now stands at over 42 million.

“We are thrilled to report the best quarter in Apple’s history,” said Jobs. “Two highlights of an incredible quarter were selling 14 million iPods and getting ready to launch our new Macs with Intel processors five to six months ahead of expectations. We are working on more wonderful products for 2006, and I can’t wait to see what our customers think of them.”

Update: In an SEC filing, Apple said all iPod models accounted for more than $2.9 billion in revenue during the quarter, an increase of 177 percent compared to last year. Apple’s “Other Music Products” category—which includes the iTunes Music Store, iPod related services and accessories—accounted for $491 million of the quarter’s revenue, a 177 percent increase year-over-year.

Fox cautious about new TV distribution outlets

Fox television said it is being more cautious than rival networks like NBC and ABC in making its popular TV shows available from new distribution outlets like the iTunes Music Store.

“It’s been our strategy not to try to go out first with announcements but to go out with our best strategy. We’re taking a more measured approach to what works and would not work,” Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori said. “In terms of new technologies, it’s so early and in the nascent stages of what we can do with this. We think of this as a quintessential marathon and not a sprint… There are so many different cable outlets, a really fertile Internet, the ability to get information on wireless,” Liguori said. “‘24’ is a great show for all those various options, but again, my job is to protect ‘24,’ not to worry about what at this point is really a pretty meager audience” for video on demand or video iPods.

Orbino offers line of premium leather iPod cases

Orbino, a company that sells Italian leather accessories, recently launched a new collection of premium leather cases for the 5G iPod, iPod nano and iPod shuffle. The cases are hand-stitched and crafted from a variety of leathers and metals. A summary of the new collection follows.

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Cambio Case ($65)
The Cambio leather case for the 5G (video) iPod is available in several different styles, including calfskin, crocodile, nappa and rawhide in black, brown, cognac and natural colors. It features a metal click wheel ring in polished palladium or brass finished in gold. The Cambio also has a metal spring-loaded combination belt clip and desk stand.

Roadster Case & Sportivo Case ($39)
Both of the company’s hand-made cases for the iPod nano feature high quality materials, the built-in combination belt clip and desk stand, and a glazed cotton lariat with polished palladium metal pendant. The Roadster is available in 9 different styles—from red pebbled leather to beige snakeskin—while the Sportivo comes in 11 styles—from chocolate colored nappa leather to tiger print haircalf.

Premium Metal Case ($39-$59)
Orbino’s Premium Metal Case for the iPod shuffle is available in 19 different styles, including several all metal cases and a number of combination metal and leather inlay cases. Like the other cases in the line, it features a combination belt clip and desk stand, and also sports palladium or brass/gold finishes and comes with an Italian waxed cotton lanyard.

Apple backpedals on iTunes MiniStore

The recently released iTunes 6.0.2 update brought a new feature called the iTunes MiniStore, which analyzes the the music in your library and suggests similar offerings for purchase. Following complaints from users and tech writers who said the default feature was akin to spyware, Apple has quickly responded to easily explain the feature to iTunes users and make it more optional.

While the MiniStore was always able to be turned off by selecting Edit > Hide MiniStore, Apple now explains that iTunes users can use a button at the bottom of the iTunes window to quickly turn the feature on or off. Apple has also updated the MiniStore so that iTunes users are now met with the following message explaining the feature:

“The iTunes MiniStore allows you to discover new music and videos right from your iTunes Library. As you select items in your Library, information about that item is sent to Apple and the MiniStore will show you related songs or videos. Apple does not keep any information related to the contents of your music Library. Would you like to turn on the MiniStore now?”

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Mix: Fox, iBaby stroller, Arabic iPod, Shortcomings

Reuters reports that Fox television is taking a more cautious approach than rival networks in making its shows available for download.

Kolcraft is selling a $50 baby stroller, called the iBaby, which features an iPod cradle, pocket holder and single speaker. [via Gizmodo]

An Arabic version of Apple’s iPod could be launched in the Middle East soon, according to Gulf News.

The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg has written a syndicated article on “How to work around the iPod’s annoying shortcomings.”

Sony BMG artists added to Australian iTunes Music Store

Apple has quietly added a number of artists from Sony BMG to the Australian iTunes Music Store. Songs are priced at the current price of AU$1.69 each. Select artists include Oasis, Franz Ferdinand, Pearl Jam, Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne, and more.

As previously reported, the store launched in October 2005 without music from the record label because of a contract disagreement with Apple. iTunes vice-president Eddy Cue said at the time that Apple was working with Sony BMG to get its artists on the Australian store.

First lady also an iPod user

iPods are apparently very popular with the first family. It was revealed last year that U.S. President George W. Bush is an iPod enthusiast, and now first lady Laura Bush also discloses that she’s a member of the iPod nation. Mrs. Bush told the Washington Times that her tastes differ from her husband’s and that she currently has songs by Tina Turner and Dolly Parton on her iPod. “He likes country music a little bit more than I do, although I actually really am very fond of country music, as well,” she said. “One of the songs on my iPod that I love is Dolly Parton singing ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ So that’s sort of a combination, country and pop.” 

Sumajin intros Loop case for video iPod

imageSumajin has announced its Loop G5 case for the fifth-generation iPod. The silicone case includes an adjustable lanyard and screen protector, and features specially designed grooves on its back for a better grip. The $19 case comes in 10 colors—clear, white, black, purple, blue, red, pink, orange, yellow, and green. The Loop G5 case is available for the 30GB and 60GB iPod.

Mix: ID3 mag, Tax haven, CarClip, Hearing-aids

ID3 is a new magazine dedicated to podcasting. It will be delivered bimonthly in four formats—online, electronic (PDF), podcast, and/or print.

Apple has denied reports that it plans to set up business in the Channel Islands as a tax haven for the iTunes Music Store.

SKProducts has cut the price of its CarClip rear view mirror holder for the iPod mini and iPod nano to $10.

Hearing-aid suppliers are looking to broaden their appeal with products such as custom-molded earpieces for iPod users and Bluetooth cell-phone headsets.

JanSport debuts line of iPod-ready backpacks, jackets

imageJanSport has announced a new collection of products with integrated iPod connectivity and controls, including six new backpacks and 10 new jackets for men and women. To handle the new iPod features, the company has launched the proprietary LiveWire system, which comes in three options—LiveWire, LiveWire+, and LiveWireBT.

LiveWire, available in the backpack models, simply connects to an iPod via the headphone jack and offers a pocket for the player, but no control pad. LiveWire+, available in the backpacks and jackets, connects via the dock connector and has a soft-fabric key pad with five-button control of all iPod features. LiveWireBT utilizes Bluetooth technology to link a mobile phone and an iPod for hands-free use when carrying a backpack.

imageBackpacks include the Alt Pack (shown), Kingpin, Lo-Fi, Trinity, Audio Pack, and Dreamer. LiveWire jackets for women include the Wired Puffer, Wired Shell, Denim Jacket, Power Jacket, and Power Hoodie, while the men’s jackets include the Wired Puffer, Power Jacket (shown), Power Hoodie, Velocity Jacket, and Denim Jacket. Pricing ranges from $125-$300.



PodGear rebranded as GEAR4, announces new products

UK-based Disruptive Technology Channels today announced that its PodGear brand of iPod accessories has been renamed GEAR4. The company also announced plans to release several new iPod products this month.

“The PodGear brand accessories have become a hit around the world (now being sold in over 20 countries) and works brilliantly as an iPod accessories name, but is limiting in the way that it is so obviously iPod related,” said Tom Dudderidge, managing director, Disruptive Technology Channels. “The move to GEAR4 is intended to enable other digital accessories to be sold along side the massively successful iPod collection, all under the same brand name—GEAR4.

Report: NHL, NASCAR close to signing iTunes deals

The NHL and NASCAR are close to reaching agreements with Apple to offer video downloads of their sports content on iTunes. The Sports Business Journal reports [paid. sub. req.] that officials at both the NHL and NASCAR said they have similar deals that are within weeks of completion. “It would be fair to say we are close,

Koyono offers new outerwear with iPod controls

imageKoyono today announced four new outerwear garments that include integrated ElekTex iPod controls. The first design that will be available is BlackCoat Work, a lightweight jacket made from water resistant stretch cotton. It is scheduled to ship in March for $180. The other designs include coats named Sport and Minimal, which will be released before May, and a “surprise garment innovation” for summer. Prices range from $150 to $1,000.

image“Like all BlackCoat designs, the Work has a minimal appearance and is made from the latest encapsulated waterproof fabric technology. What makes the Work different is its’ stretch cotton construction for uncompromising comfort. You will have just the right number of pockets to manage your gadgets and other mobile necessities and feel good.”

iTunes boosts prime time ratings for NBC, ABC

Both NBC and ABC have seen a rise in viewer ratings since adding select TV shows to the iTunes Music Store. NBC credits the availability of its shows on iTunes for the recent increase in viewers during prime time for one of its popular comedies.

NBC’s “The Office,” the most popular show on iTunes, delivered a 5.1 rating last Thursday—its highest ever—among adults 18 to 49. The series delivered a 4.5 the prior week. An NBC executive said he is confident that the iTunes exposure contributed to the rise. Frederick Huntsberry, president of NBCU Television Distribution, said iTunes is bringing new audiences to the show that would not otherwise have watched.

Meanwhile, ABC has also seen a ratings increase for its two most popular shows available on iTunes. Since they were added to Apple’s store in October, both “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” are up versus the same period last year. “Lost” has seen its total audience rise 14 percent and ratings for adults 18 to 49 are up 28 percent. The total audience for “Desperate Housewives” is up 7 percent and 18 to 49 ratings are up 3 percent.

Jobs: Microsoft must build MP3 player this year to compete

Following his keynote speech last week at Macworld Expo, Apple CEO Steve Jobs spoke to Newsweek in an exclusive interview. While the majority of the excerpts pertain to the new Intel-based Macs, Jobs does talk about iPod competition and Apple’s record-breaking 14 million iPod shipment number.

“The problem is, the PC model doesn’t work in the consumer electronics industry, where you’ve got all these companies and some do one thing and another does another thing. It just doesn’t work,” Jobs said. “What’s going to happen is that Microsoft is going to have to get into the hardware business of making MP3 players. This year. X-player, or whatever.”

Jobs also said that Apple could have sold more than 14 million iPods during the holiday quarter if it had received more components.

“We couldn’t get enough flash memory, we couldn’t get enough of everything [to meet all the demand],” Jobs said. “We had to call the numbers six months in advance. So we sat around and had some meaningful discussions about what that number should be, and we ended up picking the highest of the numbers. You’ve got to admit, picking 14 million in the spring of last year, when the most you’ve ever sold was four and half million, was a pretty big bet. But it turned out that that number was too low.”

Mix: Audi TT, iPod trademarks, iPod school, MWSF/CES, Belkin

The Audi TT is being sold in Japan with a 2GB iPod nano and connection kit until March 31, 2006.

Apple has reportedly filed with Hong Kong’s Intellectual Property Department for trademarks on two new iPod terms—“iPod Hi-Fi” and “iPod Boombox.”

UK-based Selfridges has opened an iPod school in London, charging 65 pounds ($150) for a 40-minute lesson on how to use the device.

The dates for next year’s Macworld Expo and the Consumer Electronics Show will overlap for the conventions’ entire durations.

Belkin estimates that sales of its iPod accessories will contribute more than $200 million, or more than 20% of its 2005 sales of $800 million, to its 2006 fiscal year revenue.

Apple’s Jobs suggests Dell should eat his words

After the close of the stock market Friday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs took advantage of his company’s recent good fortunes to have a laugh at the expense of Dell’s boss.

Shortly after Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, Dell’s founder and chairman, Michael Dell, was asked at a technology conference what he might do to fix Apple. “What would I do?” Dell said. “I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”

Apple’s stock price saw a 12 percent surge last week, which pushed the company’s market capitalization to $72.13 billion, passing Dell’s value of $71.97 billion.

On Friday, Jobs sent an email to Apple employees, which read: “Team, it turned out that Michael Dell wasn’t perfect at predicting the future. Based on today’s stock market close, Apple is worth more than Dell. Stocks go up and down, and things may be different tomorrow, but I thought it was worth a moment of reflection today. Steve.”

Survey: iPod owners more honest

iPod owners are significantly less likely to download music illegally, according to a new report by XTN Data. In a recent consumer survey, the research firm found that while 25% of people regularly download music using file-sharing software, only 7% of iPod owners do so. The report also found that iPod owners buy 25% more albums (2.26 albums every month) than the average music fan, and that 79% regularly listen to music via the radio, and 50% regularly download music from iTunes.

XtremeMac offers NBA Iconz iPod cases

imageXtremeMac today announced a new licensing agreement with the National Basketball Association and the debut of its NBA Iconz cases for the iPod and iPod nano. Constructed of rubber, the cases feature some of the NBA’s most popular teams and players with a play-through design and clear screen protector.

Three teams are currently available for the 5G iPod—the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Miami Heat—while four teams and two players are available for the nano—the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Lakers, Dwayne Wade (Miami), and LeBron James (Cleveland). The NBA cases start at $25.

Blinkit iPod safety light debuts

imageIntuitive Devices has introduced the Blinkit safety flasher/flashlight system for iPods. The $30 device, which is compatible with all dockable iPods, is designed for personal safety when using your iPod after dark. “The Blinkit user becomes easily visible from over a hundred yards away,” says the company. “An adjustable mirror system lets users direct light forward or to both sides. Five interchangeable tinted lens caps let users change the color of light emitted. Whether for safety or just fun, Blinkit helps provide personal visibility at night. In addition, Blinkit also flashes along with your iPod, providing a light show synchronized to the beat of your music.”

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