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Softbank denies Apple cell phone deal

Softbank has issued a brief statement [Japanese language] denying claims that it is working with Apple to develop an “iPhone.” The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Japanese newspaper reported on Friday that Apple had partnered with Softbank to create and manufacture a new cell phone with iPod-like music-playing features and the capability to download songs directly from the iTunes Music Store.

Mix: MySpace, Bose, Cabbie, Ohio Univ.

News Corp.‘s MySpace will begin selling episodes of Fox’s “24” next week as part of a plan to “turn the popular teen website into a business rivaling Yahoo and Apple’s iTunes.”

In an article in BusinessWeek, a Bose executive hinted that the company will introduce more iPod-related accessories in the coming months. “Bose is [in the iPod business] for the long run,” said Phil Hess, director of Bose’s home entertainment division. “It’s a segment we are going to focus on.”

MTV to launch URGE online music store this week

MTV plans to launch a public beta version of its URGE digital music store this week. URGE will be integrated into the next update of Microsoft’s Windows Media Player, and will sell no songs that are compatible with the iPod. “At launch, URGE will have more than 2 million tracks, which can be purchased individually at 99 cents or as full albums starting at around $9.95,” reports the AP. “The service also will offer unlimited downloads at a monthly rate of $9.95, or $14.95 for the ability to transfer songs to any of more than 100 compatible portable music players. Initially, URGE will also feature streaming videos, with video downloads becoming available for purchase later this year.” MTV is expected to heavily promote URGE on air, and will also offer exclusive tracks such as live performances from “TRL” and “MTV Unplugged.”

Report: Apple, Softbank developing iPod phone

Apple has partnered with Softbank to build a new cell phone with iPod-like features and the capability to download songs directly from the iTunes Music Store, according to a report in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun Japanese newspaper. The article claims that Softbank president Masayoshi Son and Apple CEO Steve Jobs met earlier this year and formed the partnership to develop the long-rumored device. The phone will reportedly be a 3G model with music-playing features and high-speed web connectivity. The report says that the phones will be released in Japan “sometime this year at the earliest,” and then later in the U.S.

GEAR4 intros CruiseControl RF remote for iPods

UK-based iPod accessory maker GEAR4 has announced the CruiseControl, an RF remote control for iPods. The CruiseControl’s receiver works with any iPod with a dock connector port, has a headphone amp and port on the bottom, and provides a range of up to 160 feet. The remote control comes with a lanyard and has seven functions, including shuffle and repeat buttons, normal pause/play, volume and fwd/back buttons. The CruiseControl sells for £24.99 (about $47).

ColorEnvy offers iPod front-panel refurbishing service

ColorEnvy has announced an iPod front-panel refurbishing service. “Do you have a badly scratched front panel, can’t watch videos or view your pictures? ColorEnvy can get rid of those nasty scratches on your iPod and make the front panel look like new again,” says the company. “ColorEnvy uses the latest technology and newest techniques to apply a flawless finish to your iPods front panel… we will remove the scratches and apply a scratch resistant coating to keep it looking new.” The refurbishing service costs $20.

Tunewear debuts Tetran Luminous cable winder

Tunewear today announced Tetran Luminous, a glow-in-the-dark version of its offbeat earbud cable winder. The spiked creature lets you wrap your iPod earbud cords around it to reduce cable mess. Tunewear says Tetran can also be used as personal massager. It sells for $13 and also comes in pink, green, yellow, and orange.

Amended French copyright bill passes

The French Senate today passed an amended version of its controversial copyright bill to soften the law that could force iTunes and other digital music services to open up their copy-protection technologies to competitors. “The text of the bill approved by senators on Wednesday retains the principle of DRM interoperability, but opens a loophole allowing companies to keep their technology secret, which should please Apple, but may not leave consumers as happy,” reports Macworld UK. “Senators weakened the bill’s blanket requirement that vendors give details of their DRM technology to those wishing to develop interoperable systems. Instead, they voted to create a new regulatory authority responsible for mediating requests for such details.”

Mix: Audible, Fifth Avenue, Britney, BitTorrent, Clickwheel

Audible.com said nearly a quarter of its first-quarter revenues came from sales of content through the iTunes Music Store. Audbile CEO Don Katz said iTunes sales totaled $4.4 million, or 23% of revenues. Revenue from the Music Store “has been growing like crazy,” Katz said.

Apple will open its new flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City on Friday, May 19th. The new store features a unique glass cube-shaped entrance that leads down into the store.

Real CEO: iPod users steal music

Real Networks CEO Rob Glaser says that iPod owners steal music. The majority of music on the average iPod is obtained illegally, with relatively few songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store, Glaser said in an interview with The Guardian. “If you want interoperable music today, there is a very easy solution: it’s called stealing,” Glaser said. “The average number of songs sold for the iPod is 25, and there are many more songs on iPods than 25. About half the music on iPods is music obtained illegitimately either from an illegal peer-to-peer networks or from ripping friends’ CDs, which is illegal. But it’s the only way to get non-copy protected, portable, interoperable music.”

Bosch debuts Power Box Dock For iPod

Bosch Power Tools and Accessories has announced the Power Box Dock for iPod, a new add-on unit for its rugged Power Box jobsite radio/CD player and power center. The new Bosch iPod dock plugs directly into the Power Box’s 12-volt auxiliary outlet and 3.5mm input jack to play music or charge the iPod. The dock completely encases the iPod and is weather and dust resistant. The Power Box Dock ($40) is compatible with fourth and fifth-generation iPods, the iPod mini, and iPod nano. The Bosch Power Box ($180) features an integrated AM/FM digital radio, CD player (MP3 and CD-R/RW compatible), Bosch battery charger, 4-way GFCI power outlet, 12-volt outlet, and keychain remote control.

Mossberg: Apple building cell phone, media hub

In an article looking at the different approaches taken by Apple and Microsoft in building products, Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal claims that Apple is working on a cell phone and a home-media hub. “In the post-PC era we’re in today, where the focus is on things like music players, game consoles and cellphones, the end-to-end model is the early winner,” Mossberg says. “Tightly linking hardware, software and Web services propelled Apple to a huge success with its iPod. Microsoft, meanwhile, has struggled to make its component model work on these devices and, in a telling sign, is using the Apple end-to-end model itself in its Xbox game-console business. Now, Apple is working on other projects built on the same end-to-end model as the iPod: a media-playing cellphone and a home-media hub.”

Apple working hard to get Beatles on iTunes Music Store

Following its legal win in the trademark battle with Apple Corps, Apple Computer says it will now work hard to get the Beatles’ music catalog on the iTunes Music Store. “We certainly will do everything we can to get them on iTunes,” Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of iTunes, told Bloomberg News. “The Beatles aren’t available in any digital format today but they are going to be one day. We certainly hope that happens on iTunes.” After the ruling in the dispute was given earlier this week, Apple CEO Steve Jobs had similar words. “We are glad to put this disagreement behind us,” Jobs said. “We have always loved the Beatles, and hopefully we can now work together to get them on the iTunes Music Store.” Apple Corps said last month that it is remastering the Beatles’ catalog to make the songs available for purchase online.

Report: Apple changes ‘Made for iPod’ fee

In an apparent response to disgruntled iPod accessory makers, Apple has reportedly made changes to its “Made for iPod” licensing program, switching from a percentage-based fee to a flat fee structure. “The initial licensing program was based on Apple taking a percentage of revenue from all products that connected to an Apple 17-pin iPod connector,” reports Smarthouse. “Originally Apple proposed a fee of 1.5% but as the popularity of the iPod increased and sales moved into the tens of millions Apple told organizations like Bose that they had to pay up to 10% of revenue back to Apple for being an official partner of the “Made for iPod” program. Instead, the program has been replaced with a flat $4.00 per unit fee.”

Numark iCDX digital turntable offers iPod integration

Numark, maker of the iDJ mixing console for iPods, recently introduced the iCDX digital turntable. The iCDX enables DJs to play and manipulate music stored on a USB drive or iPod. It features an iPod dock, touch sensitive scratch wheel, automatic BPM counter, a digital output, and LCD screen. The iCDX can also connect to a computer and take advantage of “a wide variety of popular DJ software packages,” and features an illuminated CD/DVD drive for playing multiple disc formats with “support for MP3, including ID tags, hot starts, seamless looping, and scratching.” Pricing and availability have not been announced.

iZAP battery line for iPods announced

ZAP today introduced a new series of lithium battery packs designed to add hours of playback time to iPods. Called iZAP, the battery add-on accessories for the iPod are part of a new line of ZAP Portable Energy chargers to power a range of mobile devices. The iPod nano iZAP ($50) adds 28 hours of listening time; the iPod mini iZAP ($60) adds 25 hours of music playback; and the iZAP for fifth-generation iPods ($60) adds 3-4 hours of video viewing time.

Sony to support AAC audio format

Sony has announced that it will support the AAC audio format used by Apple in the next version of Sonic Stage, its digital music management software. While the application will not be able to play copy-protected songs from the iTunes Music Store, Sonic Stage will play music encoded with iTunes in AAC format. Sony already supports AAC in its PSP gaming device and select mobile phones, and it appears Sony plans to soon do the same with its line of Walkman digital music players. “Sony’s latest strategy is taken as an open acknowledgment that it can no longer ignore iPod’s dominant lead,” says one report on Sony’s announcement.

French Senate vote could offer loophole for iTunes

A new amendment from the French Senate could allow Apple to sidestep the country’s plan to open its FairPlay DRM technology if Apple was to negotiate deals with record labels and artists to obtain copy-protection authorization. “The amendment, proposed by the Senate Cultural Affairs Committee, softens the terms of a government-backed copyright bill Apple criticized as ‘state-sponsored piracy’ after its first reading in March by lawmakers in France’s lower house,” reports the AP. “But the Senate committee’s changes could allow Apple to maintain the exclusive link between iTunes and the iPod, lawyers and officials said.”

Chili Peppers fans angry over iTunes ticket problem

Numerous Red Hot Chili Peppers fans are angry with Apple after not receiving their promised Ticketmaster pre-sale codes to purchase advance tickets for the band’s upcoming tour. As part of a promotion that launched early last month, iTunes users who pre-ordered the Chili Peppers new album “Stadium Arcadium” were told that they would receive a code via email on Monday, May 8, that would allow them to join in the pre-sale of tickets. However, the majority of those who pre-ordered the album have yet to receive their code, and ticket pre-sales began earlier today without the iTunes users being able to take part. A large number of complaints by Chili Peppers fans can be found in a discussion on Apple’s support forums.

BluNa Bluetooth adapter for iPod nano introduced

Anycom Technologies has introduced BluNa, a new Bluetooth adapter designed specifically for the iPod nano. The device transmits music wirelessly from the nano to any Bluetooth receiver, including speakers, headphones, computers or stereo systems. BluNa features automatic device pairing and is compatible with Bluetooth products from Anycom and companies such as Logitech, Motorola or Plantronics. The BluNa adapter can be purchased separately ($120) or in a bundle with the Anycom BIWAS-20 Bluetooth speakers ($350) or Anycom BSH-100 headphones ($230). It will ship later this month.

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