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ESPN eyes iTunes content deal

Walt Disney’s ESPN is the latest network to consider a deal to offer its programs on Apple’s iTunes Music Store. ESPN’s sports content would join shows from ABC, which is also owned by Disney. Although ESPN has not yet held talks with Apple, the cable sports network plans to offer its shows and game clips to “any pipe, any device,” ESPN and ABC Sports president George Bodenheimer said at the UBS global media conference. “We’re not just in the TV business anymore. We’re going to the table as a sports media company,” Bodenheimer said.

Track Happy intros iPod shuffle belt clip

imageTrack Happy has announced the release of “thclip,” a thin plastic belt clip for the iPod shuffle. The holster clip is made from matching white plastic and allows the shuffle’s controls to remain accessible. It is priced at £15. “Designed to match in style and shape, the thclip is the perfect partner for the ipod shuffle. The thclip was designed with simplicity as a priority. We know that track happy customers don’t want over-complicated or fussy products. They want something that is small, sleek and usable. Our thclip is the perfect answer.”

Sharper Image offers new iPod speaker systems

Sharper Image recently added several new ZipConnect speaker systems designed for the iPod and other MP3 players. Each ZipConnect sound system comes with a universal ZipConnect module with a 3.5mm plug for connecting to the headphone jack of any iPod or other device. You can purchase a $9.95 iPod connector that lets you play and charge your iPod through the Dock Connector port.

imageiTower ($200; shown)
The slim tower system features four aluminum-cone speakers, a one-inch true-dome tweeter and a built-in subwoofer. It stands at 3.5’ tall.

iFrame ($140)
The square speaker system has a perforated aluminum frame surrounding a center well that glows with blue LEDs. It has four aluminum-cone speakers and an auxiliary input jack.

ZipConnect CD Stereo DECO ($230)
The stackable five-piece system features a top-loading CD player (with ID3 technology that displays MP3-CD audio text tags), AM/FM radio, and an integrated amplifier with adjustable EQ and dual high-output satellite stereo speakers.

iSoother ($150)
The all-in-one portable speaker system offers an AM/FM digital radio, a backlit LCD talking alarm clock and a “Sound Soother” with 20 environmental soundscapes. The iSoother has dual aluminum-cone speakers deliver, sleep timer, equalizer, subwoofer, and headphone jack.

ZipConnect 900MHz Wireless Outdoor Speakers ($170)
The speakers sport a weatherproof housing, 900MHz dual-frequency wireless transmitter (works up to 150 feet away), iPod cradle, and wireless remote control.

iSplash ($100)
The iSplash is a wireless and splashproof speaker system. It also uses a 900MHz transmitter to send audio from your iPod to the speakers up to 150 feet away. It can be hung from a showerhead or curtain rod.

Beetle ZipConnect Speaker System ($130)
The mini VW Beetle convertible has hidden speakers, working headlamps and a back seat iPod stand. It also features an AM/FM digital tuner, windshield LCD, and a control panel hidden under the hood.

Apple to use videos to drive hardware sales

Following a recent meeting with Apple executives, American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu said the company made it clear that paid video offerings on iTunes, like digital music, are being sold in order to help drive hardware sales. The Apple executives, VP of iTunes Eddy Cue and CFO Peter Oppenheimer, also made it no secret that it is a priority to expand the company’s library of video offerings.

“Apple confirmed that its main goal with video is not to make money off the content but to help drive hardware sales, including iPods and Macs,” Wu said in a research note obtained by iLounge. “Unlike other resellers like bricks and mortar stores and service providers, Apple views content as strategic, choosing to break-even while leaving the majority of the profit to the content owners.”

Altec Lansing offers nano adapter for inMotion systems

Altec Lansing is now offering an iPod nano adapter for its line of inMotion portable speaker systems. Owners of the inMotion iM7, iM5, iM3 or iMplus can order their free adapter from the company’s website. The $3 shipping and handling fee is waived through February 28, 2006. We reported last week that Bose is now shipping its own nano adapter for its SoundDock speaker system.

Mix: Rhapsody, Apple ads, Real estate, Podtees

RealNetworks has launched a web-based version of its Rhapsody digital music subscription service, enabling consumers to use the service without downloading a PC application, and adding support for Mac and Linux users.

CNET News.com reports that Apple spent $287 million on advertising in fiscal 2005, an increase of nearly 40 percent from the $206 million it spent in 2004. The company spent $193 million in the year before that.

Explicit Media has released its Real Estate Home Show product for iPods. “Real estate agents and consumers may now download videos of current real estate home listings directly to their iPod to allow for portable marketing and viewing.”

Podtee has announced three new iPod-themed T-shirts as part of its Holiday collection. Choose from “Santa pod,” “podtee Christmas,” and “Fresh Forrest.”

Odeo podcasting service gets major new features

Odeo has launched several new features that enable users to easily record audio, better organize their podcast subscriptions, and share audio with others. Odeo users can now record audio with either a web browser-based tool or over the phone. After you’ve recorded the audio, it’s saved in MP3 format and can be easily shared. The site also gains a new “Audio Inbox” that organizes podcasts that you have subscribed to and audio that has been sent to you by other Odeo users. In addition, the site has been revamped with a simplified homepage and other changes that “make it simpler and move it closer to our vision of Podcasting for Regular People.”

Two new iLounge T-shirts available

imageWe’ve added two new iLounge T-shirts to our online Lounge Store. The first design features the iLounge name written with the cable of a set of orange “old school” headphones. The second shirt is a variation of the original shirt we offered last year featuring a silhouette hand holding an iPod. Both new shirts are silkscreened on a soft, 100% cotton grey American Apparel tee. Like our white logo tee, both new shirts are priced at $15 and come in small, medium, large, extra-large and double extra-large sizes. International orders are welcomed.

BTI debuts U-Link, Tunestir 2, and FM Transmitter for nano

In a meeting with iLounge editors this afternoon, Battery Technology Incorporated revealed U-Link, Tunestir 2, and FM Transmitter for iPod nano, a new series of accessories slated to appear over the next month. We apologize for the graininess of the photos below (and larger versions in View Photos), which were snapped during the meeting; higher-quality images are en route.

imageU-Link is a “versatile adaptor” designed for “connecting old iPod accessories to iPod nano.” Planned for imminent release at a $20 price point, U-Link plugs into a nano’s headphone and Dock Connector ports, and according to the company will enable any top-mounting accessory for 3G, 4G, or mini iPods to work on the nano. BTI claims to have tested numerous accessories with U-Link without incident.

imageTunestir 2 is an upgraded version of the company’s $60 all-in-one FM radio tuner, FM transmitter and in-line remote control, currently specifically designed for use with iPod nano. BTI promises that Tunestir 2’s radio quality has been dramatically improved with a new antenna, and its controls have been simplified with two simple switches and a power button. The unit’s industrial design has been changed, as well, with sleeker curves and a glossier finish.

imageFM Transmitter for iPod nano offers a unique solution to the challenges that have faced nano transmitter developers: it mounts a LCD tuning screen and button controls on the nano’s back, and uses a spine-like design that runs from nano’s bottom to its top. We’re awaiting further details on pricing. Larger pictures are available at View Photos, below.

iTunes video sales strong, attracting more content partners

American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu believes that iTunes video sales—including music videos, ABC TV shows and Pixar shorts— are coming in ahead of expectations despite the lack of a large video library. The analyst also says that the upbeat video sales are attracting new media companies.

“Apple disclosed that it sold 1 million videos on October 31, 2005. We are picking up indications that sales have more than doubled since then and that this strength is attracting attention from other content providers including NBC, CBS, and Fox eager to participate in this new market opportunity,” Wu said in a research note Friday. “We would not be surprised to see Apple announce additional content partners over the next few quarters, perhaps as early as Steve Jobs’ keynote at MacWorld Expo on January 10, 2006 in San Francisco.”

Marware ships CEO Classic case for 5G iPods, nano

imageMarware announced today that its CEO Classic case for both the fifth-generation iPod and iPod nano are now in stock and available for immediate shipment. Made of full–grain black leather, the CEO Classic comes with two removable lids—one with a storage pocket for earphones and one with a view of the screen and play–through click wheel protector. The case also offers a removable belt clip and access to the dock connector, hold switch and earphone jack. The 5G case sells for $35, while the nano version costs $30.

Bose shipping SoundDock inserts for iPod nano

Bose is now shipping the complimentary iPod nano cradle inserts for its SoundDock speaker system. While new SoundDocks now come with the nano insert in the box, previous owners of the speaker system must order the free insert which allows them to use their nano properly with the system. Bose has yet to offer details on an insert specifically for the new fifth-generation iPod. It is not known if or when the company will offer such an insert.

Griffin debuts EarThumps earphones

imageGriffin Technology today announced its EarThumps in-ear earphones. The EarThumps are available in black or white, offer neodymium dynamic micro-drivers, and come with three different-sized silicone inserts and a nylon zippered carrying case. “EarThumps deliver clean transparent atmospheric highs, and deep, low bass,” says Griffin. “EarThumps increase your iPod listening experience by an order of magnitude, and come in either Status Symbol White or Undercover Black to match the newer iPods.” The EarThumps sell for $20.

Apple offers giveaway to celebrate iTunes milestone in Europe

Apple has launched a contest in celebration of the 100 millionth song download in Europe. “Music fans in 17 countries around Europe are clicking their way to 100 million downloads on the European iTunes Music Stores,” says Apple. “And to celebrate this milestone in the digital music revolution, we are running a special promotion to thank you for helping us make history.” The customer who downloads the 100 millionth song from any of the European iTunes stores will receive a 17-inch iMac G5, a 30GB iPod, a 10,000-song gift card for the iTunes Music Store, and two tickets to see Robbie Williams in concert.

Nike releases iPod nano armband

imageNike recently introduced its first iPod-specific accessory. The Nike Sport Armband, designed to hold an iPod nano during exercising or other activity, is made with lightweight Nike Pro Compression fabric and Dri-FIT material and is machine washable. The $40 armband is available in two color combinations (gray/orange and black/gray) and two sizes (small/medium and medium/large). Nike is also marketing the case to iPod shuffle owners.

Fox, Clear Channel eye iTunes distribution deals

Two more media giants said today that they are interested in striking deals with Apple to get their content on the iTunes Music Store.

Fox Filmed Entertainment’s co-chairman said his company is definitely open to a deal with Apple. “Of course, we’d be open to that. We believe it would be a great opportunity,” James Gianopulos said at the Reuters Media and Advertising Summit.

Meanwhile, a senior executive at Clear Channel Communications said that his company has recently been in talks with Apple, Yahoo and Microsoft about distributing its radio and video content. “They have yielded more discussions,” John Hogan, chief executive of Clear Channel’s radio division said at the same event. “They (the companies) are interested in content.”

Apple details iPod sales in annual report

In its annual report (SEC form 10-K) filed Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Apple summarized several iPod and iTunes related details.

Apple said that net sales of iPods rose $3.2 billion, or 248 percent, during 2005 compared to 2004. The company said it sold 22.5 million iPods in fiscal 2005, an increase of 409 percent from the 4.4 million iPod sold in 2004. Apple has now shipped more than 30 million iPods since the device’s introduction four years ago.

“Strong sales of iPods during 2005 continued to be experienced in all of the company’s operating segments and was driven by strong demand for the iPod shuffle introduced in January 2005, the release of an updated version of the iPod mini in February 2005, the release of the iPod nano in September 2005, and expansion of the iPod’s distribution network,” Apple said in the filing.

Apple said that net sales of other music related products and services, which consists of sales associated with the iTunes Music Store and iPod accessories, increased $621 million, or 223 percent, compared to last year.

“The company has experienced strong growth in sales of iPod services and accessories consistent with the increase in overall iPod unit sales for 2005,” Apple said. “The increased sales from the iTunes Music Store is primarily due to substantial growth of net sales in the U.S. and expansion in Europe, Canada, and Japan.”

Vaja and iLounge giving away $5000 in Vaja gift cards

imageGet your creative juices flowing because you could easily win one of several Vaja gift cards just for coming up with a clever slogan. We’ve just kicked off our “Vaja Slogan Contest” in which we’re giving away 45 $100 Vaja gift cards and a grand prize of one $500 gift card to iLoungers who come up with the best new slogans for the iPod case maker.

Simply check out Vaja’s ads on page 29 of the iLounge Holiday Buyers’ Guide, page 12 of the Free iPod Book, and Vaja’s web site to get familiar with their products. Then, think of a new slogan that matches the company’s products and philosophy, and submit it here. Vaja will choose the best entries and award the gift cards. The contest ends December 23, 2005 11:59 p.m. PT.

PodsPlus debuts aluminum case for 5G iPods

imagePodsPlus has announced the availability of its new aluminum case for fifth-generation iPods. Available in black or silver for both the 30GB and 60GB iPods, the case is made from aircraft grade anodized aluminum and comes with an optional neck strap and swivel belt clip. The $30 case also features a neoprene-lined interior, a clear plastic screen protector, and access to the click wheel, dock connector, headphone jack and hold switch.

EyeTV update adds one-step export to video iPods

Elgato Systems has released a software update for its Mac-based EyeTV digital video recorder that allows users to easily export recordings to formats optimized for the new video-enabled iPods.

“With EyeTV 1.8.4, EyeTV users can now export their EyeTV recordings to a video-capable iPod using two new preset formats,” explains the company. “One preset uses QuickTime H.264 compression, Apple’s preferred format. The second preset uses MPEG-4 compression, which encodes up to five times faster than H.264 and has higher resolution output. The MPEG-4 preset is recommended as it provides the best quality for viewing either on an iPod screen or on a TV screen. Neither preset requires QuickTime Pro.”

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