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Mix: RealNetworks, Aussie warning, Tesco, Parentcasting

RealNetworks says it has doubled the number of paying customers for its music subscription service in the past year—1.4 million at the end of 2005, up from 700,000 a year before.

Following the death of an Australian woman, police in the country have warned that cyclists should never listen to an iPod while riding. “If you’re a cyclist and you want to stay alive, I wouldn’t wear an iPod under any circumstances,” Assistant Commissioner (Traffic) Noel Ashby said.

UK-based supermarket Tesco has launched its first dedicated section for selling iPods and Macs. The first store is located in Milton Keynes, about 50 miles northwest of London.

USA Today reports on parents creating podcasts for other parents. “Parents, it turns out, are eager to download programs created specifically for them that would have been unlikely to air on a traditional broadcast radio station.”

iBikeMount for iPod nano announced

imageThe iBikeMount is a new iPod nano accessory that allows you to quickly and securely mount the device to the handlebars of bicycles, exercise machines, and strollers. It attaches to a variety of handlebar sizes (22 mm–26 mm) and requires no tools to install. The iBikeMount is priced at $30 and will begin shipping on March 15, 2006.

“The new mount eliminates the inconvenience of digging the iPod out of a pocket, removing it from an armband, or bringing a dangling lanyard up to the face in order to make selection or setting change.  iBikeMount keeps the Nano safely in plain sight and within easy reach by securely attaching it to the handlebars.”

Pod2Go Windows beta released

Kainjow has announced the release of the first public beta of Pod2Go for Windows. Previously only available for Mac OS X, the software lets you put a variety of content on your iPod, including news feeds, weather forecasts, movie showtimes, driving directions, lyrics, stock quotes and more. The beta download is free and requires Windows 2000 or XP. You can register now for a discount on the final version.

EvolutionTV gets real-time video compression for iPod

Miglia Technology today announced the release of a free software update for its EvolutionTV digital video recorder for the Mac. The version 2.6 update adds real-time video compression for the fifth-generation iPod as well as the Sony PSP. “EvolutionTV is the only digital video recorder to offer real-time iPod encoding,” says Miglia. “Real-time encoding removes the need to go through a software export step, a very lengthy operation.”

Mix: Screech, Sony Bean, AKG K27i headphones, iPod love

Apple has added 90’s TV show “Saved By the Bell” and early segments from “Schoolhouse Rock.”

Another iPod casualty: Sony said that its Bean MP3 player, which was launched at the end of last August, will be discontinued in April.

Earphone Solutions is offering a free pair of AKG K27i headphones ($70 value) with the purchase of the UM2 earphones. Add both to your cart and enter the coupon code FREEK27ILOUNGEUM2.

USA Today’s Laura Vanderkam writes: “Modern youth culture’s love affair with the iPod may explain why this holiday will be lonelier for many people of my generation.”

Warner Music Group sees strong digital sales

Warner Music Group’s quarterly profit nearly doubled thanks to stronger sales of digital songs during the holiday season. The company said net income for its holiday quarter rose to $69 million, from $36 million.

Warner Music said digital revenue rose to $69 million, up 30 percent from the fourth quarter, and nearly triple that of a year earlier, due to an increase in online music sales at services such as Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Revenue from the company’s recorded music business fell 2 percent to $920 million during the same time.

“Our digital revenue was up dramatically year-on-year, especially after MP3 players went live on December 25th,” Chief Financial Officer Michael Fleischer said. “The naysayers of digital music on the Street have been proven wrong.”

Toy makers creating more iPod-friendly products

Following the success of iPod-friendly toys like the i-Dog and iZ, toy makers are releasing several new products aimed at iPod-toting pre-teens. The toys, being shown at this week’s American International Toy Fair trade expo, include electronic musical instruments, chairs with built-in speakers, and new interactive products.

imageBlue Box, known for its military toys and preschool products, is coming out with a line of Apple-like white electronic musical instruments that allow children to jam to music on their iPod. The toy collection includes a stage mike, mixer, drumsticks and guitar.

MGA Entertainment is releasing a new kid’s chair under its popular Bratz brand that doubles as an iPod speaker. The company is also introducing palm-sized Petz—a rabbit, pig, frog, and cat—that can be connected to an iPod and respond to the music by moving and lighting up.

imageCorgi has announced the iCar, a 1:24 scale model car that rocks to the music from your iPod. It’s available in two models—a Cadillac Escalade and a Nissan 240SX—and also features “colored lights that illuminate the wheel wells, rims, undercarriage, engine and trunk areas, and the high-quality speaker pumps out the sound.”

Spin Master has introduced two iPod-friendly toys—the iDrum and iMix. The toys are plastic cases for the iPod that also allow kids to enhance their tunes. The iDrum features a small drum pad on the back of the case, enabling a child to create beats and rhythms, while the iMix lets them create scratching DJ sounds over the music.

For those with younger children, Baby Einstein Co. has introduced a rocking chair that connects to an iPod, and Emerson Radio has an iPod-compatible SpongeBob SquarePants speaker system. And the list goes on. “The iPod is the No. 1 toy. My view is why fight them? Why not join them?” said Isaac Larian, chief executive of MGA.

GEAR4 debuts PocketParty V2 micro speaker system

imageGEAR4 has announced the PocketParty V2, an updated version of its micro speaker system for iPods. The PocketParty V2, which connects via the dock connector port instead of the headphone jack, puts out 1 watt of stereo sound from its two tiny speakers and plays for up to 10 hours using a single AA battery. It is available in black or white and sells for $39.

“The PocketParty is ideal to break the silence when lying in the park or on the back of a bus; sharing your music with friends has never been easier,” says the company. “The newest member of the PocketParty family offers improved sound appreciation on its predecessors after a painstaking amount of work went into getting the most from its two tiny speakers. The PocketParty is ultra-simple to use, you just plug it into your iPod, switch on and get rocking.

Mix: Swimsuit videos, Aussie death, Walkman phone, 7-Eleven

Apple’s iTunes Music Store this week will begin selling eight specially produced Sports Illustrated swimsuit videos for $1.99 each.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports: “An Australian woman was knocked off her bike and killed in a London street, possibly because she couldn’t hear traffic noise because of her iPod music device, friends say.”

Sony Ericsson has introduced the new W950i Walkman phone, which features 4GB of built-in flash storage, Symbian OS, Bluetooth and AAC and MP3 support.

IFO Apple Store has posted a photo of iPods being sold at a 7-Eleven in Japan. The display includes 5G iPods, iPod nanos, iPod shuffles, and iTunes Music Store gift cards.

RIAA warns consumers of selling pre-loaded iPods

The Recording Industry Association of America is warning consumers that it is illegal to sell a used iPod that is pre-loaded with digital content. “Selling an iPod pre-loaded with music is no different than selling a DVD onto which you have burned your entire music collection,” the RIAA said in a statement to MTV News. “Either act is a clear violation of U.S. copyright law. The RIAA is monitoring this means of infringement. In short: seller beware.”

Andrew Bridges, a lawyer who specializes in copyright and trademark law, says the law is not so clear. “It really depends on the individual circumstances,” he explained. “I’m not sure the law is settled. If I’m a college student and I want to supplement my income by buying 100 iPods and taking my CD collection and putting it on those iPods and selling them at a significant premium, that’s probably not going to fly. But if I’ve had my iPod Shuffle for two years and I’m tired of it and I go out and buy a 60 gig video iPod and want to sell my old Shuffle, but don’t want to purge the music first, that’s probably legal.”

“There is very clear provision in the statute that says that if you are in possession of a copy that has been lawfully made, you can distribute that copy without violating the copyright holder’s copyright,” said Bridges. “That seems to suggest that there shouldn’t be a case against a casual user disposing of copies they made for personal use when one is getting rid of one’s own iPod.”

RIAA President Cary Sherman disagrees. “Unlawful reproduction or distribution is infringement.” he said. “There is no fair use when someone is getting a complete copy of a work, especially a creative work and especially when it could have an adverse impact on the marketplace for selling or licensing that work. When you buy a CD, you have it for personal use on your computer or iPod, but you can’t give it away and keep it for yourself. That’s having your cake and eating it too. If everyone did that, [record labels] would only sell one CD.”

Sumo Tough Love Valentine contest ends tomorrow

The iLounge/Sumo Tough Love Valentine contest ends tomorrow night at 11:59 p.m. But there’s still time to win your sweetheart a unique trip that they won’t soon forget. Just tells us your tough love story—gaining or losing an important love—and you could win a trip for two to the US Sumo Open in Los Angeles. You’ll get airfare, tickets, two Sumo nano flip cases, and a one night stay at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. 100 runner-up winners will receive their own Sumo nano flip case.

Motorola to make Windows Media phones alongside iTunes

Motorola said today that it plans to use Microsoft’s Windows Media technology in a new lineup of music phones that it will sell alongside its iTunes-compatible phones. Motorola will launch one to three Windows Media phones in the second half of 2006, according to an executive speaking at the 3GSM trade show. The company will keep the iTunes phones as a separate line of products.

“Motorola said the new Windows Media phones have been requested by many operators which want to open their own music stores,” reports Reuters. “Microsoft is willing to sell technology that enables this to operators, while Apple has its iTunes music store to protect.” The Windows Media phones will be able to download music over the air from operators, and also directly from a computer.

Mix: iPod on the tracks, MobiBlu, Historic Philly, Mooky

Thomas Beller of The New York Times has an amusing story of how he dropped his iPod onto the subway tracks and retrieved it himself.

Gizmodo reports that the tiny cube-shaped MobiBlu DAH-1500i digital audio player is now available in a 2GB model for $160.

iPrep Press is now offering a $10 audio walking tour of old Philadelphia that includes a map and photos for iPod use.

Mooky is a new bi-monthly “digital video magazine” that’s now available from iTunes. It covers “recent news, gossip, title tattle, music videos, competitions and more.”

Solio solar charger now available in black

imageBetter Energy Systems has announced the availability of a black version of the Solio solar charger for iPods. The $100 device—which can also charge cell phones, PDAs and digital cameras—features an integrated Lithium Ion battery and folding fan blade design.

“Award-winning, compact and versatile—Solio stores power from the sun or socket; freeing you to recharge your iPod, cell phone and other handhelds anywhere, anytime,” says the company. “A fully charged Solio provides up to 14 hours of additional power—one hour of sunshine gives about one hour of play time.”

iLounge launches Mobile Edition

We’re proud to announce the launch of iLounge Mobile Edition, a fast-loading, condensed version of the iLounge.com main page created especially for users of portable devices. This page, available at ilounge.com/mobile, provides one-page access to our top 12 News stories, top 10 Reviews, top 6 Articles, top 3 current and past Contests, and top 5 Backstage entries. Each link is simplified for speedy reading without excessive scrolling, including reader comments, and additional Mobile content can be accessed through “More” links at the bottom of each section.

iLounge Mobile Edition will continue to evolve in the days to come. Your suggestions are, of course, welcomed.

Bill Gates: Microsoft, partners working to combat iPod

Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates said today that Microsoft and its hardware partners plan to continue working on new digital media devices to challenge the iPod’s dominance.

“Apple has done a fantastic job with the iPod,” Gates told high school students at the company’s annual Minority Student Day. “We are talking with partners about how we, working with those partners, can make even better music players. We’ve got some in the market today. I’d say in total they have about 20 percent market share, which is lower than we like, and so we’re seeing where we can come together to make a device that’s less expensive and connects in better ways, does photos and videos in better ways.

Consumer group sues Apple over ‘defective’ iPod nanos

A consumer watchdog group said today that it has filed a lawsuit against Apple, claiming the iPod nano does not hold up to normal usage and that the company is refusing to offer refunds for the “defective” device.

“Apple Computer’s iPod nano music player, marketed for its sleek beauty, cannot withstand normal use without becoming severely scratched, often to the point where its screen is unreadable,” the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) said in its announcement of the suit. “Moreover, Apple is refusing to give refunds to purchasers who bought the defective product, while forcing others to pay a $25 fee to get a replacement that is supposed to be ‘free’ under Apple’s warranty.”

“The suit, brought against Apple under the state’s consumer protection laws on behalf of California purchasers of the recently-introduced nano, demands that Apple recall and repair the defect, without charge, or refund the purchase price to dissatisfied customers,” FTCR said.

Merrill Lynch raises iPod estimates, expects 53 million in 2006

Following the introduction of the 1GB iPod nano, Merrill Lynch analyst Richard Farmer has slightly raised his iPod sales estimates. Lynch now believes that Apple will ship 10.1 million iPods this quarter, up from 9.8 million, and expects the company to ship 53.2 million of the devices in fiscal 2006.

“The new 1GB iPod nano makes Apple’s lower-end offerings more competitive with numerous Asian players,” the analyst said in a research note provided to iLounge. “Our retail channel checks during the holiday season suggested that non-Apple MP3 players in the sub $100 market did well.”

Tiger Electronics announces i-Cat, new i-Dogs

imageHasbro’s Tiger Electronics brand has announced new additions to its iPod-compatible Interactive Music Companion line, including the i-Cat, a black i-Dog and a pink i-Dog, and new i-Dog accessories.

“The i-Cat ($30; Fall 2006) is a fabulous feline that not only loves to listen to your favorite tunes but can also play funky ‘scratch’ sound effects along with the music and will groove along to any song it hears,” says the company. “Owners can plug their music systems directly into i-Cat and music will broadcast through a built-in speaker. Simply petting i-Cat will allow owners to mix things up and play meows, purrs and ‘scratch’ sound effects with the music! Owners can play these sound effects along with the music depending on how they touch or pet i-Cat, making this new interactive pet the cat’s meow!”

imageThe two new i-Dogs in black and pink ($30; Spring 2006) offer the same features as the current white model. Tiger also announced the i-Dog Chill Assortment ($10; Spring 2006), a set of winter garments for the i-Dog. Interestingly, the items—a hat, scarf, sweater, booties, and ear warmers—look identical to the material of Apple’s iPod Socks. The Chill Assortment also comes in the same six colors as the iPod protectors—pink, purple, green, blue, orange and gray. [via Engadget]

iPod used to steal $100 million in ‘Firewall’ movie

Bloomberg’s Rick Warner notes that the iPod plays an important role in “Firewall,” the new action movie starring Harrison Ford.

“iPods are handy devices, though I never knew how handy until I saw ‘Firewall,’ where Harrison Ford uses his daughter’s pocket-size music machine to steal $100 million,” writes Warner. “While that might make for an interesting Apple commercial, it’s not enough to justify this absurd action-thriller about a computer security expert at a Seattle bank who’s forced to pull off an electronic heist on behalf of a psychotic thief who’s holding his family hostage.”

“I don’t doubt that computerized banking is ripe for theft, but the way Ford does it—by downloading information onto an iPod, then hacking into the bank’s computers and transferring the money with a few clicks of the keyboard—seems as far-fetched as James Frey’s resume.”

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