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Mix: Music pricing, MP3 player inventor, The Onion, OSU

The New York Post claims that the record industry “may be abandoning its demand for iTunes to charge different prices for different songs.” The Post reports that “negotiations between Apple and the four major music companies… have reached a crucial point as several record executives now say they are unlikely to convince Jobs to allow variable pricing.”

British inventor Kane Kramer says he created the world’s first digital music player in 1979, but lost his patents in the late 1980’s. Kramer is now consulting lawyers to see whether he has any claim to the design and technology behind current MP3 players.

Apple CFO: iPod prices to decline

Apple said yesterday that the average selling price of iPods will likely decline in the current quarter. “We expect them to be down a little bit in the June quarter,” Apple chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer said during the company’s second quarter earnings conference call. This suggests that Apple expects to sell more lower-priced iPods, such as the 1GB iPod nano and iPod shuffle, and that a new high-end video iPod will either not be introduced during the quarter, or not significantly offset sales of lower-end models.

Marware ships Sidewinder, Trail Vue cases for 5G iPod

Marware has announced the availability of its Sidewinder and Trail Vue cases for the fifth-generation iPod. The Sidewinder ($30) is a hard case featuring a retractable kickstand, headphone cord wrap, and flip–open dock connector cover. The Trail Vue ($35; shown right) features a front cover with Velcro closure strap, removable belt clip, and interchangeable bungee cords in five colors that provide headphone storage.

PortalPlayer loses flash-based iPod deal [updated]

iPod chip maker PortalPlayer informed investors late Thursday that it has not been selected by Apple to power certain future flash memory-based iPods. In a statement, PortalPlayer said that “the follow-on to its PP5021 System-on-Chip, which is expected to be available in the second half of 2006, has not been selected by Apple for use in their mid-range and high-end flash based iPods.” (Emphasis ours.) The company said it believes the PP5021 will continue to be used “in other members of the iPod family.” While PortalPlayer’s non-selection announcement may seem out of the ordinary, publicly-traded companies are legally obligated to make certain positive and negative disclosures to investors. As Apple is believed to account for 90% of PortalPlayer’s revenue, such a loss could greatly impact the company’s performance.

Apple eyes global increase in iPod market share

During Apple’s second quarter conference call with analysts and press Wednesday, company executives said that Apple is actively going after the international digital music market, revealing that the iPod could be selling better in several European and Asian countries. Apple chief operating officer Tim Cook said that while the iPod is the top portable audio player in the U.S. with a staggering 78% share—and also leads in the U.K. (40%), Japan (54%), Canada (45%) and Australia (58%)—countries such as Italy, China, Korea, and those in Eastern Europe are seen as market opportunities for increasing iPod sales.

Apple ships 8.5 million iPods during Q2 [updated]

Reporting its second quarter financial results today, Apple said it shipped just over 8.5 million iPods during the quarter—slightly below analyst predictions, but a 61 percent increase compared to the same quarter last year. Apple’s net profit for the quarter was $410 million, or 47 cents per share, on $4.36 billion in revenue. These results compare to revenue of $3.24 billion and a net profit of $290 million, or 34 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. While Apple has not yet officially announced its total iPod sales numbers, the addition of these 8.5 million additional iPods brings the total to more than 50 million iPods shipped since the device was introduced in 2001.

Apple plans new 50-acre Cupertino campus

Apple is planning to build a new 50-acre campus near its current headquarters in Cupertino, California, company chief executive Steve Jobs said yesterday. “What’s happened at Apple is that our business has basically tripled in the last five or six years,” Jobs said at a Cupertino city council meeting. Apple “has gone from $6 billion in sales to $20 billion in sales,” Jobs said. “We’re pretty thrilled. Since we’re your largest taxpayer, I thought you might be happy for us.” Jobs said it could take three to four years to design and build the new Apple headquarters, which could accommodate 3,000 to 3,500 employees. Jobs said that, in addition to its present Cupertino campus, Apple employees are spread among 30 other buildings in the city. “We’ve rented every scrap of building we could find in Cupertino,” Jobs told the council. Updated: A video of the announcement is now available online.

Research firm: Apple to become MVNO, iPhone ‘inevitable’

Market research firm Visiongain believes Apple will launch an “iPhone” and become a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) by the end of 2007. “Apple acknowledges the threat mobile handsets pose to portable MP3 players in the long term,” says Visiongain. “Apple will embrace mobile more fully and pose a greater threat to the mobile phone industry itself—as an MVNO challenging carriers and a cellphone brand challenging handset makers. Upcoming US MVNO Helio presents a good entry strategy for Apple’s iPhone, an own-brand Apple mobile phone that is likely to be launched by the company. Indeed, the release of which is both logical and inevitable.”

Apple warns of counterfeit iPods

Apple has reportedly begun notifying its service partners of illegally manufactured digital audio players designed to closely resemble iPods. The counterfeit devices, usually imitations of the iPod nano and iPod shuffle, have strikingly similar designs but lack features such as a dock connector, functioning click wheel, and Apple operating system. Apple said the counterfeit iPods can be sold in very Apple-like product packaging and sometimes even come stamped with Apple logos and valid Apple serial numbers.

General Mills launches iTunes song giveaway

General Mills is now giving away free iTunes song downloads inside cereal boxes as part of its Big Groove promotion. For a limited time, specially marked boxes of General Mills cereals—including Lucky Charms, Cheerios, Cookie Crisp and Cinnamon Toast Crunch—have a 12-digit code that can be redeemed for one free song from the iTunes Music Store. The company says that 1 in 10 boxes wins 5 bonus songs.

AVA offers chrome-plated case for iPod nano

AVA Showcase has announced its Element case for the iPod nano. The hard-shell case is made from lightweight ABS plastic with a chrome-plated exterior. Available in either silver or gold, the Element case features a screen protector, integrated hold slider switch, click wheel film, detachable lanyard, carrying pouch, and earbud cable grip. The Element case is priced at $25.

Mix: Alias, Apprentice, iPod residuals, ReFrederator, PBS

Apple has added ABC’s “Alias” (seasons 4 and 5) and NBC’s “The Apprentice” (season 5) to the iTunes Music Store.

Members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists are likely to receive a residual payment of 2 cents every time their work is downloaded for a portable device such as a cell phone or iPod.

GelaSkins vinyl iPod protectors announced

GelaSkins has announced its new line of protective vinyl iPod skins. Featuring over 100 designs ranging from fine art prints to graffiti style street art, the $15 adhesive protectors are available for 4G and 5G iPods, the iPod mini, and iPod nano. “GelaSkins are easy to apply thanks to a special textured adhesive technology, which channels air out and prevents the formation of bubbles,” explains the company. “Even after extended use, GelaSkins remove cleanly leaving no residue on the iPod. Their low-profile design adds almost zero bulk, so the iPod will still integrate perfectly with other accessories such as its dock or the iTrip.”

Griffin Survival Kit, TuneCenter Winners, Q&A Announced

Participating in tonight’s live iLounge chat with Griffin Technology, five iLounge readers won huge Griffin iPod Survival Kits full of new accessories, and one reader also won a new Griffin TuneCenter Pro Home Media Center. Griffin representatives also answered iLounge reader questions on a wide variety of topics. A complete list of prizes and winners can be found in the full story link above or below, along with some of the Q&A. Congratulations to all of the winners, and thanks to everyone, including all of the representatives of Griffin Technology, for participating in the chat today!

Burst.com files patent infringement suit against Apple

Responding to a preemptive lawsuit filed by Apple earlier this year, Burst.com today announced that it has filed counterclaims officially accusing Apple of patent infringement. Burst alleges that Apple’s iTunes, iTunes Music Store, iPod, and QuickTime application infringe on four of Burst’s U.S. Patents (4,963,995; 5,995,705; 5,057,932 and 5,164,839). Burst’s counterclaims come after a suit that Apple filed against the company in January, seeking a declaration that Burst’s patents are invalid and that Apple does not infringe on them. Burst is seeking “a reasonable royalty for Apple’s infringing products and services, and also seeks an injunction against further infringement.”

Mix: Pimp My Ride, Mophie, Subscription services, Woz/Jobs

The upcoming season of MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” will incorporate iPods into more than a third of its transformations, including “a 1990 Toyota Celica outfitted with an iPod hookup that includes a ridiculously capacious two-terabyte hard drive—enough space to play music for more than a year without repeating a song,” according to The Washington Post.

Mophie has announced that the first 5,000 people to sign up for its newsletter will receive a free Relo Base Case for either the iPod nano or fifth-generation iPod. The first 200 people will get the case along with “limited edition Mophie gear.” The company says there are no shipping charges and no catches.

Apple tops list of world’s most innovative companies

BusinessWeek and the Boston Consulting Group have released the results of their second annual ranking of the 25 most innovative companies. Apple’s iPod and iTunes put the company at the top of the list this year. “To launch the iPod, says innovation consultant Larry Keeley of Doblin Inc., Apple used no fewer than seven types of innovation,” reports BusinessWeek. “They included networking (a novel agreement among music companies to sell their songs online), business model (songs sold for a buck each online), and branding (how cool are those white ear buds and wires?). Consumers love the ease and feel of the iPod, but it is the simplicity of the iTunes software platform that turned a great MP3 player into a revenue-gushing phenomenon.”

Muffgear announces Designer Muffs

Muffgear has announced its new Designer Muffs collection, which includes three cases designed by independent artists. Available in three styles for the fifth-generation iPod and iPod nano, the $17 cases are made from printed polyester canvas with a fleece lining. “The designer muff, is a collaborative effort to create a unique iPod cover showcasing the efforts of young up and coming artists with a percentage of the proceeds going into their pockets, we currently have two designers on board—DrunkPark (Seb Godfrey) & Task Focused (Rob Cordiner),” explains Muffgear.

Mix: France/Apple, Third-grader, Radio erosion, Abilene Univ.

France Trade Minister Christine Lagarde said yesterday that Apple shouldn’t be surprised at the country’s proposed law to sever the link between the iPod and iTunes Music Store. “Any time a company restricts competition in a market, it gets the attention of regulating agencies. We have to play by the rules of the game,” she said.

A California third-grader received a formal letter from Apple’s legal department after she mailed a note to Apple CEO Steve Jobs with suggestions on how to improve the iPod nano. Following a report by a local CBS news team, an Apple legal counsel called the girl and apologized.

Win Griffin iPod Survival Kits and more tonight in live iLounge chat

By reader request, the third in our series of live iLounge chats - hosted in our recently opened live chat room - will be with three representatives of Griffin Technology, who will be available to answer reader questions, and give away five total iPod Survival Kit prize packages to lucky iLounge readers. One of the packages will include Griffin’s new TuneCenter or TuneCenter Pro Home Media Center, while the rest will be packed with car, home, and travel accessories. The format will be trivia; additional details are below. Please join us in the chat room on Monday, April 17, 2006 at 5:00 p.m. PT/8:00 p.m. ET.

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