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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.

mStation debuts new iPod speaker systems

mStation has introduced two new iPod speaker systems—the mStation 2.1 Stereo Tower and the mStation 2.1 Stereo Orb. The Stereo Tower ($300) is a free-standing system featuring an aluminum design, 100 watts of power, and a dedicated subwoofer. The Orb ($150; shown) is a spherical desktop speaker system that offers 50 watts of power and built-in subwoofer. Both systems charge/sync iPods, come with 10-button remotes, and work with all iPod models. The two mStation systems are available immediately.

Fabrix offers new polka-dot iPod cases

Fabrix has announced a new range of polka-dotted iPod cases. Available in two styles in pink, blue, black and red, the handmade sleeve cases are lined with quilted padding to protect iPods against light bumps and scratches. The Fabrix cases range from $17 to $20 depending on the design and are available in sizes for standard iPods, iPod nanos and iPod minis.

Mix: iPods on TV, Download tax, Riotrun.com, Sony Ericsson

The Hollywood Reporter notes that during the past four months, iPods and Macs have been featured 250 times on 38 different network primetime shows—a total of 26 minutes of free exposure.

Democratic politicians are more likely than Republicans to permit taxes on purchases of digital music and movies, according to an analysis by CNET News.com

Merrill Lynch cuts iPod estimates

Merrill Lynch analyst Richard Farmer today lowered his iPod shipment estimates for Apple’s March quarter from 10.1 million to 8.8 million units. Based on monthly data from NPD Techworld, Farmer said he believes that March shipment numbers, to be released on April 19, will be below both January and February figures. Farmer’s 2006 iPod estimate falls from 53 million to 47 million units. Shaw Wu of American Technology Research said he also expects Apple to report iPod sales of 8.8 million units, while Bear Sterns analyst Andrew Neff said he expects Apple to ship 10.5 million iPods during the quarter.

Directed Electronics offers iPod vehicle interfaces

Directed Electronics has announced the availability of four new IP-Port iPod adapters that allow users to listen to their iPod through the stock radio in their vehicles. Initially available for Ford, GM, Honda, and Toyota cars and trucks, the IP-Port adapters operate through the radio’s CD Changer port using the CD Changer controls for song up/down, playlist/disc select, shuffle and more. They also offer an Auto Charge feature that charges the iPod battery and stops it automatically after one hour of non-use. The Directed IP-Port adapters start at $160.

The Beatles set to sell songs online

The Beatles are preparing to make their albums available through online music services after years of refusing to embrace digital music. During the Apple Corps vs. Apple Computer trademark lawsuit last week, Neil Aspinall, a former Beatles road manager and managing director of Apple Corps, said that the company was digitally remastering the entire Beatles catalog in preparation of selling it online. “I think it would be wrong to offer downloads of the old masters when I am making new masters,” he said. “It would be better to wait and try to do them both simultaneously so that you then get the publicity of the new masters and the downloading, rather than just doing it ad hoc.” A spokeswoman for Apple Corps confirmed Aspinall’s statement.

Hear iPod 5G’s high/low quality recording modes, compared

Following up on our First Look at Griffin Technology’s iTalkPro Stereo Microphone for fifth-generation iPods, we have now posted an audio quality comparison file so that listeners can hear the rough differences between the newest iPod’s different recording modes. The 9.1MB file, available here, contains samples of the iPod 5G in High and Low Quality modes outdoors and indoors, plus a sample of the iPod 4G in its original, lower-quality recording mode. Recorders by Belkin and XtremeMac will also take advantage of the 5G’s new modes, which were designed by Apple to enable podcasters, students, and business users to make CD- or superior voice-quality recordings on the go. Technical details can be found below.

DLO HomeDock Deluxe now available

Digital Lifestyle Outfitters today announced that it is now shipping its HomeDock Deluxe iPod docking system. First announced in January at Macworld Expo, the HomeDock Deluxe features on-screen navigation, allowing users to view and select their iPod’s music on a TV screen. The $150 system comes with an 18-button remote control and also plays videos and picture slideshows from capable iPods. You can read iLounge’s First Look at the HomeDock Deluxe for hands-on details and photos.

IPac sends iPods to first round of senators

IPac today announced that it has shipped the first 12 iPods to Senatorial campaign committees as part of the group’s “Your Senator Needs an iPod” campaign, which was created to help enlighten Senators who work on legislation affecting technology on the importance of balancing copyright and the public interest. Senators receiving iPods include Gordon Smith (R-OR), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), John Sununu (R-NH), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Conrad Burns (R-MT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), John Ensign (R-NV), John Kerry (D-MA), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), George Allen (R-VA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Trent Lott (R-MS).

SendStation giving away 1,000 free PocketDock adapters

SendStation Systems says it has teamed up with the Easter bunny to give away 1,000 free FireWire PocketDock iPod adapters. The thumb-sized PocketDock lets you connect a standard 6-pin FireWire cable to the dock connector of any iPod, allowing you to sync/charge your iPod with a FireWire cable or use older iPod accessories. The offer is available while supplies last or until April 16, 2006 and is limited to one PocketDock per person.

BMW announces new iPod interface

BMW has announced a new iPod interface for the newest generation of BMW models. The carmaker said that the new “BMW Interface for iPod” will be available for every current BMW model, including 3 Series Sedans and Sports Wagons, the new M5 Sedan and M6 Coupe, as well as the 5, 6, and 7 Series. Compatible with all dock connector iPods, the direct-connect unit lets BMW owners incorporate their iPods directly into their car’s sound system, allowing them to control playback and volume, shuffle songs, and sort music by playlists, artist, album, genre or podcast.

Mix: Synaptics, iPorn, National Geographic, Creative Technology

Shares of Synaptics rose after an analyst at W.R. Hambrecht said that the company may have won a contract to produce the scroll wheel on the next iPod nano revision.

Bloomberg columnist Mark Gilbert thinks Apple should consider offering adult entertainment on the iTunes Music Store. “iPod porn, desirable or not, may prove an irresistible temptation to a more profit-hungry Apple,” he says.

Roxio intros Popcorn 2 with iPod support

Roxio has announced the release of Popcorn 2, a new version of its Mac-only DVD burning application. Popcorn 2 adds the ability to convert and transfer video to the fifth-generation iPod, Sony PSP and select mobile phones. The $50 software allows users to create portable-compatible versions of all popular video formats including non-protected DVD-Video, QuickTime movies, MPEG files, iMovie projects and more. Roxio said Popcorn 2 includes predefined settings optimized for standard or high-quality video output, or users can tweak their own DivX, MPEG4, or H.264 levels for bit rate, frame rate, and image size.

Portuguese iPod news site closes, content thieves blamed

iPodPortugal.com, a Portuguese-language member of the iLounge Around the World network of web sites, and “the first and most complete Portuguese website related to the iPod culture,” announced that it would cease publication today due to alleged massive-scale theft of its content by a competing publication. According to Nuno Henriques of iPodPortugal, the decision to stop providing iPod news to the Portuguese community was made after a rip-off artist cloned his site’s original content, then refused to delete it. “It’s a shame we had to do this,” said Henriques, “but we had no choice… You can’t imagine how frustrating it is to keep a site up to date, wasting precious time of yours and then some jerk just copies everything.” iPodPortugal said that it will keep its Portuguese-language discussion forum open for the benefit of its community; iLounge extends its respect and support to iPodPortugal’s editors and readers.

Nominees announced for first ‘iPod Emmy’

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences today announced the nominees for the first Emmy Award for “original entertainment programming created specifically for non-traditional viewing platforms, including computers, mobile phones, iPods, PDAs and similar devices.” The nominees are: “24: Conspiracy” by Fox Mobile Entertainment; “It’s Jerrytime!” produced by Ozone Inc.; “Live 8 on AOL” produced by America Online; “mtvU Stand In” produced by MTV Networks; “Sophie Chase” produced by CB Films; and “Stranger Adventures Helen Beaumont” produced by Riddle Productions. The new Emmy Award will first be presented at the 33rd Annual Creative Arts Daytime Emmy Awards on Saturday, April 22 at New York City’s Marriott Marquis.

Bose unveils black SoundDock

Bose has provided iLounge with details and photos of its new black SoundDock iPod speaker system. The black SoundDock, designed to match the black fifth-generation iPod and iPod nano, will be available in stores and online in early May for $299—the same price as the original white system. The new SoundDock will also offer the same features as the original, including Bose’s proprietary acoustic design, universal docking cradle for all dockable iPods, and matching infrared remote control.

Apple discusses in-flight iTunes downloads

Airline in-flight entertainment system providers have talked with Apple about licensing iTunes to enable passengers to download music and videos onto iPods while flying. “We’ve had lots of discussions with Apple,” said Thales VP and in-flight systems GM Brad Foreman. “The key is to get them to see the value of hosting iTunes on an aircraft. Is it a big enough market for them to be interested in? I’d try to do it tomorrow if they said yes.” Panasonic Avionics strategic product marketing director David Bruner agreed that “there’s a lot of airline interest” in the idea of hosting iTunes. “Apple is aware of the market,” he said. “It’s a small market for them, but it’s a very visible market.”

DICE iPod car kits debut, MOST fiber optic integration offered

Dension has announced that it will will be distributing DICE Electronics’ new iPod integration kits. DICE offers three kits—Hard-Wired to MOST, Hard-wired to CDC and Hard-Wired FM-RDS—which give you “the highest in sound quality, controls from your radio and steering wheel, charging for your iPod, unlimited playlist selections and more.” The MOST kit ($400) is for Mercedes Benz and Porsche vehicles vehicles utilizing the MOST fiber optic bus. The CDC kit (from $160; Audi, Acura, BMW, GM, Honda, Lexus, Mini, Mazda, Mercedes, Scion, Toyota and VW) allows you to connect an iPod to your vehicle’s factory entertainment system through the CD changer port. The FM-RDS kit (from $160) works with all vehicles with FM radio and a universal antenna port, and offers static free FM modulation. DICE is also selling an optional $60 iPod video cradle.

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