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Linkin Park come to iTunes Music Store

Long-time digital music holdouts Linkin Park today announced the availability of their entire catalog on the iTunes Music Store. The Grammy award-winning hard rock band’s hit albums “Meteora,” “Hybrid Theory” and “Reanimation” include two bonus tracks along with a track that is exclusive to the albums on iTunes. Apple will also offer both audio and video downloads of the concerts that are currently available as the “Live in Texas” and “Collision Course” CD and DVD releases. “We were really excited when iTunes told us that we were one of their most requested acts,” said Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. “We will never ignore our fans and the timing seemed right to make our music available, with some special additions.”

Apple debuts new Bob Dylan iPod+iTunes ad

Apple has debuted a new silhouette-style television commercial featuring legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. The ad, which features Dylan playing guitar and singing a song from his new album “Modern Times,” is a more subtle version of Apple’s silhouette spots. Earlier this month, Apple announced that the iTunes Music Store will offer Dylan’s album through an exclusive pre-order on the iTunes Music Store. Apple also created an 800-track digital box set called “The Collection,” which includes all of Dylan’s studio albums and other recordings. Apple CEO Steve Jobs is widely known to be a big fan of Dylan, recently calling him “a personal hero of mine.”

Foxconn sues Chinese journalists over iPod factory story

iPod manufacturer Foxconn has sued a reporter and an editor at a Chinese newspaper, claiming that thier article about working conditions at Foxconn’s iPod factory tarnished the company’s reputation. Foxconn is suing Wang You, a reporter for China Business News, and Weng Bao, an editor at the newspaper, for 30 million yuan (US$3.77 million). In addition to the lawsuits, Foxconn has gotten a Chinese court to freeze the personal assets of both men. As first reported by Britain’s Daily Mail, Foxconn has come under fire this year for its poor working and living conditions at its iPod factory. Apple recently completed an audit of the facilities.

New, better review categories added

If you’ve been sifting through the over 2,000 accessories now in our Complete iPod Accessory Guide, good news: this weekend, we updated our review categories to make the catalog even easier to use.

Our biggest change is in Speakers: instead of one catch-all category for the over 100 iPod speakers out there, we now have six categories of speakers, starting with four types of All-in-One designs (pocketable, portable, room-to-room and stationary), one catch-all for Clock Radios, and one catch-all for Multi-Component Stationary systems.

We used to have one category called Stands and Docks. Now we have separate categories that address the many iPod docks now on the market: Stands (iPod holders without electronics) have their own place, while Docks for Audio-Out, Data, On-TV Menuing, and Video-Out are now in their own categories, with some overlap.

We used to put sports-related iPod gear into separate categories - electronics, cases, and so on. Our new Armbands and Athletic Add-Ons section lets you see all of these items in one convenient place.

We’ve renamed Bluetooth Wireless to include all Bluetooth and Wireless Home Audio accessories, and renamed Microphones and Microphone Adapters to Recorders - Audio. There are also new categories for DJ Mixing, Karaoke, and Audio Tools, iPod Hi-Fi cases, Lights and Flashers, Portable Video Displays, Security Devices and Software, and Video Recorders, amongst others.

Check out the new Complete iPod Accessory Guide for all the details - more changes are coming very soon. As always, your comments and suggestions are appreciated.

Kenpo announces new iPod-ready jackets

Kenpo has announced its new Spring 2007 collection of iPod-ready jackets. Powered by Eleksen’s ElekTex “smart fabric technology,” Kenpo’s outwear additions include the new Spring and Active Wear jackets. The jackets feature a 5-button switch sensor integrated into the left sleeve for controlling iPod functions such as on/off, play, pause, track changes and volume. The ElekTex control pad requires no batteries and supports most iPod models, according to Kenpo. Pricing and availability were not announced.

Mix: Pre-orders, Steve Jobs, Creative gear, Samsung

Apple has created a new page on the iTunes Music Store, called “Tomorrow’s Hits Today,” which collects all of the albums available for pre-order from iTunes. There are currently 10 albums available for pre-order, from Justin Timberlake to Bob Dylan. [via TUAW]

Richard Farmer of Merrill Lynch says that if Steve Jobs was involved in options backdating at Pixar, it could jeopardize his role at Apple. “We believe there are not yet enough facts to form a conclusion on whether key executives might have been involved in creating options irregularities at Apple or Pixar, and our default assumption is that Jobs is not likely to have been involved; however, our review of Pixar disclosures does not allow us to rule out the possibility, given Jobs was a member of the board that made options decisions, and our analysis suggests these may contain irregularities,” Farmer wrote.

Pioneer: Apple readying Bluetooth iPod adapter

A Pioneer Electronics spokesman claims that Apple will soon be introducing a Bluetooth iPod adapter that will allow the device to play music wirelessly through the company’s new DEH car stereo head units. Pioneer’s new DEH car sound system lineup allows users with a Bluetooth cell phone to make or accept calls through the car’s speakers, and would add wireless music via the iPod adapter. Such an adapter, which would presumably work with other Bluetooth audio devices (speakers, headphones, etc.), has been rumored for some time. An automotive product manager at Motorola said last year that Apple planned to introduce an iPod or add-on accessory with Bluetooth. Motorola said at the time that it was close to releasing a system to allow users to listen to music from their iPod or have hands-free phone conversations through their car speakers.

iPod prompts airport bomb scare in Canada

An iPod found in an aircraft bathroom on a flight from Chicago to Ottawa caused a bomb scare earlier this month, bringing out police canine and bomb-disposal units. The Ottawa Citizen reports: “A member of the crew found the package about 4 p.m. The plane landed safely and was isolated away from the terminal. Passengers were taken off the plane and questioned by police while experts investigated the ‘package.’ The airport was not closed during the three-hour incident. Police issued a statement Tuesday evening saying the suspicious package ‘has been identified as an electronic device commonly known as an iPod.’”

Toshiba-built Zune player revealed in FCC filing

According to an FCC filing published this week, Microsoft’s Zune digital media player will be manufactured by Toshiba. The filing revealed that the tested player included a 30GB 1.8-inch Toshiba hard drive, 3.0-inch low temperature polysilicone TFT LCD display, FM tuner with RDBS, headphone jack and USB 2.0 connectivity. The Zune tested by the FCC also featured a rechargeable Li-Ion battery, mechanical switches for all control surfaces and a Wireless LAN module. The FCC filing included several photos of the Zune and its components. See iLounge’s previous reports (1, 2, 3, 4) for further Zune details.

Creative to continue selling Zen players; iPod gear will not be iPod-only

Creative Technology has confirmed to iLounge that it has no plans to stop selling its line of Zen media players, despite this week’s news that the company has joined the “Made for iPod” program as part of a settlement with Apple. A Creative spokesperson also said the iPod accessories that the company will soon develop will not be iPod-only and will work with its Zen devices as well as other brands of digital music players. While no specifics were given, it can be assumed that the iPod add-ons will use auxiliary inputs for universal compatibility instead of, or in addition to, an iPod Dock Connector. Creative currently sells a wide range of Zen players alongside its cheaper MuVo line and a number of accessories—from speaker systems to silicone cases. According to the latest numbers from the NPD Group, Creative holds 4.3% of the U.S. digital music player market, behind Apple with 75.6% and SanDisk with 9.7%.

American Idol’s Taylor Hicks sues over iTunes releases

American Idol winner Taylor Hicks is suing a Nashville music producer to stop the online sales of three songs the singer recorded years ago before his fame. The suit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $75,000, was filed after music producer William Smith released the songs through the iTunes Music Store despite having no apparent ownership rights. MTV News reports: “Hicks’ lawyers were first made aware of the situation by Smith himself, the suit claims. Smith contacted the attorneys, stating his intention to release the tracks. They responded by seeking a preliminary injunction barring Smith from selling the songs. The lawsuit maintains that Smith made no attempt to pull them from the iTunes store. Last week, both sides entered into a settlement—the terms of which are not outlined in the suit. Soon after, Smith once again e-mailed Hicks’ counsel, stating that he would be releasing ‘The Fall’ for digital download, and would make the other two tracks available as well.”

BusinessWeek: Apple’s iPod season looms

The lack of major iPod announcements this year has Apple watchers speculating on new product introductions—from updated iPod nanos to an iPhone—which they see happening in the coming weeks. BusinessWeek notes that the only new iPod released this year has been a slight revision of the special edition U2 iPod, and that Apple is known for its Fall special events for new products. “It isn’t as if Apple has been idle. The company focused throughout most of 2006 on its Macintosh computer line, completing the transition to using microprocessors from Intel,” the publication reports. “And then there’s history. Last year, the iPod nano debuted on Sept. 7 and the video-capable iPod bowed on Oct. 12, a schedule that made both products strong players in the fourth calendar quarter… Analysts generally agree: There’s no way Apple is going to sit out the fall quarter.”

AOL launching full-length movie downloads

AOL today announced that it has signed partnerships with several Hollywood studios to offer full-length movie downloads for $9.99 to $19.99. AOL made deals with 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group. Once downloaded, the movies can be viewed offline on Windows-based PCs and “compatible portable devices.” AOL did not specify a file format, but it is all but certain that the company will use Microsoft’s Windows Media format. AOL becomes the fourth major digital movie store, after Movielink, CinemaNow and Guba. Apple has been long-rumored to launch a large online movie store this year.

Creative settlement only ‘drop in the bucket’ for Apple

Apple’s $100 million settlement with Creative Technology is only a “drop in the bucket” for Apple and removes potential future headaches for the company, according to one Wall Street analyst. “If Creative had been able to win any favorable rulings in the five outstanding lawsuits, Apple could have faced headaches including: further appeals, product injunctions, future and historical royalty payments,” said Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. “Considering $100m represents 1.1% of Apple’s $9.2 billion in cash (at the end of the June quarter), we believe the settlement will prove to be the right course of action.”

Incase intros leather folio for U2 iPod

Incase has unveiled a new case designed specifically for Apple’s latest special edition U2 iPod. The Nappa leather case, called the Folio for iPod U2 Special Edition, features a clear window for viewing the laser-engraved signatures, matching embossed graphics, a red Tactile-Control Click Wheel cover, and wrap-around protection. The $50 case also offers a suede lining, snap closure, clear screen protector, and an interior slot for ID or credit card. The Incase Folio for iPod U2 Special Edition is available now from Apple’s online and retail stores.

Apple, Creative announce settlement; Creative joins ‘Made for iPod’ program

Apple and Creative Technology today announced a broad settlement to end all legal disputes between the two companies. Apple said it will pay Creative $100 million for a license to use Creative’s recently awarded patent in all Apple products. The companies also announced that Creative has joined Apple’s “Made for iPod” program and will be announcing their own iPod accessories later this year. Creative sued Apple in May, claiming that the iPod’s interface is infringing on its “Zen Patent.” Following the company’s legal actions, Apple countersued Creative.

“Creative is very fortunate to have been granted this early patent,” said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “This settlement resolves all of our differences with Creative, including the five lawsuits currently pending between the companies, and removes the uncertainty and distraction of prolonged litigation.”

“We’re very pleased to have reached an amicable settlement with Apple and to have opened up significant new opportunities for Creative,” said Sim Wong Hoo, chairman and CEO of Creative. “Apple has built a huge ecosystem for its iPod and with our upcoming participation in the Made for iPod program we are very excited about this new market opportunity for our speaker systems, our just-introduced line of earphones and headphones, and our future family of X-Fi audio enhancement products.”

Google offers vinyl iPod wraps

Google’s official company store is now selling inexpensive vinyl wraps for fourth- and fifth-generation iPods and the iPod nano. Made by inPODnito, the repositionable wraps are adhesive-backed, feature a repeating Google logo pattern, and sell for $1.75 each.

Mix: Gray market, YouTube, Shareholders, iPod teens

Wired’s Scott Carney reports on India’s consumer electronics gray market. “After a good deal of haggling, I can pick up a 30-GB video iPod for $280, which is only $20 cheaper than you can get one at Best Buy in the United States, but a whopping $160 cheaper than the $440 that authorized dealers sell iPods for in India.”

GigaOm’s Robert Young says Apple should buy YouTube. “By buying YouTube, Steve Jobs could leapfrog to the top of the heap. After all, he would end up with immediate presence within the ranks of the top 50 web properties. YouTube would also, for the first time, give Apple a platform to tap into the highly-coveted stream of online ad revenues… And by owning a leading platform for user-created content, distribution, and social networking, Jobs could fill in nearly all of Apple’s strategic holes (vs. web competitors) in one fell swoop.”

Trade Union criticizes Apple’s iPod factory report

Apple’s report of labor conditions at the Foxconn iPod plant in China has been criticized by a leading international trade union organization for not being independently verified. Janek Kuczkiewicz, director of human and trade union rights at the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), said he was not impressed by Apple’s audit. “We are not impressed either by the report or by the findings of Apple,” Kuczkiewicz told BBc News. “Apple interviewed just 100 people out of the estimated 30,000 iPod workers. We do not know the conditions in which the interviews were held. We have serious reservations about the report.”

Synaptics unveils innovative touch-screen technology

Synaptics, which supplies scroll-touch technology for full-size iPods, has announced a mobile phone concept device featuring an innovative new touch-screen technology that could possibly be used on future iPods.

“ClearPad is a thin, high resolution capacitive touch screen that can be placed over any viewable surface for finger input. ClearPad enables a dynamic and adaptive user interface that eliminates the need for mechanical buttons on handheld devices,” Synaptics explains. “This allows mobile designers to increase LCD size to support the content and functionality available for todays handheld devices. Because ClearPad is solid state, it can be curved and mounted beneath plastics, offering mobile designers an opportunity to create sleek and stylized industrial designs.” Synaptics said ClearPad will offer “unique capabilities such as two finger input, proximity sensing, text entry and high resolution finger input that can dramatically improve and enhance the user experience with a touch screen.”

Synaptics said the ClearPad technology is under development and that it is expected to be available in bulk to OEMs by the end of the year.

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