Luxury-goods retailers Neiman Marcus and Coach have released new iPod cases that cost up to $840. The Birmingham News reports that "Neiman's 'Christmas Book' catalog features seven iPod cases made by designers such as Gucci and Emilio Pucci. The retailer's Valentino Swarovski crystal-studded cover is more than double the $399 price tag of most expensive iPod." The report notes that Seattle-based Nordstrom offers both iPod mini and Shuffle cases and will be offering covers for the iPod nano in the spring. Nordstrom said that its "three biggest selling brands for women are Juicy Couture, some models of which have sold out; Kate Spade; and its private-label cover, Anders said. It offers Tumi, Zegna and Burberry brand covers for men. The report notes that New York-based Coach started selling iPod covers in several leathers, some with appliquis such as ladybugs, at prices from $48 to $88.
Syfter is a new application for Mac OS X Tiger that brings MP3 playlists, websites and both audio and video podcasts together in a unified interface that offers sorting, browsing and batch downloading of free legal content to iTunes. "I like to think of it as either channel surfing for independent music and video or maybe an iTunes Music Store-type interface for the indie media web," said software developer Ryan Sutter. "I have been waiting for a long time for somebody to make it simple and enjoyable to comb through all the free media available all over the web. I mean, there are literally hundreds of thousands of independent bands, radio shows, songs, videos and the like. So much media is good, but also bad because it is nearly impossible to get to the 'good stuff'." A public beta is available now. The shareware is $25.
Apple's iPod is the second behind the Sony Walkman in PC World's The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years. "If the Walkman is the aging king of portable media players, Apple's iPod is prince regent. It rules the realm of digital music like no other device: According to the NPD Group, more than eight out of ten portable players sold at retail by mid-2005 were iPods. Yet when the $399 iPod first appeared in October 2001, it was nothing special. It featured a 5GB hard drive and a mechanical scroll wheel, but worked only with Macs. A second model released the following July offered a 20GB hard drive, a pressure-sensitive touch wheel, and a Windows-compatible version."
As sales of digital music continue to rise, the music industry faces a new probe on the price of digital music. On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the New York State Attorney General "has subpoenaed at least three of the four global music companies as part of what one company described as 'an industry-wide investigation' into collusion on pricing of digitally downloaded music." Sony BMG, Warner Music Group, and Vivendi Universal have all received subpoenas. The reports notes that the labels have been pressuring Apple to change its 99-cent-per-song pricing: "But in a battle that has become increasingly public over the past several months, Apple and the music companies have fought over pricing. The music companies want to move beyond the flat-price model pioneered by Apple, arguing that new hit songs should cost more than 99 cents, while perhaps older material might cost less. Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs has been just as vocal in insisting that prices need to remain at a straight 99 cents to keep building the digital marketplace."
A new Silicon Valley startup is looking to provide an open-source alternative to iTunes. The company, called Pioneers of the Inevitable, hopes to create a digital music software application called "Songbird"--which offers an uncanny resemblance to iTunes---that is based on much of the same underlying open-source technology as the Firefox Web browser, according to CNET News.com. "With their first technical preview expected early next year, the programmers want to create music-playing software that will work naturally with the growing number of music sites and services on the Web, instead of being focused on songs on a computer's hard drive. That's where iTunes, which plugs only into Apple's own music store, falls short, [founder Rob] Lord argues." The software, however, as a long way to go, as "Microsoft's Media Player accounts for 45 percent of all PC music playing, Apple's iTunes captures 17 percent, and the rest fall off sharply from there, according to U.S. statistics from the NPD Group."