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."
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Cirrus creates Lightning-headphone dev kit
Apple supplier Cirrus Logic has introduced a MFi-compliant new development kit for companies interested in using Cirrus' chips to create Lightning-based headphones, which -- regardless of whether rumors about Apple dropping the analog headphone jack in its iPhone this fall -- can offer advantages to music-loving iOS device users. The kit mentions some of the advantages of an all-digital headset or headphone connector, including higher-bitrate support, a more customizable experience, and support for power and data transfer into headphone hardware. Several companies already make Lightning headphones, and Apple has supported the concept since June 2014. http://bit.ly/29giiZj
Apple Store app offers Procreate Pocket
The Apple Store app for iPhone, which periodically rewards users with free app gifts, is now offering the iPhone "Pocket" version of drawing app Procreate for those who have the free Apple Store app until July 28. Users who have redeemed the offer by navigating to the "Stores" tab of the app and swiping past the "iPhone Upgrade Program" banner to the "Procreate" banner have noted that only the limited Pocket (iPhone) version of the app is available free, even if the Apple Store app is installed and the offer redeemed on an iPad. The Pocket version currently sells for $3 on the iOS App Store. [32.4MB]
Porsche adds CarPlay to 2017 Panamera
Porsche has added a fifth model of vehicle to its CarPlay-supported lineup, announcing that the 2017 Panamera -- which will arrive in the US in January -- will include Apple's infotainment technology, and be seen on a giant 12.3-inch touchscreen as part of an all-new Porsche Communication Management system. The luxury sedan starts at $99,900 for the 4S model, and scales up to the Panamera Turbo, which sells for $146,900. Other vehicles that currently support CarPlay include the 2016 911 and the 2017 models of Macan, 718 Boxster, and 718 Cayman. The company did not mention support for Google's corresponding Android Auto in its announcement. http://bit.ly/295ZQ94
Apple employees testing wheelchair features
New features included in the forthcoming watchOS 3 are being tested by Apple retail store employees, including a new activity-tracking feature that has been designed with wheelchair users in mind. The move is slightly unusual in that, while retail employees have previously been used to test pre-release versions of OS X and iOS, this marks the first time they've been included in the otherwise developer-only watchOS betas. The company is said to have gone to great lengths to modify the activity tracker for wheelchair users, including changing the "time to stand" notification to "time to roll" and including two wheelchair-centric workout apps. http://bit.ly/2955JDa
SanDisk reveals two 256GB microSDXC cards
SanDisk has introduced two 256GB microSDXC cards. Arriving in August for $150, the Ultra microSDXC UHS-I Premium Edition card offers transfer speeds of up to 95MB/s for reading data. The Extreme microSDXC UHS-I card can read at a fast 100MB/s and write at up to 90MB/s, and will be shipping sometime in the fourth quarter for $200. http://bit.ly/294Q1If
Apple's third-quarter results due July 26
Apple has advised it will be issuing its third-quarter results on July 26, with a conference call to answer investor and analyst queries about the earnings set to take place later that day. The stream of the call will go live at 2pm PT (5pm ET) via Apple's investor site, with the results themselves expected to be released roughly 30 minutes before the call commences. Apple's guidance for the quarter put revenue at between $41 billion and $43 billion. http://apple.co/1oi1Pbm
Twitter stickers slowly roll out to users
Twitter has introduced "stickers," allowing users to add extra graphical elements to their photos before uploading them to the micro-blogging service. A library of hundreds of accessories, props, and emoji will be available to use as stickers, which can be resized, rotated, and placed anywhere on the photograph. Images with stickers will also become searchable with viewers able to select a sticker to see how others use the same graphic in their own posts. Twitter advises stickers will be rolling out to users over the next few weeks, and will work on both the mobile apps and through the browser. http://bit.ly/29bbwUE