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Digital music plummeting?
Apple's iTunes Music Store has experienced plummeting sales revenues this year, according to Forrester Research. Although Apple refuses to disclose the revenues generated from its online multimedia storefront, an analysis of credit card transactions conducted by the firm over a 27-month period suggests that iTunes monthly revenues have fallen 65 percent since January. Nielsen Soundscan points to even worse news for digital music vendors, citing three consecutive quarters of flat or declining revenues for the entire sector, according to a report from The Register. Apple reported a 'blowout' quarter during its September conference call driven by notebook sales, and reported 'above-break-even' profits for iTunes Music Store revenues.
Aperture 1.5.2 update
Apple today released Aperture 1.5.2, an update to its professional photography workflow software. The company said the 131-megabyte update addresses issues related to overall reliability and performance in a number of areas, including contact sheet printing, Smart Albums, watermarks, lift and stamp, image export, and versions created using an external editor. This update is recommended for all Aperture users, Apple said. It also "strongly recommends" that users download the recently released Digital Camera RAW Support Update 1.0.1, which provides RAW file format compatibility for the following digital SLR cameras: Canon Digital Rebel XTi / 400D / Kiss X Digital, the Nikon D80, and the Pentax *ist DS as well as issues with handling of large Canon RAW files (.CRW), DNG compatibility on Intel-based Macs, and lines sometimes appearing in images exported from Aperture.
Apple holiday shipments
Apple sent an email out to its customers this week regarding its planned 'twelve days (and nights) of shopping' at its New York-based retail stores as Christmas approaches. "Starting Wednesday, the Apple Store, Soho, and the Apple Store, Fifth Avenue, will be open 24 hours a day until December 25th," Apple wrote. "So you can shop whenever you want and enjoy free special events along the way." The Cupertino-based company also posted a list of holiday shipping deadlines for its Macs and iPods, informing customers about when they must order a product to have it arrive at a specific time. "Need it by December 25th? Simply place your order before midnight local time on the dates listed and select the corresponding shipping method at checkout," said Apple.
4-speaker WiFi iPod dock
An iPod dock in development at EOS Wireless links up to four sets of stereo speakers together with a wireless connection, providing what the company describes as "whole home audio." Each set can be placed as far as 150 feet away from the base station, and also has a integrated power supply which lets it connect directly to an outlet. The supply can be detached to rest a set on flat surface. Aside from the dock and the transmitter, the base has a subwoofer and its own pair of stereo drivers. Signals are sent out in the SRS WOW (simulated surround) format. The core EOS system begins shipments in March, including one dock and one remote unit for $299. Extra remotes will be sold separately, as will a weatherproof outdoor amplifier and a transmitter/receiver bundle.
Zipeg 1.0.1 (freeware) lets users quickly preview a ZIP archive without actually opening the file. File present an EXIF thumbnail as the mouse moves over the image, and users can extract files selectively (via drag-and-drop) or launch them directly from the archive using either Zipeg or a third-party program.
[Download - 326KB]
FinanceToGo 1.0.2 ($35) is a financial management program that simultaneously tracks multiple accounts and thousands of transactions. The software enables users to import Quicken Interchangeable (QIF) files created in Quicken for Mac. The latest revision is a minor upgrade for registered users, improving support for international date formats. [Download - 3.61MB]
OnAirRecorder 1.4 ($12) is a visual-based digital timer application for recording audio and video. The software links with QuickTime, starting and stopping recordings with its own control panel. The software is also usable as a larger timer display application, with the update adding a 24-hour clock mode. [Download - 3.1MB]
WorldTimes 1.2 (freeware) displays up to 12 different times from a database of over 420 listings, adjusting automatically for daylight savings. The update brings native compatibility to Intel-based Macs as a Universal Binary, adding simplified sorting as well as the ability to add and remove entries. The update also includes two bug fixes. [Download - 240KB]
AppZapper 1.8 ($13) is designed to completely uninstall applications, removing associated support files as well the executable itself. Version 1.8 supports limited 'undo' functionality with an 'UnZap' feature that returns all files to their original places. The update also authenticates users without admin access. [Download - 1.63MB]
Zune sales may fall short
Microsoft's Zune media player is struggling to meet expectations since its launch in mid-November, according to several reports. BusinessWeek points to a slippage in the popularity of the iPod competitor following a loss in marketshare that put the Zune in fifth place after just two weeks on store shelves. The most popular black Zune model fell to 19th place among music players over the weekend, and was outsold by 13 iPod models as well as five non-Apple music players. The white Zune is suffering from worse sales numbers, according to Businessweek's Stephen Wildstrom, who said "if you want to sell a white music player, it had better be an iPod."
Kinesis Freestyle Keyboard
Kinesis has just announced its Freestyle keyboard, claiming to have the ideal solution for virtually any typist worried about repetitive strain. The Freestyle is split in half as with similar controllers but can be configured based on the user's needs: the Incline model (pictured) rests on a sloping base for typical writing, but can also be had in a Solo version where the halves are joined only by a cable. Owners can space the keyboard sections as closely together as necessary and will have the choice of a VIP pack that adds individual palmrests and support stands for comfort. Either model supports both Macs and Windows PCs. The Incline and Solo will be available between January and February for an unknown price.
Zune Flounders on Launch
Microsoft's Zune media player is struggling to meet expectations since it launched in mid-November, according to separate business reports. While the company has already been derided for its heavily promoted jukebox slipping to fifth place in marketshare after only two weeks in stores, the player is facing further erosion of its popularity, BusinessWeek's Stephen Wildstrom reports. As of this weekend, the most popular Zune color at online vendor Amazon's site, black, ranked a distant 19th amongst music players. "[It] was outsold not only by 13 iPod models... but by five non-Apple music players," Wildstrom says.
The author is also quick to note that other Zune, especially white, suffer from far lower sales rankings. "If you want to sell a white music player, it had better be an iPod," he writes.
Criticism from Jupiter Research follows after the jump.
Podz Wireless Speakers
Catalog retailer Brookstone today began offering the Podz wireless speaker set. Opting for RF wireless instead of the Bluetooth of the similarly-shaped Planète, the speakers gain substantial range over most similar systems. Brookstone claims a range of up to 150 feet from the base station for either satellite, even when transmitting through floors or walls.
Listeners also have a choice of portability, according to the retailer. Connected to their respective base units, each speaker can be powered indefinitely when a wall outlet is nearby; however, they can also operate completely wirelessly for approximately two hours by means of internal rechargeable batteries. The Podz set accepts audio from any headphone minijack source and is already in stock at Brookstone for $180.
Ion Audio today previewed the iProjector, a system that links any dockable iPod directly to an 800x600 display while projecting photos or videos onto a screen as large as 90x30-inches. The iProjector also charges an attached iPod, and features extra video inputs to accept more conventional multimedia sources such as VCRs or DVD players. Image quality on the projector is expected to prove superior to that of the iPod itself, according to Electronista, with 24-bit color and a claimed 1,000 ANSI lumens of brightness. The Ion is expected to make an official launch at CES in January, and will ship in glossy black for an unspecified price.
Growth rate of switchers
New research suggests that the number of new users to the Mac platform is expected to continue rising. Research collected from 20 Apple specialist stores by research firm Piper Jaffray reveals that 25 percent of customers are purchasing Macs for the first time, and that this number is expected to continue rising as a result of the theorized iPod 'halo effect' as well as the popularity of Apple's Boot Camp software. Comparatively, Apple stated that 50 percent of customers who purchased Macs in its own chain of retail stores were 'switchers' who had never used a Mac before. The research firm also expects an increase in general Mac sales, with iPod stock in the run up to the holiday season revealing solid stock at specialist stores. Those stores that were missing the iPod shuffle and iPod nano over the last several weeks are now reporting that both models are in stock.
Ion Audio iProjector
Audio accessory developer Ion Audio today previewed its distinct iProjector. Set to make an official launch at CES in January, the system links any dockable iPod directly to its 800x600 display, projecting photos or videos on to a screen as large as 90 by 30 inches. The iProjector will also charge its attached iPod and has extra video inputs to accept more conventional sources, although the company has not given specific details. Image quality on the projector is expected to be superior to that of the iPod itself, with 24-bit color and a claimed 1,000 ANSI lumens of brightness. Ion will ship the system in glossy black for a currently unspecified price.
CRYPTOCard today introduced CRYPTO-MAS, its cross-platform software designed to manage authentication to its range of services. The service utilizes token-based two-factor authentication to protect companies and employees against shoulder surfing, social engineering, and other forms of password theft. With CRYPTO-MAS users can log in from any workstation using CRYPTOCard's two-factor authentication tokens. The tokens display a randomly-generated password for every log-on attempt to make stolen credentials useless to malicious users and eliminate the need for users to memorize complicated passwords. Hardware and software token are available along with a monthly fee-based subscription based on numbers of users. CRYPTO-MAS supports Mac OS X, Red Hat, SuSE, and Microsoft Windows.
In brief: Responding to the worm exploiting QuickTime to infect its website, MySpace has taken the unusual step of issuing a patch in conjunction with Apple.... A domain squatter is holding the-iphone.com, offering to sell the name for $750,000.... Electronista notes that Sony and SanDisk are working on PRO-HG Memory Sticks, designed to better handle video with higher speeds and storage up to 32GB.... comScore Networks reports that online non-travel shopping stood at over $610 million per day between December 4th and December 8th, and that holiday spending to date is 25 percent over the same duration from 2005.... pop band Keane will be performing tomorrow at London's Regent Street Apple Store starting at 9:00 p.m. local time.... FileMaker Pro 8.5 has received a pair of awards: Teaching Pre K-8's Editor's Choice as the best educational database software, and Technology & Learning's Legacy Award, highlighting the program's continuing relevance.
Elipson Planete Speakers
Elipson today said it had achieved a unique blend of luxury audio and convenience with its Planète speakers. Working with the Bluetooth device maker Parrot, Elipson says it has revived its characteristically spherical speaker line with newer audio technology. Each set ships with Bluetooth built-in for connecting to any music source that fits the A2DP Bluetooth audio profile, such as cellphones or digital audio players such as Samsung's YP-T9B.
While its wireless audio is an increasingly common feature for personal speakers, the Planète promises higher-quality audio than many of its challengers, Elipson claims. Rather than rely on a subwoofer or receiver for extra power, both satellites contain their own amplifiers and deliver 60 watts of energy across the two channels. The acoustic properties can also be tuned by a nearby PC. Black and white models in a lacquer finish are available from the company for $1,320; a custom-color option is also available for an extra charge.
HP nc6400 with Cingular
HP today said that its new nc6400 notebook would be the first portable launched in the US to come equipped with HSDPA support, giving it an optional connection to Cingular's 3.5G wireless broadband network. The built-in receiver can reach download speeds of 3.6Mbps and also provides the notebook with a global roaming ability thanks to its three-way compatibility, HP says. Travelers to Europe can connect to higher-speed UMTS networks, while even more areas can provide access through the slower but more widespread EDGE format.
The 14-inch widescreen system with the HSDPA option contains a 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo, 1GB of RAM, an 80GB hard drive, and a DVD rewriter. HP offers the nc6400 variant as a special order from the company and does not list the price. Standard systems begin at $1,199.
Micro Heaven: Pulse, iTrip
Micro Heaven has begun offering the Pulse Technology FM Transmitter and iTrip for Apple's second-generation iPod nano. The Pulse Technology FM Transmitter is compatible with all iPods that feature a dock connector, offering high fidelity and stereo digital PLL as well as a blue backlit LCD display. The device includes 200 selectable transmission channels (from 88-108MHz) alongside multiple memory channels, and draws power from the iPod which negates the need for an external power supply. The Pulse Technology FM Transmitter is shipping today for £20, and the iTrip for second-generation iPod nano is due to ship in early January for £35.
Shiny Shiny Loses Founder
The technology news industry lost another one of its luminaries today, according to Shiny Shiny. The woman-oriented news blog has reported that Star C. Foster, one of the site's founding contributors, died unexpectedly this weekend after a leg tumor triggered a pulmonary embolism. Foster was also well-known for her active participation in the blogging and online writing communities. We at Electronista would like to offer our support to Foster's friends and family as well as the staff of Shiny Shiny during what must certainly be a difficult time, and hope that the site will continue its recent success in memory of Foster's efforts.
Corsair 16GB USB drives
Corsair is now shipping a 16GB version of the Flash Voyager USB 2.0 drive. As the company describes it, the drive is large enough to hold the entire Lord of the Rings DVD trilogy, while still having space left over. It's clearly designed for business purposes however, as its bundled software allows partitions with 256-bit AES encryption, and the drive is Windows-bootable, which Corsair suggests should allow IT managers to take applications with them as they move from computer to computer. The rubber housing is designed to protect against shock, moisture, and extreme temperatures. Read and write speeds are 22MB/sec and 7MB/sec respectively. The new Flash Voyager should be on sale from major retailers for $299.
Small Tree AoE ships
Small Tree Communications has expanded its storage options for Mac owners with ATA-over-Ethernet (AoE) technology, offering a variety of pre-configured JBOD (Just a Bunch of Disks) and RAID options with a Mac-like management graphical user interface that allows users to plug-and-play out of the box. "The real benefit for our customers lies in the striped performance that can be achieved across multiple Gigabit Ethernet links between clients and servers," said Steve Modica, Small Tree's Chief Technical Officer. "Today, people buy our multi-port Gigabit Ethernet cards to increase the aggregate bandwidth between their shared storage server and their network switch, but in many cases what they really want is to get striped Gigabit performance between their client Macs and the shared storage. AoE is the first technology available to Mac users that allows sustained performance in the 150-300MB/s range at a reasonable cost." Small Tree's entry level AOE-SR420 4-drive unit is shipping with a 1TB storage capacity for 3,600, while the first AOE-SR1520T 15-drive unit with 11.25TB of storage capacity ships for $14,500.
PC Magazine on MacBook
Apple's consumer-oriented MacBook today was ranked one of the best budget laptops by PC Magazine due to its inclusion of Intel's Core 2 Duo processor. Apple surprised some industry watchers when it unexpected unveiled refreshed MacBooks with Core 2 Duo processors just one week after the company's more expensive MacBook Pro received the new chips. The publication cites Apple's style and overall look alongside the keyboard as positive features which add to the notebook's overall value in the budget arena, but notes that 512MB of memory is considered insufficient for modern usage. Speed tests using SYSmark 2004 SE revealed a 7 percent speed increase over the original MacBook, according to PC Magazine's Cisco Cheng, who says the MacBook is "great for watching a DVD movie or editing your holiday photos."
NEC MULTEOS LCD TVs
Coming in at 40- and 46-inch sizes, NEC's new MULTEOS LCDs can display full HD up to 1080p, and have a brightness rating of 450cd/m2. Viewing angles are an extremely wide 178 degrees. Both HDMI and DVI inputs are supported, and the sets mount to a wall using the VESA FDMI (Flat Display Mounting Interface) standard. The M40 has a 1,200:1 contrast ratio while the M46 reaches 1,000:1. Being business displays, however, response times are limited to 18ms, and the cost may be prohibitively expensive: the M40 is 672,000 yen ($5,820) and the M46 is 924,000 ($8,002). Both sets ship in Japan on January 31st.
Belkin Skype Phone
Belkin today began shipping its Wi-Fi Phone for Skype, the company's first handset for voice-over-Internet calls. The accessory producer's phone is unique in its built-in support for Boingo hotspots, as the phone can store and automatically use a subscriber's account information to connect to the wireless provider's Wi-Fi paid access points without having to manually enter data each time. This applies even when traveling internationally, Belkin says, and it creates a true world phone that can connect anywhere Wi-Fi Internet access is present.
The phone is also a truly independent Skype device that can be configured for a Skype account without the need for a computer, and handles paid functions such as SkypeOut calling to real-world numbers as well as an address book and other essential features of the VoIP service. Belkin ships its phone today for $180.
LG LAN-9600R Navigation
LG on Monday revealed its very first in-dash navigation system, the LAN-9600R. Occupying a single DIN slot, the system conceals a motorized, 7-inch touchscreen while still offering GPS and music support that has never been seen before in its class, according to LG. The 9600 is the first dash-mounted navigation unit to use a SiRFStar III GPS receiver; already used in many handheld GPS devices, the chipset greatly improves tracking and reduces the effect of interference on position updates. Map data itself is preloaded on DVDs.
Music and video playback are equal components of the design, LG says. Files can be stored either on 2GB of internal flash memory or added through SD cards as well as USB drives, allowing the 9600 to hold a more permanent media library. LG also includes Bluetooth for hands-free calling and support for live RDS-based traffic information. It launches today in Europe for $1,983 and should arrive in other markets soon.
MS XNA Game Studio Exp.
Microsoft has officially released XNA Game Studio Express, a free version of the future professional toolkit aimed at Windows and Xbox 360 developers. XNA is is based on Visual C#, and should simplify coding by eliminating the need for repetitive sequences. Owners of Game Studio Express can develop complete games on their PC -- but to actually use or play code written for the 360, a subscription to the XNA Creators Club is required. Four months cost $49 at the Xbox Live Marketplace, while a year is $99. Furthermore, only Windows games can be released commercially, since 360 games must be approved by Microsoft, which is withholding that approval until Game Studio Professional ships in 2007.
Coinciding with today's release is the announcement of the Dream-Build-Play contest, in which the winner will have their game published on the Xbox Live Arcade. The contest begins January 2nd and will be open to anyone using Game Studio Express. It is undisclosed, however, if the winner will receive any royalties from his or her game.
FoxTrot, PowerMail updated
CTM Development has released FoxTrot 1.2 and PowerMail 5.5.2, updating the personal search and email applications. FoxTrot 1.2 includes a new version of the FoxTrot core search engine with accelerated wildcard searches and multiple partial words. FoxTrot 1.2 adds a new feature to work around some of the limitations of the Microsoft Office Spotlight importer when dealing with Word files, and addresses stability by automatically re-launching the software and resuming work if for any reason the background indexer crashes. The update also fixes a rare crash when displaying the progress wheel icon, and repairs an issue causing the indexer to quit on idle unexpectedly. FoxTrot 1.2 is free for registered FoxTrot users or $35 for a new license, and requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later.
Modul8 v2.5 ships
GarageCube introduced today the new V2.5 of Modul8, its realtime video manipulation software that can be used by VJs and for contemporary art, live performances and video production. Version 2.5 offers Intel optimizations, multi-projection, FreeFrame/CoreImage filters, advanced multi-threading for Dual/Quad-Core, an integrated painter, many new modules and a new graphics engine based around CoreVideo technologies in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. Modul8 integrates all standard video filters such as contrast, colour and luminance, blur and others as well as offers advanced 3D transformations such as motifs, deformable grids, and a particle engine featuring movement effects. The software also recognizes Core Image and Free Frames filters, allowing users to access hundreds of plug-in filters. It supports most QuickTime codecs, virtually all graphical formats, drag & drop file support, per-pixel transparency, and dynamic media such as video capture and creation of text and graphics. Modul8 is €300.
300GB notebook drives
Fujitsu today said that it has set a new record for capacity in 2.5-inch notebook hard drives with its new MHX2300BT series of disks that use perpendicular magnetic recording to achieve up to 300GB of notebook-size storage. Electronista reports that the 4200RPM improve speed without affecting power consumption because of the increased drive density and draws only 1.6W of power during active use, the best in its class, according to the company. The MHX line consumes as little as 0.5W when idling and is one of the few notebook-class drives to support Native Command Queuing for faster and more intelligent data loading. Fujitsu expects shipments in early 2007 and will accompany the launch with a less expensive 250GB model using the same technology.
Fujitsu 300GB Laptop Drive
Storage maker Fujitsu today said that it has set a new record for capacity in 2.5-inch notebook hard drives. Its new MHX2300BT series of disks uses perpendicular magnetic recording to achieve an unprecedented 300GB of storage, beating the company's earllier peak of 200GB set in March. Although it spins at 4200RPM, the new drive's increased density is said to improve speed without affecting power consumption: its 1.6W of power draw during active use is the best in its class, Fujitsu claims. The MHX line consumes as little as 0.5W when idling and is one of the few notebook-class drives to support Native Command Queuing for faster and more intelligent data loading. Fujitsu hopes to ship the drive in notebooks and other portable devices by early 2007 and will accompany the launch with a less expensive 250GB model using the same technology.
Dell M1710 With Blu-Ray
Dell this morning announced that its XPS M1710 notebook is the company's first system to ship with a Blu-Ray drive. An option now exists to fit the 17-inch desktop replacement with a drive that can read and write the next-generation format, including 50GB dual-layer discs. Backwards compatibility exists for playing and recording both CDs and DVDs. The computer is also the first to earn NVIDIA's PureVideo logo, Dell says; its stock GeForce Go 7950 GTX can fully accelerate Blu-Ray video at its native 1080p, offloading the work that would normally be handled by the M1710's 2.33GHz Core 2 Duo. A system configured with Blu-Ray begins at $3,699 and is available today with 1GB of RAM and an 80GB hard drive.
VirtualKeyboard 3 released
Corallo Software has released VirtualKeyboard 3, its on-screen keyboard that offers point-and-click typing using pointing devices such as a head pointer, mouse, trackball, etc. This program is designed primarily for disabled users but it can be used also to teach the children to write and for kiosk environments, according to the developer. Version 3 brings support for Intel-based Macs, auto-click to allow users to hover over keys on the display, multi-click support, a new toolbar, and a "Safe" mode to lock certain keys and the screen. The software, which offers a fully functional on-screen keyboard floating above other application, works with US and international keyboard layouts and offers three, fully resizable, keyboard models: extended, standard and reduced. The $18 shareware is free for users who have purchased version 2.4.x after April 17, 2005 and is $9 to others. It requires Mac OS X 10.0 or higher (PowerPC-Macs) and Mac OS X 10.4 or higher (Intel-Macs).
iRiver showcases S7 player
iRiver has debuted its new flash-based iPod shuffle alternative: the S7 is a screenless player "emphasizes style by taking advantage of its directional click interface from the Clix and S10: by asking the owner only to tap the borders of the front face for track navigation, freeing space for artwork that would normally be obscured by buttons, according to Electronista. The player offers support for "HD" audio and is one of the few to support SRS WOW HD for enhancing the audio field and is capable of playing a diverse number of formats, ranging from the more common MP3 and WMA standards to FM radio and OGG files. It is expected to launch on Tuesday in Korea for about $100, while shipments to other regions are expected to follow in the near future.
VLC 0.8.6 media player
The VLC Team has updated the open-source media player: VLC 0.8.6 brings many bug fixes as well as new features, including Apple Remote support, Apple's fullscreen controller, Universal Binary support for native operation on Intel-based Macs (as well as PowerPC Macs), improved H.264 support and new support for Windows Media Video 9 and VC-1, VP5/VP6 and Flash video, and TTA and WavPack Lossless audio. It also offers preliminary DVR-ms and MXF support as well as Shoutcast TV support. The cross-platform player supports a large number of multimedia formats, without the need for additional codecs and can also be used as a streaming server, with extended features (video-on-demand, on-the-fly transcoding, etc.). The softwawre is free under the GNU General Public License.
32GB Memory Stick PRO-HG
Citing the increased need for flash memory with the speed and storage for video, SanDisk and Sony together revealed Memory Stick PRO-HG, an update to Sony's format that addresses both limits in dramatic fashion, according to the two companies. The format is expected to use refinements in flash chip manufacturing to raise the capacity to as much as 32GB, rivaling the hard drives found in newer portable media players. A combination of a higher interface clock rate and doubled bandwidth will also increase its performance, the partnership claims. If a host device is optimized for PRO-HG, data can be written to the card at a minimum of 15MB per second, more than double the 6MB minimum speed of SD cards. This makes the format ideal for recording video or other content that can quickly consume large amounts of storage. The format will be released in 2007, though neither SanDisk nor Sony would confirm if or when a 32GB card would be available.
iRiver S7 Player
Longtime music jukebox maker iRiver has revealed the S7, its first screenless player and the first from the company to directly challenge Apple's iPod shuffle. iRiver emphasizes style by taking advantage of its directional click interface from the Clix and S10: by asking the owner only to tap the borders of the front face for track navigation, the S7 frees space for artwork that would normally be obscured by buttons. Support for "HD" audio is also a priority, the company says. The player is one of the few to support SRS WOW HD for enhancing the audio field and is capable of playing a diverse number of formats, ranging from the more common MP3 and WMA standards to FM radio and OGG files. A launch is planned first for Korea, where the S7 will debut tomorrow for the equivalent of $97; shipments to other regions are expected to follow in the near future.
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