Applevine: More Netbook Rumors Circulate

Other than a cryptic comment about having some ideas, or remarks the market opportunity is still nascent, Apple has not said anything about making a netbook computer.  Still, the frequency of rumors about the so far non-existent device rate second on the Applevine only to iPhone chatter.

In early March, the big gossip was Wintek being contracted to supply touchscreens.  Now the latest? Today, Digitimes reported on the potentially lucrative manufacturing contract.

Citing reports first printed by the Chinese language news source Commercial Times, the report says Foxconn (Hon Hai Precision Industry) “is in the running” for the prize.

As is common for many of these Commercial Times reports that find their way into English on Digitimes,  the article cites unnamed sources in the supply chain.

Gossip? Fact? Tech tabloid fodder?

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Shuffling Margins, iPod Shuffle Teardown Leads to New Estimates

Ask an accountant or economist to define the value of an iPod Shuffle, or what it’s worth, and you might get a few dissertations in reply.  Ask what it costs? That’s a little easier to peg.

Market research firm, iSuppli, has done a teardown of the device and estimates the diminutive MP3 player is made from a minuscule $21.77 in parts.

Business Week reports in its summary that nearly half of that comes from two Samsung parts: the controller chip and flash memory.

The price is purely hardware, and it is merely an estimate. It doesn’t include development costs or sales and marketing expenses but even so, it suggests the gross margin on the player should Click to Read More

iTunes Tiered Pricing Now Official

As announced in January, and forecast a little more than a week ago, Apple officially made the switch from 99 cent songs to tiered pricing on iTunes today.  

For the better part of six years, Apple’s had resisted record label pressure to make the shift.  Steve Jobs argued the pricing needed to be “fair” to offset the temptation of downloading a pirated song.  Raising prices too high, he said, would drive customers away.  99 cents was simple, and sufficient.

Apple backtracked and conceded in a Macworld announcement, but only after the record companies agreed to remove Digital Rights Management restrictions (DRM) from the music in the catalog, and to allow Apple to sell songs wirelessly over 3G in exchange.

Under the new arrangement, the music store is now entirely composed of DRM-Free, 256kbps songs priced at 69¢, 99¢, and $1.29.  (Upgrading previously purchased songs to the higher bit rate, and encryption free format can be done for 30¢ a track).

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iTunes Tiered Pricing Set for April 7?

itunes pricing smallThe recording industry has had a love affair with the idea of variably priced music for years.  As a tool, it’s a way to manage supply or even manipulate demand. If an album (or single)  isn’t selling or there’s excess inventory, for example,  the price can be trimmed and the bargain used as a lure.  If sales are good, or an album is starting to climb a key ratings chart, price adjustments can tweak the momentum.  

The practices are common but in the digital world, some retailers have fought against it.  For the better part of six years, Apple’s resisted its use at iTunes but that’s changing.

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iPhone Gamer NGMOCO Closes Series B

ngmocoCombine a large market opportunity, an inexpensive distribution platform, good margins and relatively low development costs and chances are you’ve got a recipe that will get investors interested. For ngmoco, it’s cooked up $10m in fresh cash.

The iPhone game publisher whose name stands for “Next Generation Mobile Company” just closed a $10m Series B financing led by Norwest Venture Partners. Prior investors Kleiner Perkins and Maples Investments also participated.

The money is earmarked for expansion and according to Ngmoco’s founder, ex-Electronic Arts executive Neil Young, the opportunity the company is chasing is huge.

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Apple Launches Talking Shuffle

new shuffleUntil recently when Apple geared up to launch a new product it was lights, camera and action; the full-on spectacle.  Lately though, the theater’s dark.  With recent launches, the company’s opting to use a simple press release instead of a big stage show.   To start the conversation, Apple’s letting products speak for themselves.  The approach suits the newly announced iPod Shuffle just fine.  The device speaks plenty, literally.

Announced today, the new generation of Apple’s tiniest iPod is billed as “the first music player that talks to you.” 

The tiny device features a Voice Over feature that acts like something of a virtual DJ.  Push the control button and it will call out the track name and artist of the song playing. Push it again and it can provide battery status information or even identify the names of different playlists.

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Apple Reports Positive Q1 2009 Earnings

apple earnsMany retailers fell apart this holiday season, their registers ringing up far less of the holiday cheer than they’d have liked.  Companies were cutting staff. Cash was being conserved.  Spending, especially on premium products was way down.  Apple, despite the so called “Apple Tax,” the name sometimes spitefully applied to the higher pricing on Apple’s products, bucked the trend.   Earnings for the period ended December 27th, while shadowed with some elements of mixed quality, handily beat expectations. 

For the first quarter of Fiscal 2009, Apple reported its best revenue result of all time.  Total sales for the quarter crossed past $10 billion to $10.17b.  Year over year, the gain was 5.8% compared to last year’s sales of $9.6b.

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