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Tuesday, February 14, 2006, 08:25 am PT (11:25 am ET)

Briefly: 2.16GHz MBP, music sales, iTunes IPO, Walkman phones

2.16GHz MacBook Pro option arrives

Along with its announcement today that MacBook Pros will begin shipping this week with faster processors than previously announced, Apple also added an option that allows 2.0GHz MacBook Pro shoppers to upgrade to a 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo processor for an additional $300. The 2.16GHz chip is the fastest Core Duo processor Intel has announced to date.

Customers who pre-ordered a MacBook Pro from retailers of authorized resellers do not need to adjust their orders in light of the announcement. Apple will automatically update the previous 1.67GHz and 1.83GHz MacBook Pro SKUs to correspond with the faster CPU specs announced today. Therefore, customers who placed orders for 1.67GHz MacBook Pros will receive a 1.83GHz MacBook Pro.

Record companies reaping iTunes benefits

Warner Music Group on Tuesday said quarterly profit nearly doubled, driven by stronger sales of higher-margin digital songs during the holiday season.

The company, home to artists that include Madonna, Green Day and James Blunt, said digital revenue rose to $69 million, up 30 percent from the fourth quarter, and nearly triple that of a year earlier, because of online music sales at services such as Apple's iTunes music store and Napster, as well as mobile ringtones.

"Our digital revenue was up dramatically year-on-year, especially after MP3 players went live on December 25th," Chief Financial Officer Michael Fleischer said before the company released results. "The naysayers of digital music on the Street have been proven wrong."

The US accounted for 70 percent of digital music sales, which were split evenly between Internet downloads and ringtones, Fleischer said.

Sony Ericsson sells 3M Walkman phones

Mobile phone maker Sony Ericsson said today it has sold more than 3 million of its Walkman phone models since the first one came on the market six months ago. (By comparison, Motorola in November said it had shipped over 500,000 of its ROKR E1 iTunes phones since they were announced two months earlier.)

The Japanese-Swedish joint venture, which was the world's fifth-biggest handset maker in 2005, also unveiled its sixth Walkman model on Tuesday. The Sony Ericsson W950, a purple 3G phone with an orange backlight and 4 gigabytes of flash memory storage capacity to hold thousands of songs, provides the same storage as Apple's iPod nano music players.

At the same time, another of Sony's creations — the Walkman Bean — appears to be the latest digital audio player fatality at the hands of Apple's iPod. Sony will reportedly discontinue the product line in April.

An iTunes IPO?

Over the weekend, a post to Briefing.com read: "We are hearing some chatter this morning about Apple that we can't confirm, but found interesting nonetheless. The rumor is that Disney could buy a stake in Apple's iTunes, which could then be a first step towards an iTunes IPO. This is a new one to us, and this type of Apple/Disney rumor could be motivated by the fact that Steve Jobs will be on the Disney board following its acquisition of Pixar. Some of the initial feedback we heard on this was skeptical, so again, just passing this one along."

The validity of the report is unknown, but interesting nonetheless.