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iWork dents Office share; Nokia/Universal music; iPod giveaway


Apple's iWork is luring some customers away from Microsoft Office, according to an NPD report. Also, Universal is attaching unlimited songs to Nokia cellphones, and Apple is assuaging victims of southern California's wildfires with iPods.

Study: iWork stealing some MS Office share

Apple is enjoying at least a temporary surge in sales of its iWork suite at Microsoft's expense, says a newly published NPD data.

About 16 percent of all recent productivity software sales for the Mac are going to Apple's software, which this year gained its first spreadsheet program. Virtually all of the remaining share belongs to Microsoft Office 2004. The result is a "success" for Apple, NPD says, as the company has struggled to gain ground with iWork since its inception.

The low price of iWork is considered one of its greatest assets. At $79, it costs roughly half the price of Office 2004's low-cost Student and Teacher Edition.

Nonetheless, the growth may largely be the result of the delayed arrival of Office 2008, which is now expected in January. iWork's sales are likely to drop once the Microsoft suite upgrade is release, the research group says.

Universal enlists Nokia for first bundled music experiment

Nokia this week said it would launch a new music strategy that many are already finding controversial.

Named Comes With Music, the plan has been co-developed with Universal Music Group and eliminates the per-song purchases or subscription fees of mobile phones. Instead, a year-long subscription to unlimited music downloads from Universal's catalog will be built into the price of some handsets.

Once completed, the service lets the owner keep any downloads made during the year. The company has not said what the cost will be to maintain unlimited access after the one-year period expires. Other labels are reportedly discussing joining the service but have not yet come to an agreement.

Objections are being raised, however, over the copy protection and motivations behind the service. Since the announcement, Nokia has confirmed that songs will be sold in a protected Windows Media format, locking out many cellphones and non-Windows PCs from playing downloaded tracks. The exact playback rights are unclear.

Universal is also believed to be using the Nokia deal as a test of the former's Total Music concept, which would build the cost of unlimited music into device costs and service plans. The music label has shown multiple signs that it objects to Apple's dominance of digital downloads and is willing to explore alternate business models. Universal first dropped its annual contracts to supply music to iTunes in favor of short-term deals and later launched DRM-free sales through Amazon and Wal-Mart while consciously excluding the Apple service.

Apple hands out iPods to young, homeless wildfire victims

At least 100 teenagers in the Poway school district are receiving free iPod nanos as partial consolation for losing their homes to the southern California wildfires in October, the region's local media reports.

The gift is the result of an e-mail sent to Apple chief Steve Jobs by Steve Boyack, husband of local councilwoman Merilee Boyack, when he felt that high school students had been excluded from the relief efforts in the area.

Though Jobs didn't contact the Boyacks personally, the iPod maker's state and government affairs senior manager Michael Foulkes coordinated the donation and also downplayed the act, saying that Apple was not looking for publicity.

Brain Age equivalent for iPods reaches iTunes Store

iTunes Store visitors awoke on Tuesday to find that Apple has posted Brain Challenge, a new game for fifth-generation and newer iPods.

Based loosely on Nintendo's Brain Age series of games for the console maker's DS handheld, the Gameloft-developed title is based around a series of short exercised that purportedly exercise the mind.

Like all iPod games, Brain Challenge is priced at $5 and doesn't play on computers or touchscreen devices such as the iPhone and iPod touch.