By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Rockford-owned Omnifi, which shipped its first 802.11b-equipped audio products last October, is diversifying its dealer base with additional online sites and its first independent dealers, including home-A/V, computer and car audio specialists.
The company is also considering computer specialty chains for its products, which connect home and car audio systems to home PCs.
Omnifi sells through Tweeter, Magnolia and Ultimate and recently began targeting one-store to four-store independent A/V and car audio specialists through direct sales and two-step distribution, said general manager Tom O'Mara. D&H Distributing took on the line in December, and Omnifi is looking for additional distributors, he said.
Because of the products' integration with PCs, D&H is also targeting mom-and-pop PC stores, and Omnifi is considering PC chains, O'Mara added.
The company currently sells through almost 400 brick-and-mortar storefronts and is targeting sales through stores with assisted sales floors, excluding "big box" retailers, O'Mara said.
As for online sales, the company began in March to sell through the RadioShack and Target sites and through PCmall.com, joining Curtchfield.com and Rhapsody.com.
Also as part of its distribution strategy, Omnifi has begun rolling out its first dedicated retail display. The display, which Tweeter is rolling out nationwide, will incorporate speakers, the DMS-1 music streamer, the DMP-1 car audio system and a wireless antenna.
The $299-suggested DMS-1 digital music streamer connects to a home audio system to play back streaming music sites accessed through an 802.11b-equipped PC, which must also be equipped with Simple Center software. The software aggregates select streaming sites, whose names are displayed on the DMS-1's display. The software also makes it possible for stereo systems to play back music files stored on the PC's hard disk drive (HDD).
The $599-suggested DMP-1 digital medial player for the car consists of a controller and a removable 802.11b-connected HDD that stores music files downloaded wirelessly from a PC equipped with Simple Center software. If the PC isn't within 802.11b's 150-foot range, consumers can load up the HDD by removing it from the car and plugging it into the PC's USB port.
Down the road, the two audio products will be joined by the company's first headphone stereo, a home A/V digital media streamer and a car A/V player.
The $199-suggested headphone stereo, due in November, embeds 128MB of memory and all controls directly into the headphones so that active users won't have to fumble with wires or outboard components, O'Mara said. It will play MP3 files and Windows Media Audio files protected with Microsoft's digital rights management technology, making it compatible with multiple authorized download sites.
The introduction of the A/V systems has been pushed back to the first quarter of 2005 from 2004's third quarter to await a greater selection of authorized video content for downloading or streaming over the Internet, O'Mara said. The company already aggregates music content for purchasers of its music systems and wants to aggregate video content for purchasers of the A/V systems, he noted.
The planned home A/V streamer, the $349-suggested DMS-2, will wirelessly stream audio, video and still-image content stored on the HDD of a PC, and stream audio and video content via the PC from Internet sites. Unlike the DMP-1 music streamer, it will include an HDD to free up space on the PC's hard drive. The DMS-2 HDD will also be removable, enabling users to store content on multiple HDDs.
The DMS-2 streamer will use wireless 54Mbps 802.11g to accommodate bandwidth-hogging video streams, whereas the DMP-1 uses 11Mbps 802.11b.
For the car, the $699 DMP-2 player will also use 802.11g. The DMP-2 will store audio, video and images, whereas the music-only DMP-1 uses 802.11b. The new model will also kick up the removable HDD's storage capacity to 60MB from 20MB. Both A/V systems will play DVD-quality MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DiVX and XVID video files.
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