By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Multiple companies at International CES showed some of the first iPod speaker systems and stand-alone docks whose video outputs won't be blocked when docked with select current-generation iPods, which were introduced last September.
Earlier versions of iPod speaker systems and docks, in contrast, don't always pass video, music metadata or iPod menus from the new iPods to TV screens, supplier said. Video outputs have been included in a high percentage of iPod speaker systems priced at more than $129 and on select iPod docks, they noted.
Companies that unveiled iPod speaker systems capable of passing video from new iPods include Altec-Lansing, iLive, Wadia and Spectra under the licensed Jensen brand (see p. 42). An Altec model also enables video passthrough of iPhone-stored video. Late last year, Cambridge SoundWorks began shipping a model that displayed video from the new iPods.
The incompatibility of new iPods with the video outputs of older iPod speaker systems is caused by the new iPods' embedded authentication chip. One of multiple compatible authentication chips must be installed in new iPod speaker systems to make the systems' video outputs work. The chip isn't required in speaker systems or docks designed only to pass through iPod audio.
The chips were designed by Apple to thwart manufacturers that make unlicensed iPod speaker systems and accessories, thus helping help licensed suppliers and retailers maintain their margins, suppliers explained. In what could be an unintended consequence, however, the chips in the new iPods disable the video outputs of certain older generation speaker systems and docks that were properly licensed by their suppliers at the time and are already in many consumers' hands.
If a new iPod Classic or Nano is docked with a previous-generation speaker system, for example, the system's S-Video output will work, said a senior marketer with a major iPod-speaker-system supplier. But if the older speaker system or dock has only a composite-video output, the consumer is out of luck. That's because the newest iPods won't support any accessories' composite-video outputs, executives explained.
When a new iPhone or iPod touch is docked with a previous-generation speaker system or dock, the accessory's video outputs won't work at all, suppliers added.
Audio playback is unaffected by the authentication chip, so music stored on any generation iPod will play back through iPod speaker systems and docks of any generation, he said. An authentication chip has been used in Microsoft's Zune and Zune speaker systems from the start, the supplier said.
In new licensed speaker systems with video outputs, Apple requires the use of any one of separate classes of authentication chip, each offering different levels of capabilities.
When Apple launched its latest iPods, iPod accessory vendors and retailers were unaware that the models would disable the video outputs of select accessories already in their inventories for the crucial Christmas selling season and were nervous about selling accessories that were not fully compatible with the new iPods, the supplier noted.
Apple didn't comment.
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