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The fledgling category of portable mobile video systems, also called "video-in-a-bag," is growing rapidly with suppliers expanding their current product offerings and new suppliers entering the market.
Beginning this fall, Rosen Products expects to offer its first portable video system and Audiovox expects to increase its model line by fivefold this.
In addition, suppliers are rapidly adding DVD versions of their portable car VCP systems, with Steel Horse planning a DVD portable system to sell in the $399- to $499-range this fall. Two of Audiovox's new portable systems will incorporate DVD, said Tom Malone, senior VP for the mobile electronics group. Rosen Products also said it expects to have a DVD version of its new Traveler portable system in the future.
According to NPD Intelect, of Port Washington, N.Y., portable mobile video system sales, dominated by Audiovox and Steel Horse to date, reached 19,147 units for the first half this year, compared to sales of only 1,699 units for the first half of last year. More than 90 percent of this year's sales were through electronics/ appliance chains, although mass merchants are expected to get deeper into the category once prices for the systems fall below the current $300 mark, said NPD consumer electronics director Jim Hirschberg.
"It's actually one of the most surprising parts of the market. The growth is much, much higher than we anticipated and the sales are growing at a faster pace than traditional mobile video. Even chains like Toys 'R' Us are carrying the product, and they are doing promotions offering the system with different video titles, and they are selling extremely well," Malone said. "The major chains are advertising the product so they are educating the consumer, so for Audiovox, we see it as a strong area for next year," he added.
Rosen Products' new Traveler portable system is designed to rest on a seat and is seat-belted in for security. "It's like a car seat. You throw your seatbelt around it. It does take up a passenger seat but it offers a better viewing angle and we looked at it from the point of view of safety," said Scott Coleman, marketing communications manager.
The Traveler includes a portable cassette player with built in 5.6-inch LCD screen and speakers. It has an auxiliary game input and optional headphones. The Traveler measures approximately 12 inches wide by 20 inches deep, and weighs 16 pounds. It has a DC adapter to plug into a car lighter plug and is currently shipping at a suggested price of $499.95. Rosen said it is presently speaking with three major chains about carrying the product.
Audiovox's new video-in-a-bag units lead with the VBP-2000, a VCP system with a five-inch screen with a suggested retail price of $349. The step-up model VBP-3000 comes with two removable screens so two users can each rest a screen on his or her lap and play back video from two separate sources. The VBP-3000 will have a suggested retail price of $599.
Next in the lineup are two DVD products. The new DV 9000 is a floor console designed to sit between the seats of a mini- or full-sized van. It has a 9-inch CRT screen with built-in DVD player at a suggested retail price of $499.
A second DVD model is the MVDPG. It is a console with a DVD player with built in screen (either 5 inches or 6.8 inches; Audiovox had not made a final decision on the screen sized at press time). It will have a slot for a video game unit and it will also include an inverter to power the game unit. The MVDPG is expected to carry a suggested retail price of $599.
All the new Audiovox products plug into a car's cigarette lighter and all include inputs for optional video game consoles and headphones. Audiovox said its current VBP-1000 video-in-a-bag system with four-inch screen will remain in the line at $299.