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Docking Speakers Get iPad Capability, Projectors

11/22/2010 12:00:00 AM Eastern

NEW YORK — With retail-level dollar sales of iPoddocking speakers rising this year despite a weak economy, suppliers aren’t scaling back their focus on the market.

In fact, new suppliers have entered the market, including Bang & Olufsen, startup WowWee and Optoma, the latter two with the industry’s first models that incorporate pico projectors to display iPod-stored video on a wall or screen.

For its part, Tivoli Audio launched its first standalone dock for connection to audio and AV systems.

Many of the new models are among the first to dock with an iPad. They’re from Altec Lansing, Bang & Olufsen and WowWee.

The products are entering a marketplace in which retail-level sales of AC-only docks grew 2 percent in dollars and 7 percent in units for the January-October period, The NPD Group reports. Sales of AC/ DC models rose during that time by 5 percent in dollars and 9 percent in units.

With the market still presenting opportunity for newcomers, WowWee is entering the market with the $430 Cinemin-branded Slice. It ships in January with an embedded pico projector that folds out from the back to project images sized diagonally from 6 inches to 60 inches. The triangular-shaped 7.5- by 10- by 7.5-inch device features side-firing six-watt speakers; HDMI and VGA outputs for connection to displays; and various A/V inputs to connect laptops, handheld game players and some smartphones.

The 16:9 WVGA 854 by 480-pixel projector delivers a 1000:1 contrast ratio, 16 ANSI lumens of brightness and manual focus. It’s packaged with 3.5mm A/V-to-composite video cables.

Optoma’s docking speaker system/projector docks with iPods and iPhones is the $449-suggested Neo-i, shipping in December with 16:9 WVGA resolution, 50 ANSI lumens of brightness, and ability to project images up to 120 inches diagonally in size at native WVGA (854 by 480 pixels) resolution in 16:9 format.

The 16-watt Neo-i features bass-reflex stereo speakers and a range of inputs and outputs, including HDMI.

John Grodem, Optoma sales and marketing senior director, said the device is targeted first to consumers, particularly to youth, and then to business users.

For its part, Altec Lansing launched its first iPad-docking speaker system, available initially in Apple stores. The $149-suggested AC-only Octiv Stage features an iPad stand that rotates to present the iPad’s display in portrait and landscape modes. The stand also tilts all the way back to facilitate typing on its virtual QWERTY keyboard. Other iPad speakers systems rotate the iPad’s display, and others tilt the display back, but no others currently on the market rotate and tilt all the way back to facilitate typing, said product manager Steve Schlangen. Other models that tilt back don’t tilt flat, he noted.

The speaker system is certified for use with iPods and iPhones and accepts all iPods but the latest iPod Nano, which features an integrated clip on back that prevents docking.

The base features back-panel 3.5mm aux input and front IR receiver. The included IR remote controls play/pause, track up/down and volume as well as navigation of the iPad’s iTunes-synced music and videos. Consumers’, however, can’t launch the iPad’s iTunes app via the IR remote.

At the other end of the price spectrum, Bang & Olufsen entered the iPod/ iPhone-docking speaker market with a $999 model that also docks with iPads.

Other docking speaker systems at the high end include an iPad-docking SpeakerCraft system with CD player and FM tuner, a $599 model from Bowers & Wilkins, and a $599 model from Bose. The latter two lack CD and tuner.

B&O’s BeoSound 8 becomes available in November in Bang & Olufsen stores with aluminum chassis, included remote and choice of six grille colors. One version will feature a white back panel, and the other will feature a black back panel.

The one-piece tabletop system captures the digital PCM output of a docked Apple device. The system’s top-mounted dock comes with a back bracket to prop up a docked device. A three-position switch optimizes audio performance for wall mounting, corner placement on a flat surface, and freestanding placement on a flat surface. The system’s coneshaped speakers feature circular grilles that face forward and enclosures that taper back to a smaller diameter. The system’s frequency response is said to be 38Hz to 24,000Hz.

Other features include USB port to connect a computer and an auxiliary line input, which is used to connect other audio devices or an AirPort Express, which streams music wirelessly from a networked PC or Mac.

B&O will also offer a free app with access to 20 Internet radio stations and alarm clock functions for the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad. An upgraded app due in December at $19.99 will expand the number of Internet radio stations to more than 10,000, add a comprehensive music library browser, and have an alarm clock that delivers the chime of the company’s BeoTime alarm clock.

For people who want to connect an iPod or iPhone to an existing sound system, Tivoli Audio launched its first standalone iPod/iPhone dock/charging stand, which delivers music and video from Apple’s docked devices to any connected audio or video system, including Tivoli’s tabletop audio systems and radios.

Dubbed The Connector, the $125 dock is Apple-certified for use with iPods and iPhones. A supplied remote control operates both The Connector and most iPhone or iPod functions, the company said.

The Connector uses S-Video and composite-video outputs to play iPod/ iPhone-stored video through a connected TV. Its audio line outputs deliver audio from the docked devices to a stereo system or to a TV.

For use anywhere in the world, the device is packaged with a 100-240V universal external switching supply and power adapter plugs.

The stand comes in furniture-grade walnut or cherry, aluminum, black and multi-layer high-gloss white to match existing Tivoli Audio radios and audio systems.

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