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Apex Broadens Its Portfolio With First PMP, Cameras, DVR

6/22/2004 02:48:00 PM Eastern

Ontario, Calif. — Apex Digital is broadening its CE portfolio with the launch of its first portable media player (PMP), the rollout of its second generation of digital cameras, and an expansion of its portable DVD player line.

The company also added DVR capability and TV Guide EPG to its delayed ApeXtreme DVD player/game console, an industry-first device that uses embedded Windows XP to play PC games on a TV. It will be Apex’s first DVR-equipped product.

Shipments of the $499-suggested ApeXtreme, equipped with 40GB HDD, were pushed back to August from April because "it took more work than we expected," said president Steve Brothers. "PC gaming is very demanding."

In entering the PMP market, Apex will join only two other players, RCA and Archos, although more companies are expected to join later this year. Apex’s battery-powered MP-2000, due in July at an everyday $399 price tag, can be used to play video and music transferred from a PC or copied directly from a TV, DVR, VCR, DVD player or stereo system. The device stores audio and video on a 1.8-inch 20GB HDD. Digital still images and video can be viewed on its 3.5-inch 320 by 260 color LCD screen. Audio can be heard through stereo headphones or the device’s single mono speaker.

People can use the device to view recorded video when they’re on the road, but they can also plug it into a TV to display video or still images on a friend’s TV. The device won’t play Macrovision-protected prerecorded video, but it is upgradable to support DRMs that authorized movie-download sites it might support in the future, Brothers said.

The 8.5-ounce device decodes audio in the MP3, WAV, unprotected-WMA and PCM formats; decodes video in the MPEG-4, DivX, motion JPEG and WMV9 formats; and displays JPEG, GIF, TIFF, and BMP digital-still images. Files can be transferred from a PC via USB connection. To copy directly from the analog outputs of home electronics products, the device features built-in MP3 audio and MPEG-4 video encoders.

Other features include the ability to encode and store 640 by 480 video for playback on connected TVs. The 20GB HDD stores up to 40 hours of MPEG-4 video at 640 by 480 and 80 hours of WMV at 640 by 480. The consumer-removable 2200-milliamp lithium-ion battery delivers 12 hours of music playing time or four hours of video. The device also doubles as a voice recorder and portable data-storage drive.

In July, Apex plans an RF adapter that will stream the PMP’s music through a home or car stereo system at a possible $39.95, said Brothers. In 2005, Apex plans PMPs with higher screen sizes and HDD capacity, said national sales manager David Ficken.

In digital cameras, Apex completed the rollout of five new models, having shipped three SKUs in the first quarter and the other two in June. All are positioned as the market’s price leaders at select feature levels with availability in quantity and without sacrificing quality, said Ficken. Four models offer resolutions ranging from 1 to 4-megapixels; a fifth is a binocular/camera with 2.1-megapixel resolution. All feature built-in flash, USB port and SD memory-card slot.

One camera is a $29.99 suggested retail price 1-megapixel camera in a clamshell package. It lacks LCD viewer. Distribution targets include automotive chains, truck stops, drug chains and warehouse clubs. A second model, the 3-megapixel DSC-3000, retails for $79.99 and is "the first three-megapixel camera significantly under $100," said Ficken. Competing models start at $99, he said. It features a 4x digital zoom.

The 3-megapixel DSC-3500Z features a 3x optical zoom at $129, $20 less than other models with these features, he continued. The 4-megapixel DSC-4500Z features 3x optical zoom at $179, $20 less than competing models. The BC-2100 binocular/camera features 10 by 25 optics, 8x optical zoom, and 2.1-megapixel resolution at an everyday $99.99. Price leaders in this market, in contrast, start at $199 for a two-megapixel model, $99 for 1-megapixel models, and $59 for VGA quality, Ficken said. This model is targeted to familiar CE channels as well as to sporting-goods stores, drug stores and automotive chains.

Apex is targeting the volume segment of the digital camera market, Ficken said. "More than 50 percent of the market in units is in 3- to 4-megapixel cameras," Ficken said.

Next year, the company plans 5-megapixel cameras, he added.

In portable DVD players, the company is expanding its selection to four from two with the launch of two models with 7.1- and 8.4-inch color LCD displays. The $299-everyday PD-840 features an 8.4-inch screen, a new size for the company. It’s due in late summer. The 7-inch PD-710 ships in late July at an everyday $229. They join two carryover models: the 6.6-inch PD-660 at $190 and the 5-inch PD-500 is shipping at $149.

All new models feature playback of discs encoded with MP3, WMA, JPEG and Kodak Picture CD files.