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Accessory Makers In The Limelight At Retailvision

Orlando, Fla. – Accessory companies took the spotlight at the 2005 Spring Retailvision with several companies unveiling new products and show veterans displaying upgraded versions of models introduced at past shows.

Retailvision newcomer Soft Trading, a maker of high-end PC gaming accessories, introduced its first line of products for the U.S. market. The Danish company was shopping around glass, aluminum and plastic mouse pads designed for gamers along with combo headset/microphones. The company has organized the products into under two lines, the Icemat and Steel, with the former intended for mainstream consumer purchase and the latter for gamers or those people interested in high performance accessories, said Jacob Wolff-Petersen, Soft Trading’s founder.

As a promotional effort the company has been sponsoring gaming events and teams in Europe, where it has been selling these products for several years.

Another Retailvision rookie, Swissbit, exhibited a unique Swiss Army knife with an embedded USB flash memory drive. Like any Swiss Army knife the device has a variety of utensils plus one fold-out and removable USB drive, said Glenn Murray, the company’s national accounts manager. Swissbit has partnered with Swiss Army knife maker Victorinox to develop the product.

Victorinox will sell it through its normal channel, while Swissbit will go through PC and CE stores. The knifes will be available starting in June in capacities ranging from 128MB to 1GB with prices ranging from $49 to $199.

PC components manufacturer Antec showed a bevy of new products for the do-it-yourself market. These included a new casing material made of two layers of aluminum sandwiching a plastic layer. This type of construction, according to Scott Richards, Antec’s worldwide vice president of sales and marketing, greatly reduces noise levels.

Antec also showed its third-generation Performance TX Series cases with integrated power supplies, one 120mm rear fan and two 80mm front fans. On the power-supply front Richards had the Smart Power 2.0 and True Power 2.0 along with the Phantom 500. The Phantom has a massive heat sink that allows the unit to operate without a fan for 80 percent to 90 percent of the time.

Netgear’s star product for the show was the RangeMax Wi-Fi system. It features seven internal antennas that can bounce signals off walls in order to extend the unit’s range. It started shipping in early April with the external router version carrying a $149 suggested retail price and the PC Card priced at $99. The company also highlighted its HomePlug networking-based Wall Plug Range Extenders. One plugs into an electrical socket and connects by Ethernet cable to the network’s router and the other can be plugged in a home’s dead area thus extending the reach of a Wi-Fi home network. It also started shipping this month with a $149 suggested retail price.

Sling Media took the wraps off the finalized industrial design for the Sling Box. The Sling Box was originally slated to ship during the first quarter, but technical issues are delaying the launch until August, said Richard Buchanan, marketing VP. The new ship date is quite firm, he said, as production has started on the device. The only change made to the Sling Box since its introduction is a software upgrade that allows for faster remote channel changing. The $249 suggested retail price mentioned last fall remains the same.

The Sling Box is a set-top device that hooks into a home network and a TV’s cable or satellite box. A small software application is then downloaded onto a notebook computer allowing the computer to access the home’s TV programming, both live and stored, from any Internet connection in the world.

Axentra brought its next generation Net Box home server to the show. It is about 50 percent smaller then the original version, which was introduced at Retailvision last fall, and much quieter said company representative Dominic LaLonde. With the new version the company dropped the built in router and lowered the price to $299, down $200. It will ship in September, along with the Net Box Media, $899, that will combine media server functionality with its regular server features. Axentra also reported it will ship a software package in June that can turn any PC into a server. It will carry a $199 suggested price tag.

For the surround sound market Xitel displayed a product that delivers 5.1-surround sound through two speakers. The Xitel products are based on SRS’ surround sound technology. The company has just started shipping two SKUs, one for gamers and one for general consumers, each carrying a $99 suggested retail price.