Altec To Expand AC-Only Docking-Speaker Selection

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Milford, Pa. - Altec Lansing plans to expand its selection of AC-only docking-speaker systems so that sometime after a year from now, AC models will comprise the majority of the company's docking-speaker SKUs.

The company cited dealer and consumer trends for the shift.

The company also plans with a year's time to extend its AC-only portfolio to a suggested $399 from $149. The company's current top price point for a docking speaker is $299 for a boombox-style AC/DC model launched last year.

The company's current selection consists of three AC-only models and about 10 AC/DC models, said product manager Steve Schlangen, but the company's roadmap will put AC models at about 60 percent of its selection.

One major reason for the shift, Schlangen explained, is that in today's unsettled economic climate, "people are looking for products that are portable or stationary but not both." People interested in using a docking speaker only in stationary settings don't want to pay for rechargeable-battery technology that they won't use, he said.

This year, sales of AC-only models are growing at a faster pace than AC/DC models because "people want to spend their money wisely, so they go with AC models if that's all they need," Schlangen continued. He noted that most consumers buying new docking speakers models are replacing older models launched at a time when the selection of AC/DC models was broad.

Retailer interest in doing business with fewer brands is also driving Altec Lansing to diversify its docking-speaker portfolio, Schlangen also said.

That diversification will take the company to higher price points in AC-only models. Schlangen cited market shifts in which unit and dollar sales of docking speakers priced at $299 and up are rising, as are unit and dollar sales of models priced at $79 and less, perhaps because many earlier purchasers of lower quality AC/DC models want to step up audio quality.

The company's AC-only portfolio will carry the Octiv name, which was previously applied to the Octiv Air wireless iPod sound system that the company began promoting in early 2009. Its 80-watt one-piece speaker system incorporates FM radio and receives music wirelessly from an iPod docked in a wireless dock that can be placed in a more convenient location. It currently retails for a suggested $149, down from an original $399.

The next product in the Octiv series is the $59.95-suggested Octiv Mini, which will also be the company's first with free downloadable iPod Touch/iPhone app.

The Mini features a 4- by 4-inch angled chassis with single front-firing high-efficiency speaker and 2-watt Class D amp. An iPod or iPhone stands vertically on top. The speaker lacks control buttons, so consumers use all the controls on the docked iPod to select music and control volume. The dock itself needs no on/off button because the dock automatically senses when an iPod is docked. The dock automatically shuts itself off after two minutes on non-use.

The dock's downloadable app, the first but not the last app from Altec, provides dual-alarm clock functions, including snooze button and choice of waking to a song or alarm sound. It features digital time display. More bells and whistles are planned in an app upgrade due in weeks.

Schlangen noted that purchasers of AC-only models "are more affluent and more female" than AC/DC purchasers and that aesthetics and choice of materials will play an important role in Altec's planned AC-only products.


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