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iPod-Docking Speaker Systems On The Rise


Sales of iPod/-iPhone docking speaker
systems held up well in 2010 and will only get better
in 2011, suppliers said, thanks to an improving economy,
rising demand for iPad-docking speaker systems,
and the rise of multi-iPod households.

Demand in general for active tabletop speakers
systems, iPod-docking or not, will also get a lift from
the growing availability of powered tabletop speaker
systems that connect wirelessly to Bluetooth sources
and, via Wi-Fi, to AirPlay-enabled PCs and to Apple’s
handheld devices, suppliers also said.

Here at International CES, dealers will find new
wireless-connected speaker systems as well as iPodand
iPad-docking speaker systems.

Companies launching their first iPad speakers
systems include Audiovox’s RCA and Acoustics Research
brands, Haier and iLive. For its part, Alco is
launching RCA-brand three-piece music systems with
iPad docks. The iPad systems join the models recently
launched by Altec Lansing, Bang & Olufsen, Speaker-
Craft, Spectra’s Jensen brand and iHome.

Conventioneers will also find a growing selection
of iPad speaker systems with rotating dock to display
iPads in portrait or landscape mode. They’re from
Audiovox’s Acoustic Research brand Haier, and iLive,
joining a model from Alec Lansing.

High-end one-piece iPod/iPhone speaker systems,
priced up to $599 from Philips and $399 from Edifier,
will also appear, joining current $599 models
from SpeakerCraft, Bowers & Wilkins and Bose, and
B&O’s $999 iPad-docking model.

New tabletop speaker systems that lack docks but
stream wireless music sources include a Bluetooth
speaker system from Altec Lansing and an iHome system
with Apple AirPlay technology to stream music via
Wi-Fi from a PC’s iTunes application and from iPhones,
iPads and iPod Touches via a home’s Wi-Fi network.

While the Christmas selling season was still in high
gear, Altec Lansing president Vicki Marion forecast
that 2010’s docking-speaker sales would end “with
mid-single-digit gains in unit sales and low positive
revenue based on modest ASP declines.” Although
unit sales of iPods “have modestly declined, more
households are multiple-device owners than ever,
making the need and desire for docking stations still
strong,” she said. “As this trend continues, we expect
2011 to be an even better year as the slow march back
to economic health continues.”

Kirk Lamb, sales and marketing VP, Spectra Merchandising,
also forecast stepped-up docking-speaker
sales in 2011. “The docking category has certainly
matured, but it remains healthy, and I actually believe
that sales in the category will be more robust in 2011
than in 2010,” he said. In addition, he said, “with so
many iPads in consumers’ hands, it’s a certainty that
we will see an increase in demand for
docking speaker systems.”

iPad-docking products “that allow
for a comfortable and easy interactive
experience with the iPad should prove
to be winners in this emerging category,”
he noted, given that “recent studies
have shown that consumers are mostly
using their iPads for surfing the web,
doing email and also playing games.”

With such use cases in mind, Spectra
and iLive have introduced iPaddocking
speakers that enable the iPad
screen to tilt back for easy video viewing.
In the case of a new Haier model, the iPad screen tilts all the way back to accommodate typing on the
iPad’s virtual keypad.

Bluetooth and AirPlay will also boost sales of active
tabletop speaker systems, suppliers said. “We
will also see more wireless speakers that connect via
Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and proprietary wireless methods,
some that support Apple’s new AirPlay initiative and/
or DLNA and other networking methods,” said Altec’s
Marion. “Consumers clearly like the idea of moving
their content around. Bluetooth in general will grow in
importance both as a follow-me feature as well as allowing
touchscreen devices to remain “in hand” where
they are usually wanted.”

The rise of these products, however, shouldn’t
have a major impact on docking-speaker sales, she
said. “Consumers need a ‘home’ for their devices
to charge and to comfortably view
video, which suggests the continued
need for good docking platforms.”
As a result, she continued, “we
anticipate some category overlap
as some devices will be more network-
centric than iPod- or dockingcentric,
while others may focus on
Bluetooth for more universality with
the emerging tablet and smartphone
products almost universally deploying