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Profitable Products Abound At RetailVision

Many of the computer-related products displayed during RetailVision, held at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles earlier this month, have one thing in common: profitability. Most are peripherals, accessories and software that provide retailers profit opportunities in a very competitive category.

While some products are covered in our past issue (see p. 24), here is more coverage of computer-related items on display at the event.

PC Concepts will start shipping on July 1 a new keyboard with function keys that can be customized to launch the user to a specific website. In addition, PC Concepts can customize the keyboards for a retailer by setting one of the function keys to only link to the retailer’s e-commerce site. Pricing has not been set.

This summer the company will start shipping a miniature mouse designed for use with notebook computers or for children. The Lil’ Clik’r features a snap-on cap that enlarges it for adult use and is expected to cost between $14 and $20.

In June, software maker Casady & Greene (C&G) will start shipping the newest versions of its Spell Catcher and SoundJam MP. Spell Catcher 8 will carry a $39.95 suggested retail price, and SoundJam MP is about $49.95.

In addition, the company has introduced a promotional technique to draw customers to retailers by giving away a partial download of the titles. C&G hopes the partial downloads, which expire after 14 days, will inspire consumers to go to a store and purchase a full version of the software.

Monitor maker iBIZ is contemplating rolling out a branded line of LCD desktop monitors for the retail market. VP Mark Perkins said the first products would likely be a line of 15-inch LCDs, ranging in price from $899 to $1,499, with the higher-end models sporting such features as TV tuner cards.

iBIZ also showed its newest accessory: a small keyboard that can be used with handheld PCs and sells for $69.

Smart and Friendly unveiled a five-disc, stand-alone CD-RW drive, intended for CD duplicators, and an internal CD-RW device. The five-disc player is designed to speed up CD duping. It has a CD tray, holds the five CD-R discs in a magazine, and will ship in early May with a $999 suggested retail price.

The $199 CD SpeedWriter 32 with 4x write, 4x rewrite and 32x read speeds is now shipping. It comes with a 30-day trial version of software for MP3 encoding, and the customer can later buy a license for the full version. Pricing for the software was not released.

PowerPoint aficionados can now control their presentations via a PalmPilot device, thanks to a new application developed by Synergy Solutions. The software is downloaded onto the PalmPilot, which in turn is connected to the notebook via its hotsync port. The end user then controls the presentation with the PalmPilot’s stylus. The Synergy software allows the presenter to draw on the PDA’s display and have it appear in the presentation

The company is working on several new versions. One will use Bluetooth wireless networking technology that would enable wireless control of the presentation, while another would have the entire PowerPoint presentation located on the PalmPilot. The title is expected to ship in June with a $49 street price.

Internet service provider Weave Innovations is partnering with Kodak to offer the Story Box, a digital smart frame with a 6.4-inch LCD to display photos, as well as basic Internet news, weather and information updates.

The picture frame has a built-in modem and 8MB of RAM. When connected to a standard phone jack, the Story Box can automatically download photos sent from others for sharing, and it stores up to 36 images.

Weave is also partnering with a content provider to deliver an update on data, including traffic, weather, sport scores and stocks. The Story Box has a suggested retail price of $299 and will be distributed by Kodak.

MacMillan USA updated three titles, including Version 7.0 of Linux Mandrake, which allows users to dual-boot their systems and select which OS they wish to run at any time.The title comes with six CDs of content and has a suggested retail price of $29.95.

Also new from MacMillan is the MP3 Music Match Jukebox Deluxe 5.0, which adds the ability to convert MP3 files to Wav files for transfer to a CD-R drive. It also provides a list of more than 3,000 Internet radio stations around the world and allows users to create custom jewel-case inserts. Suggested retail price is $29.95.

AG Neovo is entering the retail market with several new flat-panel monitors. Shipping immediately are two 15-inch TFT LCD XGA models that come with UV filters to protect the screen. The monitors have a stylized design with a tilt-back base and is wall mountable. The products include the S-15 at $1,299, and the multimedia version with built-in speakers, USB and power adapter is $1,399.

Another model from AG Neovo, the E-Panel, is a 15-inch monitor with built-in voice-over IP that will ship at the end of the quarter at $1,599.

PowerOn Software is offering three updates to its line of Mac and PC software. Up-to-Date & Contact will add support for Palm OS handhelds, so contact lists from the desktop can be downloaded directly to a Palm device. The new version has a suggested retail price of $99.95.

Also updated is Now Planner for Windows and DiscLock, which offers one-click encryption and security for files and folders for the Mac. The update adds support for OS9 at $89.95.

San Francisco-based act2 Inc. USA went to RetailVision bearing its MacMP3 software package — which the company describes as an “all-in-one solution” for ripping, encoding, editing, playing and organizing MP3 files on a Macintosh

The package, which carries a suggested price of $80 and a street price of $50, was first introduced last September in Japan, where 36,000 units were sold out of an initial shipment of 40,000, the company said.

Like its forerunner, the English version consists of a digital audio encoder and an MP3, CD and Streaming Net Audio player.

The MacMP3 encoder takes audio tracks from music CDs or any other sound input, including voice, and converts and compresses them into MP3 files via true drag-and-drop action.

Digital River, the Eden Prairie, Minn.-based e-commerce service provider, was at the show talking up its new online purchase-order system and licensing configurator.

The online purchase-order system fully automates the setup of a PO system designed to make opening up a customer account, ordering on that account, and verifying credit in the account both fast and hassle-free.

The system accomplishes this by creating a streamlined two-step customer process that allows account creation/ verification and online ordering via the purchase order.

Digital River’s licensing configurator program is a flexible license management system that enables software publishers to provide standard or special pricing on a per account basis, the company said — resulting in smoother account supervision, greater commission-stream management and added customer convenience.

Along with the tailored account control pricing, the system’s volume licensing enables corporate customers to log in and place orders using a purchase order. The system then automatically verifies the customer’s credit and transmits the transaction data to either Digital River’s or the retail partner’s database for invoicing.

A standard site can be up and running in as few as seven days, Digital River said.

San Mateo, Calif.-based E-Stamp touted its Internet postage service that enables small office/home office customers to purchase, download and print postage directly from their PCs.

The purchased postage can be printed onto envelopes, labels or documents using standard laser or inkjet printers 24 hours a day, seven days a week without remaining connected to the Internet.

The company received approval for the product from the U.S. Postal Service last August, and has since been rolling its E-Stamp kit out nationally. The package, which includes software and an “electronic vault” pass-through device, carries a suggested retail of $49.99.

Luxent Development’s BIZweb, the San Clemente, Calif.-based software developer, debuted the 4.1 version of its e-Biz In A Box web design package.

According to marketing coordinator Laurie Brookman, the product is the only “all-in-one” web business solution designed to help users increase and manage their e-business while providing the flexibility to customize their sites.

Features of e-BIZweb 4.1 include Apple Macintosh OS compatibility; customer, order and in-ventory database management; integrated mailing list and newsletter distribution; and a private support chat screen for every e-Biz In A Box site.

The product carries a suggested retail price of $89 for the standard version and $169 for the deluxe software.

Pine Technology USA, the Fremont, Calif.-based computer components manufacturer, displayed its D’music portable MP3/audio CD player, which VP Brian Hamilton described as the first product of its kind to be brought to market.

D’music’s CD player plays back ordinary audio CDs as well as MP3 CDs, which, with more than 200 tracks, represent a more cost-efficient media.

MP3 memory costs about $1 a minute compared to .00005 cent on a CD,” Hamilton said, adding that his device also “mobilizes MP3. You don’t have to be connected to a PC to listen to 200 songs.”

D’music ships this month at a suggested retail of $299. Pine will also unveil a $99 MP3 player later this year.