Software, CD-RW Led RetailVision Introductions

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Among the highlights at September's RetailVision, held in Chicago, Smart and Friendly expanded its CD-RW drive line with the introduction of a new battery-powered unit, and Net Gear showed off its new home networking kit. Details of these and other intros follow.

CD-RW: Chatsworth, Calif.-based Smart and Friendly showcased its line of CD-recorders and CD-re-writable products, including the CD Copy Rocket, a stand-alone 8x CD duplicator. According to president/CEO Perry Solomon, the duplicator copies 650MB CDs in only nine minutes and makes disc-to-disc copies.

Originally introduced last month at $1,500, the product is now bundled with Adaptec and Sonic Foundry software and has been re-priced to retail for $799. "We're creating a category," Solomon said.

Also from Smart and Friendly is the portable CD Pocket RW, an external 4x CD recorder featuring 4x CD-RW rewritability. Battery powered, the 1-pound unit can record six CDs on one charge, offers up to 20x playback, and carries a suggested retail of $599. Shipping was slated to begin in September.

Finally, the CD Rocket Mach 12, touted by Solomon as "the world's first 12x CD recorder," features 12x write, 4x rewrite and 32x playback, and can make a 650MB CD in six minutes. Set to ship this month, the Rocket Mach 12 carries an estimated street price of $499.

Home Networking:NetGear showed its upcoming Phoneline 10X consumer home-networking products that offer the fastest home-networking solution on the market, the company said. All Phoneline 10X products plug into the telephone jack and deliver networking at Ethernet speed or 10Mbps, 10 times faster than the home-networking products now on the market.

As with other home-networking products, Phoneline 10X allows home users to share files, peripherals and Internet accounts. The Phoneline 10X includes PCI and USB adapters, bridges and home gateways that network home computers without interfering with telephone service or requiring additional wiring.

The products operate on a different frequency than voice telephony, allowing users to make phone calls while using their PC network.

The Phoneline 10X PCI adapter cards will be available this month at a suggested retail price of less than $150. Other products, shipping in November, include the Phoneline 10X USB adapter at under $150, the Phoneline 10X network bridge at under $250, and Phoneline 10X home gateway at under $400.

Graphics Accelerator Cards:Aureal, a Fremont, Calif.-based audio imaging concern, came to RetailVision touting its new Vortex2 SuperQuad Digital PCI audio accelerator card, which creates 3D sound environments from a two-speaker PC.

Originally developed for the NASA Virtual Environment Workstation for use in its astronaut training programs, Aureal's A3D-brand card makes sounds appear to come from any direction -- left, right, front, back, top or bottom -- giving gamers a more realistic play experience and an advantage over their opponents.

According to retail products manager Roger Goh, the SuperQuad Digital PCI accelerates Aureal's new A3D 2.0, whose proprietary "wavetracing" technology includes Doppler, acoustic reflection, reverb and occlusion to render lifelike audio based upon the actual acoustics of a 3D environment.

A demonstration CD is available through the company's Web site, www.a3d.com, while the card and a three-game sampler, including Dragon, Heretic and Slave Zero, are shipping now at a $99 price point.

Cable Modems: Milipitas, Calif.-based Com21 said it's out of the starting gate "about one year early" with its DOXport 1010 cable modem, but is "laying the groundwork" for the time when the industry moves toward a DOCSIS standard and retail opportunities abound, explained Peggy Atwell, senior program manager.

The DOXport 1010 was created with the retail market in mind, given its target $199 price point, consumer packaging and consumer collateral. Nevertheless, "we'll sell direct to cable operators or to retail," Atwell said, depending on how the marketplace takes shape.

Among the DOXport's features, she said, is a packet accelerator chip that allows the modem to run at maximum speed without the performance limitations imposed by software-based packet filtering. A setup wizard is provided for easy installation.

The modem requires a minimum of 486/33MHz and 8MB of RAM in the attendant CPU and is enabled for Windows, Macintosh and UNIX operating systems.

Software:DataViz of Trumbull, Conn., presented its extensive line of software utilities. Topping the list of recent introductions were the Palm Organizer programs Desktop To Go 2.5 and Documents To Go 2.0.

According to channel marketing executive Andy Mercier, the former automatically synchronizes contacts, appointments, tasks and notes between a desktop and Palm Organizer, while also providing Outlook public folder synchronization, private record filtering options, alarm synchronization, priority phone number mapping, and options for handling multiple addresses.

Documents To Go allows users to easily view such desktop word-processing and spreadsheet files as Word and Excel on the Palm Organizer without having to format them beforehand. Files are simply dragged into the Documents To Go window, and the program automatically converts and optimizes the documents for Palm Organizer viewing.

Shipping March 1, the title carries a suggested retail of $39.95, while Desktop To Go, which is already on store shelves, sells for $49.99. Bundled together, the dual programs are priced to retail for $59.99, Mercier said.

Digital River, an Eden Prairie, Minn.-based resource for digital product delivery over the Internet, went to RetailVision to tout its new eBot subscription service, and left with a Best Product award for the Productivity/ Internet Software category.

The program, according to sales VP Jay Kerutis, is an "electronic robot" that sits on a subscriber's PC desktop and retrieves the latest software releases, patches and bug fixes from the Internet that are relevant to the subscriber's computer system. Then, by clicking a button on the onscreen player, subscribers can download their selected products and install them, with eBot managing the download process.

While more than 90% of the products eBot delivers are free, it also provides software offers such as new applications and upgrades, which consumers can purchase online, creating an entirely new revenue stream for publishers.

The utility was introduced last month and is available free at www.ebot.com, Kerutis said.

Made EZ Software, an Arlington, Va.-based publisher, showed its sports tutorial series at RetailVision. Targeted to consumers ages 12 and older, the multimedia software is available in football (licensed from the NFL), soccer, hockey and NASCAR racing versions, with golf, baseball and basketball titles set to follow.

According to account manger Brad Hulme, the software "helps people to better understand the games" through computer animation, narration and text, and features music soundtracks and an easy-to-use menu system.

Originally targeted to soccer moms and football widows, the line is a "fun, covert way of learning," Hulme said. The standard software package, in stores now, retails for $19.99, and a bundled sports pack featuring a Wilson football or official-size soccer ball is priced to hit a $29.99 price point.

Ulead Systems, a Torrence, Calif.-based developer of image and video editing and Web graphics tools, showcased its Face Factory software package.

The program allows users to create, animate and manipulate photo-realistic 3D heads from a front- and a side-view photo. The scanned photos are joined on the side of the head and blended before being placed over a wire frame, and can be rotated, enlarged, viewed from any angle, and subjected to 30 distortion effects, including Cube and Alien.

In addition, each transformation sequence can be saved into a filmstrip module to be animated. The animated face can then be saved as an AVI video file and integrated with other videos to form a new video project. The results can also be shared via e-mail or the Web.

Noted Ulead senior channel manager Kris Woods, "We're literally taking photo creativity to a whole new dimension, the third dimension."

Face Factory is in the marketplace carrying a $39.95 suggested retail price, although a $25 mail-in rebate is being offered in conjunction with the purchase of the company's Photo Express Platinum 2000 image editor.

VtechSoft of Tustin, Calif., came to RetailVision with a host of children's educational software programs in tow, including Uncle Albert's Magical Album, a kids' adventure game that also teaches users about insects and animals.

A top-selling title in Europe, the game uses "object-oriented programming" to deliver its lessons about wildlife in what marketing director Joanna Skrdlant described as "edutainment." Aimed to ages 9 and older, the title began shipping in September and carries a suggested retail price of $29.95 and a street price of $24.95.

Also available is Keep It Under Wraps, a personal journal and scrapbook developed for pre-teen girls that allows users to keep password-protected diaries and address books that can be decorated with photos, stickers and text.

The title, which began shipping in September, can also be downloaded directly from Vtech at www.vtechsoft.com, a company first. The suggested retail is $24.99, and the street price is $19.95.

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