January 31, 2005 4:00 AM PST

Boom of the iPod add-ons

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a tactic for changing the graphics that the iPod displays at startup and when synching to a computer.

In general, Apple hasn't encouraged the development of software that runs on the iPod. It has not opened up the file system that runs on the iPod or created a platform for developers to write programs that run on the iPod. But from the product's early days, companies have found ways to work around that. Among the products available are electronic bibles and foreign-language translators that work from within the iPod's music-oriented interface.

Historically, much of the iPod accessory market has focused on a few key needs: chargers, cases, speakers and the FM transmitters that allow the iPod to play through a car stereo.

"When the number of iPod owners was smaller, you had to appeal to all of them to make (an accessory) make sense," Van Harlingen said.

That said, there was less competition in the early days--all a company had to do was offer a product, and buyers lined up. XtremeMac discovered that when it came out with an early iPod case at Macworld Expo in 2002. The company's booth was mobbed, quickly selling the 1,000 cases it had ordered ahead of the show.

"It was a crazy show," Bart recalled. "We had people lined up for four days, usually 30 or 40 people at a time."

That's no longer the situation, as more and more companies make basic products, turning them into something of a commodity.

"There's going to be a need for those, but not a lot of innovation there," said Andrew Green, vice president of marketing for accessory maker Digital Lifestyle Outfitters. Instead, many longtime market players are focused on taking the iPod to new places. One of DLO's popular recent introductions has been the $149 iBoom, which turns the iPod into a boom box, creating a far more portable option than is possible with most iPod speakers.

Though the first cases showed up just weeks after the iPod was introduced, the real boom in iPod accessories began in 2003, when Apple teamed up with Belkin to create several iPod accessories. Included in that first wave were a microphone for voice recordings, a digital-camera connector and a device that allowed iPod owners to transfer files stored on flash memory cards onto their portable music players.

Belkin sold the products, while Apple built the necessary support into an upgrade to the iPod's software. Such a close partnership with an outside company was fairly unheard of from the usually secretive Apple.

"That was really unusual for Apple," Van Harlingen said. "It was something that was needed at the time, that Apple felt the market needed, so they departed from their traditions."

The other big shift, which happened around the same time, was Apple's move to a standard dock connector that has been at the base of all iPods since. Apple designed the connector to work both with Apple's dock and serve as a gateway for all kinds of third-party accessories.

"There have been capabilities in that connector from day one that are just now being taken advantage of," Van Harlingen said.

It might have seemed like overkill when Apple first included the complex 30-pin connector on the iPod, but Van Harlingen said Apple simply had a broad vision for the product. The proprietary interface gives Apple some control over what's connected to its gear, while at the same time leaving plenty of room for innovation.

And while the iPod has certainly made millions for accessory makers, Van Harlingen said the large supply of add-ons has also helped Apple's player stay ahead of a widening array of competitors.

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5 comments

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I've Got an Idea for an iPod Add-On
As far as I know this does not exist yet... what about an iJacket where you can tuck your iPod into the sleeve and maybe even have some speakers in the jacket too, like the Gap Hoodio. They could make all kinds... leather, wool, wind or rain proof, all colors... the possibilities are endless.

Over 400 Accessories For the iPod... <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://allwaysmusic.modblog.com/" target="_newWindow">http://allwaysmusic.modblog.com/</a>

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Posted by (59 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sorry it's already out there
I have forgotten the companies name, but they make a jacket that those features and it has controls on one of the sleeves so you never have to take the ipod out the pocket except to charge it. There is another company that makes a jacket with photovoltaic cells in the back that will charge your devices. Now if the two got together...
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Link Flag
http://macminiconga.tblog.com/
Someone needs to get shuffle cases shipped to lower manhattan quick... I don't want anything fancy just a case, why does nobody have them? grrrr

Glad they gave Apple credit for the switch to a proprietary firewire interface, that really was a brilliant move on their part - we know existing accessories will keep ipods selling for the next few years if for some strange reason nothing else does...
Posted by (2 comments )
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video ipod glasses
There's a product called the i-Theater glasses. You hook them up to the video ipod and, instead of the little ipod screen, you watch the movie via the 2 lcd screens inside the glasses. No info about it on your site. Many online sellers for this product (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.i-glassesstore.com/i-theater.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.i-glassesstore.com/i-theater.html</a>).
Posted by delmundo2 (1 comment )
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iPod battery
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Posted by sunpowcn (1 comment )
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