Apple-related products debut

For the first time, Apple-related products are being given their own stage at the International Consumer Electronics Show, which opened to robust crowds on Thursday.

CES, which runs today through Sunday, includes the iLounge, where nearly 100 exhibitors are displaying new and updated products for the iPhone, iPod and other Mac-related technologies.

CES is closed to the public.

Apple-related products in the past have been featured at the Macworld convention in San Francisco, which was scheduled at the same time as CES. But Apple Inc. ended its participation in the event last year, leading many Apple-related exhibitors to defect to CES. Apple is not participating in CES this year, nor has it in the past.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which produces CES, actively pursued many of the former Macworld exhibitors.

"We went after them when Apple pulled out," CEA Chief Executive Officer and President Gary Shapiro said. "We saw an opportunity to add to CES and we pursued it."

This year’s show has 300 new vendors, 100 of whom sell items for Apple products.

Henri Syvanen, director of sales for Japan-based Simplism, which develops accessories for iPhones and iPods, is happy with how things have worked out. In the past, he said, it was difficult for small companies to choose which show to attend.

"From the industry’s point of view, it is important to have only one show," Syvanen said. "A couple years ago it was a struggle because we needed to be here and there. Now, when Apple pulled out, we all decided to come here. It is absolutely better for us."

Syvanen is using his initial CES appearance to showcase a new product by Simplism: Fingerist, a guitar-shaped iPhone docking station that allows users to play guitar chords through a small amplifier.

The product is awaiting an Apple endorsement, which will allow Simplism to market the product with the famous Apple logo. The item is expected to be available next month, Syvanen said, for an asking price of $149.

Another novelty product garnering curious onlookers in the iLounge Thursday was TV Hat, by first-time CES exhibitor North Carolina-based SKM Industries.

The hat, which retails for $19.95, has a pouch at the end of the hat’s bill that holds an iPhone or similar video player so users can watch videos.

Some of the vendors on Thursday credited Jeremy Horwitz, editor-in-chief of industry trade online magazine iLounge.com, with bringing together many of the Apple-related exhibitors to CES.

"Everybody knew the Macworld show was going to go away," Horwitz said. "It was obvious that once Apple pulls out, the show dies. We saw this as an opportunity to take people who were about to be homeless and give them a new home."

Some companies that produce Apple-related products chose to focus on CES even before the demise of Macworld.

New Jersey-based SDI Technologies has been involved with CES since its inception in the late 1970s. When the company began developing speaker accessories and docking station clock radios for Apple-related music players in 2005, the company decided to continue to focus on CES and have a minimal presence at Macworld, said Evan Stein, SDI’s vice president of the marketing division.

"All the retailers come to CES. Not all the retailers went to Macworld," Stein said.

Stein said attending CES also gives companies like his a chance to reach a broader media base.

Horwitz agrees.

Even though Macworld was open to the public, CES provides companies an opportunity to reach four times the number of people from different media outlets and industry areas other than Apple-related vendors, he said.

"Some exhibitors really liked the opportunity to interface with the public, some of them really wanted to interface with the trade," Horwitz said. "They were constantly juggling which show to attend."

Dave DeLaney, marketing and social media coordinator for Apple-related accessory maker Griffin Technology, said his company attended both shows last year, putting a real strain on its sales staff.

"We had some of our sales guys in San Francisco last year," DeLaney said. "Then they had to run down here very quickly. It was hard to balance both."

Despite Macworld’s decline, Apple continues to leak potential announcements to draw attention away from CES and its major competitor, Microsoft Corp., a large exhibitor at CES.

The latest buzz is that Apple will announce a tablet personal computer later this month.

"The thing about Microsoft is they announce stuff all the time," Horwitz said. "Some of it comes out, some of it is really impractical. They’ve been trying to make tablet PCs for, what, six years and people haven’t been buying them. There’s a lot of buzz and a lot of interest about how Apple is going to do it."

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

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