A month before Apple Inc.’s iPad tablet computer is due to ship, accessory makers are already lining up cases, batteries and other products in the hopes of profiting off the device.
Since Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad last month, hardware makers such as Griffin Technology, Gelaskins Inc., Sanho Corp. and SDI Technologies Inc. have hurried to design chargers, sticker covers and other accoutrements.
“There are some things we’ve identified as no-brainers,” said Mark Rowan, president of case maker Griffin in Nashville, Tenn., which began drawing up designs for iPad cases and contacting manufacturers within hours of the iPad announcement. “We know people are going to want to protect the device.”
The moves show how an entire ecosystem of new hardware is ready to spring up around new Apple products. While Apple in recent years has spawned cottage industries of new software businesses—particularly around its iTunes App Store—the accessory business around its gadgets has also thrived and driven the growth of many third-party manufacturers. According to Piper Jaffray & Co. estimates iPod and iPhone accessory sales—including cases, headphones and chargers— totaled about $3.7 billion world-wide in 2009.
Accessory makers are hoping the iPad will help that market grow further. The device, which will come in models priced between $499 and $829, has a 9.7-inch screen, no keyboard, and a wireless Internet hookup. It is geared for navigating the Web, reading electronic books and running applications that are created by others.
Not all accessory makers are rushing out iPad-related devices. Some companies that make more expensive products are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Blue Microphones Inc., an Aurora, Ill., company that makes a $79 recording device for the iPod, said it was holding off for now. “If you’re making it for a product, you want to make sure there’s a market,” said Jonathan vonRentzell, a sales representative for Blue Microphones at the MacWorld trade conference earlier this month.
Some of the most compelling accessories will likely take longer as companies survey consumers about how they’re using the iPad. “It still remains to be seen what problems people are going to be solving with this device,” said Griffin’s Mr. Rowan.
For others, the race is on to come out with accessories as close as possible to Apple’s shipping date, which hasn’t yet been announced but is expected to be in late March. The rush comes as Mr. Jobs showed two key accessories for the iPad made by Apple—a case that can be used in a variety of positions, and a keyboard dock that lets people prop up their iPad and type with a regular-sized keyboard while charging the device.
Jamie Pichora, a founder of GelaSkins, the maker of the popular decorative sticker covers for iPods, iPhones, and Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle e-book readers, said it plans to “have as much as we can get done ahead of time” and will be prepared to have a template for a sticker cover ready within a couple of hours after they get hold of an actual iPad. Mr. Pichora said GelaSkin’s initial line of products for the device will be available “in a day on our Web site.”
External battery maker Sanho in Sunnyvale, Calif., also plans to have compatible products as early as April or May. And SDI Technologies, which makes audio speakers under the iHome brand, said it is developing iPad products that it will launch next January, which is typically a big month for accessories.
Some accessories makers began hyping their products almost immediately. At the Macworld conference just two weeks after the iPad was unveiled, companies were showing off cases similar to Apple’s. Turkish company Trexta Inc. had prototypes of a case that could be propped up on a table at an angle to make it easier to type.
Targus Group International Inc. in Anaheim, Calif., also created a case that can double as a stand. I, which mostly makes cases for Windows-based laptops but is trying to increase its Apple-related business,t plans to sell its iPad cases for $19.99 to $49.99.
“We started designing before the product was announced,” said Edelmo Garcia, a global products manager for the company, adding that Targus “guesstimated” the iPad’s size based on media reports. “There was only one-tenth of an inch difference on the thickness.”
Quote from online.wsj.com