Upcoming iPad has Accessory-Makers Worried

TouchFire foundersThousands of entrepreneurs are banking on selling accessories for the
next iPad, which Apple is widely expected to unveil on Wednesday.

Pictured: TouchFire founders Brad Melmon (left) and Steve Isaac raised more than $200,000 on Kickstarter for their TouchFire concept.

The $2.3 billion market for iPad and iPhone
accessories is so robust that about 90% of owners buy at least one
add-on for their device, says Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray. Selling an accessory “is really a quick way to get rich for a lot of people,” he adds.

Products
range from cases and covers to portable keyboards and speakers and even
Square, a device for processing credit card payments. Square has more
than 1 million users and has processed more than $4 billion in
transactions.

Entrepreneurs Steve Isaac and Brad Melmon placed
an early bet on the next iPad. They came up with TouchFire, a rubber
overlay for the iPad, which gives the feel of a physical keyboard. The
ultraportable keyboard is just going into production after a year of
design and fundraising, and Isaac and Melmon hope the new iPad won’t
have a radically different shape.

“It’s incredibly tense right now,” Isaac says. “We think it is (compatible), but we don’t know.”

And
there already are iPad-compatible keyboards on the market. Kensington
and Logitech are among the many accessory makers who make keyboard-case
combos outfitted for iPads. They haven’t advertised specific units as of
yet for the next iPad.

Apple doesn’t share
new designs with vendors and partners before it makes its carefully
scripted and staged product introductions, such as the one Wednesday in
San Francisco.

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SOURCE: Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY