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Monday, May 6, 2013

Daily Report: Apple’s Grip on Accessories Is Slipping

For years, Apple’s clout in the electronics world could be gauged by how easy it was to bump into devices tailor-made for a connection to an iPhone or iPod, Nick Wingfield and Brian X. Chen write in The New York Times.

Hotels outfitted guest rooms with alarm clocks containing a telltale wedge of 30 tiny pins that could play music from Apple devices and charge their batteries. Retail stores were thick with sound docks and other speaker systems meant to work with Apple gadgets.

But Apple’s iron grip on the digital accessories in hotel rooms, store shelves and living rooms is starting to slip â€" potentially risking the royalties it earns from accessory makers and, more significant, giving Apple customers more freedom to switch to rival products. That could be an issue for a company whose stock has been shaken in recent months as investors worry that the iPhone business is slowing.

Jeremy Horwitz, editor in chief of iLounge, a Web site devoted to Apple accessories, said Apple’s aggressive control over accessories for its products drove many makers to more open means of connecting devices, which helped feed the success of mobile devices made by other companies.

“At some point Apple’s obsession with having control over everything that is associated with its products may wind up biting it,” Mr. Horwitz said.

The Bluetooth standard for wireless connections has allowed accessory makers to build products that can work with many kinds of devices because they no longer have to worry about a physical hook. Other phone makers like Samsung and tablet-computing device makers like Amazon have become strong alternatives in the eyes of shoppers.

And Apple itself provided an opening for competitors when it changed the way its phones connect to other devices, aggravating both its business partners and consumers.

Now accessory makers are eager, even obliged, to think beyond Apple.