Last week I headed over to a fancy hotel suite in San Francisco to check out Philips' new line of Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad speaker docs. Yup, "Made for iPad." Believe it.
Whether or not the world really needs another line of Apple Certified (TM) Made for iPxxxx (TM) accessories is open to debate. But business is all about filling perceived gaps in markets, and with a couple million iPads sold already, there's clearly some sort of market for accessories. Especially since Apple seems to have gone ahead and launched one of their, "Pay us a licensing fee or else your iPod-compatible gear will trigger an iPad nag screen" campaigns.
Philips has a bunch of audio gear currently available under their "Fidelio" line, and it was all on display for me to see and hear in the Spanish Suite last week. Most of the gear is "Made for" iPod and iPhone, including the new top of the line Fidelio Primo DS9000, which is a big, heavy, speaker dock that features a lovely sustainable wood cabinet and equally rich, full sound. Really, this thing sounds great for a speaker dock. As it should, considering that it weighs 17 pounds and sells for 500 bucks. Though I only got a few minutes to play with and listen to it, Primio looks to be a worthy competitor to top-end iPhone docks like the B&W Zeppelin.
I also kind of dug the DS1100 - aka "Glownut" - a donut shaped dock for the bedroom that features a softly illuminated, fully dimmable digital clock and a spring-loaded dock connector designed to accommodate all models of iPhones and iPod Touches as well as their various cases. The entire Fidelio line features that springed, levered dock connector, which is actually a very clever and quite handy feature: I've seen a fair handful of iPhone docks in my day, and too many of them either aren't sized to accommodate leaving your phone in its case, or rely on multiple plastic inserts ("universal dock" inserts) that are easy to lose and an annoyance if you want to use more than one phone/iPod in the same dock. Philips' system is simple, elegant, and works with a wide range of gear. Hopefully it'll prove to be durable, as well.
But the most interesting dock on display was the "Made for iPad" DS8550 dock slated to ship in September (see video below). This is basically a DS8500 upgraded to include stereo Bluetooth support, rechargeable batteries, and Made for iPad certification. What's interesting to me, honestly, is what the whole iPad certification thing will wind up meaning, since AD2P ("stereo Bluetooth") is a standard protocol and most AD2P compatible speaker systems seem to work with iPad just fine. Don't get me wrong, Philips' DS8550 is a nice dock: It's sleek, sounds good for its size, and offers a nice compromise between sound quality, design, and portability. But is the whole "Made for iPad" thing going to amount to much more than a way to get around the "Nag screen" that iPhone owners who use old iPod docks (like me) have gotten used to?