It’s not that Otter Products was ignoring business users. The Fort Collins mobile accessories company just took a closer look at the fragmented market following a management shakeup last spring. On Tuesday, it showcased some results of that examination and the resulting work during its first OtterBox uniVERSE B2B Summit.
The star of the show was the upcoming modular iPad case system, part of the uniVerse line that started with a modular iPhone case last year. The cases offer protection, but also have room for accessories that slide in to place. The company launched with eight accessory partners last year and now is working with 80.
“The fourth quarter last year was the best quarter we had in the company’s history,” said Jim Parke, Otter’s CEO. “The success of that gives us additional money to pump into the economy by expanding.”
That includes investing in a new business solutions group, which has its own designers and the autonomy to decide what products to make and who to partner with, Parke said. About 20 people work in the new division.
“B2B has always been part of our business. But right now, it’s about 2 percent of our revenues in the U.S.,” Parke said Tuesday during the B2B Summit at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. “…We expect that within the next five years, this will be in excess of 20 percent of the business throughout the world. There is so much opportunity here and the market is very fragmented in the business-to-business area.”
With 80 companies clamoring to be part of the uniVerse system, Otter apparently hit an opportunity nerve.
“We’ve been talking about something like this for two years, a modular design where you can drop it in, drop it out,” said Jason Wimp, TX Systems director of operations. “If you change phones, it’s still good for your next phone and you’re not left with obsolete technology.”
His company has a security module for iPads that requires users to identify who they are before they can access the device. Its main client is the U.S. Navy.
“There was one device that was the first one in the market approved by the government. But the problem with it is that the reader is built into the case. When you change phones, you have a $150 case you’re throwing away,” Wimp said. “And it wasn’t a ‘ruggedized’ case. It’s not a really good solution.”
Other accessories on display Tuesday included several mounting systems, cameras, extra storage, payment card readers, a laser measurement system from IkeGPS and a carbon monoxide monitor from Sparrow.
Many of the accessories can be used on their own but require the user to carry them separately or are permanently stuck on a case, which often prohibits use of several accessories by one device. In some designs accessories stick out too far from the device, risking breakage. The new uniVerse case has a universal flat slider that allow accessories to lie flat next to an iPad and connect wirelessly or unobtrusively to ports.
“With the strength of our brand and the trust consumers have in our products, this is a natural fit and an opportunity to make a difference,” Parke said.