THE champagne was flowing in Thornbury last week and there was music from an iPod.
Michael Roe and his Gecko Gear design company that two years ago began producing iPod accessories, were celebrating its greatest breakthrough — something small Australian companies seldom achieve — a distribution deal for its products in the US.
In Gecko's case the deal puts its iPod accessories on the shelves of the 6000 stores in the Radio Shack chain, one of the biggest electronics retailers in the US. Deals with other mass-market groups in the US and elsewhere are expected to follow.
Gecko is the latest player, and one of the few Australians, to enter the global eco-system that Apple launched five years ago with the introduction of the iPod.
"The iPod has created an entire new product category, an economy in its own right," Mr Roe said.
"The iPod accessory business is huge. My company has gone, almost overnight, from a little backdoor operation two years ago to a global player."
He pays tribute to distributor Powermove, of Thomastown, for getting his products into David Jones, Myer, Harvey Norman and Dick Smith stores.
As well as its signed deal in North America, Gecko has offers pending in Europe, much of Asia, South Africa and South America.
The already huge iPod accessory market is still growing. Rick Case, marketing director of Digital Lifestyle Outfitters , one of the big three US vendors, says his company has had 5000 per cent growth over the past three years.
DLO was founded five years ago by Jeff Grady, at the time an unemployed dotcom casualty. Last year it turned over $US83 million ($A107 million) from iPod accessories.
His first product, the iPod Action Jacket case, was designed on a home computer, launched with a prototype made for $US200, and still sells.
The iPod, the digital device that became much more than a music player, took the world by storm, turned the multibillion-dollar recorded music industry on its head, and is now advancing on Hollywood and the TV industry, has spawned an accessory market that last year turned over $US2 billion and is still growing at close to 40 per cent a year.
In the Christmas 2006 quarter, Apple sold a record 21 million iPods worth $US3.43 billion, about half the company's sales for the quarter. More than 80 million have been sold since 2001, to give the iPod more than 70 per cent of the global music player market.
But the iPod did not do it all on its own. Credit also goes to the accessory vendors who saw opportunity in the revolution iPod was causing.