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Published: Friday, 7/1/2005

Europeans to be able to dial up a sketch

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
The program lets users do
drawings similar to those that have been created for years on the famous toy. The program lets users do drawings similar to those that have been created for years on the famous toy.
IN-FUSIO Enlarge

A version of the Etch A Sketch, the venerable drawing toy owned by Ohio Art Co. of Bryan, soon will be available on cell phones in Europe.

In-Fusio, a French company that specializes in ring tones, games, and other services for cell phones, is providing the game to users of Orange UK, one of the largest cell phone services in Britain.

Jerry Kneipp, chief financial officer for Ohio Art, said the phone version of Etch A Sketch has been available on mobile phones in the United States for nearly 2 1/2 years. Subscribers of Verizon, Nextel, and Alltel can download the game for use on their phones.

The Etch A Sketch program enables users to do similar drawings as on the well-known toy.

It doesn't replace the look and feel of the real toy. But users push buttons on the phone's keypad and directional arrows to make drawings, which can be saved in the phone's memory chips.

On the In-Fusio version, a drawing can be erased by pressing the "0" key. When that occurs, the phone vibrates, the company said.

Said Mr. Kneipp of Ohio Art: "We license [Etch A Sketch] to another company who did all the work to set that up on the cell phone. Then we collect royalties for its use."

The toy, probably the best known product produced by the northwest Ohio toymaker, was adapted for use on cell phones in September, 2002 by a California company called Thumbworks Inc.

That firm was bought in January by In-Fusio, of Bordeaux, France. The buyer decided to offer Etch A Sketch and several other games to its clients.

In-Fusio also provides games and services to two other large European cell carriers and to China Mobile, a service in Hong Kong that has 220,000 subscribers.

Besides the United States and the United Kingdom, the game is available to cell users in Australia, Canada, India, Puerto Rico, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Columbia, and Nicaragua.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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