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In 1997 when Seigfried Dattl took over Tab from his father (Also seigreid who had built up the company, it had just one product, the touchscreen game silverball. Nine years later, the Linz based company is solidly based with a much wider product range encompassing touchscreen, video jukeboxes, betting terminals and cabinet manufacturing.
“We always had the operation, of course,” said Dattl, “but in manufacturing terms we had just one product. Silverball was a very good product it was doing well all over Europe, but it was not a good policy for the company to be so dependent upon one item which provided 90 percent of our turnover.”
Silverball is now available as an upright, wall-mounted model and as a bartop game, with a number of updates to its software since those early days and remains a top-selling product in a number of jurisdictions. Some ambitious, high-level technologies have taken TAB into fresh areas, including digital pinball and latterly into the wall-mounted Misfire jukebox. This has been spectacularly successful both in its audio and video versions and the company has been able to announce that it now has downloading rights in the UK – Europe’s largest jukebox market.
“This was a significant development for us,” he said. “There are 30,000 jukeboxes in Britain and being able to offer our jukebox in either format Europe –wide and now in the UK too, should make us a major player in that sector.” Technologically, another advantage is that all of the TAB products are powered through the same PC platform, the ultra-reliable WXP embedded Windows which “gives all of the drivers.” Working on this technology, TAB continues to widen its product base. Dattl said that they’re two more developments close to completion- “both are going through technology checks now.” He would say no more about them except that they are “in the amusement industry.”
If those developments prove to have the same impact as the jukebox, then TAB will move on to a whole new stage in its progress. “The box has sold well in Canada and Mexico,” he said. “Germany has been good and over 200 have gone into Austria, which is good for a small market.” He said that performing right dues, although too high, are often used by operators as an excuse to shy away from the jukebox. ‘Where our digital box has been installed, however, it has consistently proved that it will take substantial sums. The jukebox is not overloaded with taxes and other costs. If it is properly hooked up to a system and the latest music is downloaded digitally when it remains a profitable coin-op proposition.
“We had two boxes on test with different German operators and they did so well that we asked them if we could use a testim0nial from them for the German trade press. They refused! They said that they did not want to alert their competitors to the value of the product. There is no reason why it should not have the same effect in Britain where Crown are the distributors or in Ireland where Super league handle the Maxfire.”
Available through the Silverball touchscreen unit as Silverball Max or as a stand-alone wall-mounted Maxfire, the TAB jukebox now has its video function to complete it’s offering of just about any combination of audio product which the operator may require. In TAB’s own Austrian operation there are 1,200 machines of which half are jukeboxes. they provide 67 percent of the operation’s turnover. “Five hundred are Silverball Max touchscreen combined with jukebox,” said Dattl, and there are another 100 Maxfire stand-alone products. The statistics say it all.”
But it isn’t all jukeboxes at TAB. The company continues to expand its interests in betting terminals, producing its own models and also building on behalf of other suppliers. TAB does not operate its own betting shops, which encourages operators to use its facilities to personalize equipment to their own styling and lively. It produces for ComBetCom, for Cashpoint. Global Draw and Abbey Entertainment. All of them work with TAB terminals using a TAB platform but adding their own software. High numbers are coming out of the TAB factories in the Linz area which helps to provide high quality at low unit cost.
“We operate betting terminals ourselves in street locations,” said Dattl, “but we use software from our customers.” The company has worked hard at marketing its Champions Net, which offers networked games played by people from all over the world through any Silverball terminal and the internet via www.championsnet.
Accessed through OTM, Champions Net is free at its first level, followed by OTS (Online Terminal Service) and OVP (Online Version Plus). This medium will put in front of players online tournaments, games and software updates, the mp3 shop, and premium games exclusively for OTM. Registered players are kept up to date on what is happening and for the operator online tournaments can add substantially to earnings. The updates are automatically installed into terminals and the operator even has the opportunity to create his own tournaments.
The Silverball product is not forgotten in all these new development at TAB. The original touchscreen game is still produced, but with a much higher technological specification and in a number of physical formats and cabinet styling. The company continues to back the product with regular free updates which can be downloaded over the internet by customers and in the provision of internet tournaments.
The constant updating of its own products leads to regular revisions of its marketing, handled by Dattl’s sister Elisabeth Puehringer, who is a familiar visitor to a number of European trade shows. “We have a new website as well,” said Puehringer. “www.tab . at offer offers a new online shop for spare parts which means that operators do not have to try to explain what they want down a phone line- they can actually see the part on the website and can pick up its name or part number from the image which makes the whole process much easier.”
“We intend to open a string of these locations,” said Elisabeth Puehringer, “probably on a franchise basis, across Austria and there is no reason why the principle should not be exported across borders. The branding is popular and is highly dependent upon hitting the right combination of games, amusement and activities for the people in the locality who will form the customer-base. It is a neat calculation and part of the package we will provide will be the correct balance.”
The other big news from TAB is its development into fresh areas of operating. The company has set up three adult entertainment centers which also offer family entertainment. Orange Box is the brand name, complemented by rich orange colour schemes and three of the centers are now operating, all in the Linz area of Upper Austria. The first experimental site was opened two years ago, covering 300sq.m and the second more recently of 400sq,m. But the biggest has just opened at Lenaupark, Linz, and covers a huge 2,500sq.m. Inside there are 14 lanes of Brunswick tenpin bowling, 12 Brunswick American pool tables, a 60ft bar running down the center, restaurant area, half-a-dozen electronic darts games, an amusement arcade, a sectioned –off betting terminals rooms, indoor golf cage and other facilities. On a Tuesday evening the location – on the first floor of shopping complex – was buzzing with activity, mostly younger adults. The center does cater for families as well, however and they tend to use the location at weekends, reported the company.
The progress of TAB is based upon some highly - intelligence engineering skills matched with quality products and an adventurous spirit which means that the company knows no bounds to its activities. From a one-product business nine years ago, the present management and its team have taken TAB up to whole new level