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Businesses The Almighty Buck

SONICblue Hits the Auction Block 214

Posted by michael
from the drowned-in-the-paper-sea dept.
turkeywrap writes "Looks like there's no hope for SONICblue, makers of ReplayTV and Rio MP3 players. An agreement with D&M holdings (parent company of audio equipment makers Denon) fell through, so now a bankruptcy court will hold an auction for both of the main business units, ReplayTV and Rio, on April 15. Glad I bought my tivo."
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SONICblue Hits the Auction Block

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  • I wish this had been posted yesterday. I was thinking of getting a ReplayTV instead of Tivo (I just heard it had more features). I guess this makes the choice easier though. :-(

    psxndc

    • Re:I wish... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jaegar (518423) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @08:56AM (#5643793)
      I wouldn't let this affect your descision too much. The Replay is still a quality piece of hardware that doesn't mess around with all the "user-friendly" features of a Tivo. Maybe I'm just of the mindset that if I want to record something, I will. I would rather not have the Tivo make an educated guess at my tastes.

      There's a few companies that are looking into purchasing Replay, one being D&M. All my experiences with them has been fine, and SonicBlue's customer support has always been a black spot on the Replays. The only problem the new owner may run into is the pending lawsuits over Commercial Advance (an awesome feature when it's working), but even if that ability has to be disabled, there's still a 30 second skip button on all the recent models.

      So, to make a long post, even longer. If I were you I'd take a hard look at both systems and figure out exactly what out of a PVR. Replay users are not going to lose service, and we tend to be a fanatical bunch. I have three myself.
      • Re:I wish... (Score:3, Informative)

        by spanky1 (635767)
        Maybe I'm just of the mindset that if I want to record something, I will. I would rather not have the Tivo make an educated guess at my tastes.

        Weird. That's just what I do with my TiVos. It's an old troll to use this against TiVos. If you don't like suggestions, turn them off. But suggestions will *never* waste hard drive space or be recorded instead of something you *chose* to have recorded. Bah.

        purchasing Replay, one being D&M ...

        Did you not even read the article synopsis?
      • Re:I wish... (Score:5, Informative)

        by deanj (519759) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @09:35AM (#5644042)
        I've had a ReplayTV since the very beginning, and I love it. When news of this bankruptcy hit, I bought a TiVo that same day.

        Unfortunately, the D&M deal fell through. It may be that D&M picks up the assets at auction later this month, but until the auction happens things are still up in the air. Until then, we just have the word of ReplayTV that the guides will last until the end of this month. After that, it's completely up in the air.

        That is, if we just stick with their service. I haven't done a single bit of hacking on my Replay, but I would imagine we'd be able to get some code written to get SOME sort of guide working.... does anyone have any idea if a project like that is underway?

        BTW, the 30 second skip feature has been there since the beginning. Love that feature. :-)

        Regarding TiVO, a couple of things:

        The TiVo only records on educated guesses using unused space on the device.

        It has USB ports for ethernet (and other stuff, I would guess..haven't looked into that too much) so program guides can be set through the net. This was a great thing for me, because I have one of the original ReplayTVs and didn't have an mods for Ethernet.

        The new 4.0 software upgrade will support wireless USB ethernet devices. The (cough) $99 HomeMedia option will allow streaming MP3s and pictures to be sent from your PC, and will allow sharing of programs between multiple TiVos in the house. The first upgrade costs $99, the upgrades for additional TiVos are $49 each.

        Anyway to the original poster, bottom line, if you can wait, just wait until this Replay thing sorts itself out. It'll only be a couple of more weeks. If ReplayTV survives, find a friend with one and check it out. Find a friend with a TiVo and check that out too.

        But whatever happens, get a PVR. These things are freakin' awesome.

        • Re:I wish... (Score:2, Interesting)

          Yes, the guide data protocol (RNP) has been reverse-engineered and people have been successful at retrieving guide data and setting the internal clock through some proxy tricks. Check the AVS Forum for more details. One caveat: no one is sure exactly how monthly-subscribed units (vs. lifetime) will end up reacting if/when SB's activation servers go offline. I'm sure someone will figure that out, but it is an open question for now.

          External guide data may actually be a boon for Replay users, the existing Rep
          • One caveat: no one is sure exactly how monthly-subscribed units (vs. lifetime) will end up reacting if/when SB's activation servers go offline. I'm sure someone will figure that out, but it is an open question for now.

            My educated guess is that if nobody is going to continue the service, existing ReplayTVs (and those that are still unsold) will be "locked open" so that at the very least the "manual record" function (standard timer recording as on a VCR) will still work, even without any authorization or gu

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @08:30AM (#5643691)
    Not being the U.S I have no idea, but does ReplayTV not operate on the same basis as Tivo E.g. you pay a subscription to recieve the programme data? If that's the case, what will happen to all the ReplayTV users? Would there be anyway to recieve data from an alternative source, or are they all S.O.L?
    • by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalker AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @08:40AM (#5643727) Journal
      Well the Tivo can be hacked to use an alternate provider as the Tivo runs linux at its core. While the replay doesn't and is much harder to hack. So I would assume they are SOL, but I'd be willing to bet that the service part will be auctioned off, and someone will buy it, but possibly not.
      • At the same time -there are external apps already available that let you get mpeg files off of your Intenet based replay (Model 4000 and up) and the Replay has the commercial autoskip which is the REAL advantage.

        If Replay goes away - what happens to the TV guide provision? Great.....
      • Well
        the Tivo can be hacked to use an alternate provider as the Tivo runs linux at its core.
        While the replay doesn't and is much harder to hack
        Sheesh man, don't you have any idea where you are? This is slashdot, for Pete's sake!
        --
    • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @08:50AM (#5643766)
      There are a number of billing services (e.g., CableData) in the US who routinely prepare various flavors of program schedule downloads and attendant metadata for the purpose of populating cable TV on-screen displays, billing systems, etc. The DBS providers (DirecTV et.al.) do their own collation. I gotta think this is a great opportunity for one of these shops to expand subscriber base substantially without adding much work.

      These companies have already whipped the toughest part -- establishing a regular system wherein the networks provide you with the info in a form you can manipulate -- so the rest should be gravy.
      • Well - they would have to buy the rights from Replay I would imagine. The replay's are hardcoded to specific addresses/phone numbers to get this info - along with a specific format.
        • Well - they would have to buy the rights from Replay I would imagine.

          I think the argument before was that if Replay goes out of business, then the format of the schedule data would be worthless, but "some dumb judge would say that it's actually worth something." Well, I think the parent poster correctly points out that it *is* worth something, to these other companies, and they would be willing to buy the rights to it.

          The replay's are hardcoded to specific addresses/phone numbers to get this info - alo
    • "Not being the U.S I have no idea, but does ReplayTV not operate on the same basis as Tivo E.g. you pay a subscription to recieve the programme data?"

      With TiVo, you either pay after the fact -- either a monthly subscription fee ($10/month) or a larger one-time fee that covers the lifetime of the unit ($250).

      With the ReplayTV units, the service is "free", but the retail price of the units are a few hundred dollars more expensive (or at least they were when I compared prices). So even though there's no e

      • "With the ReplayTV units, the service is "free", but the retail price of the units are a few hundred dollars more expensive (or at least they were when I compared prices). So even though there's no explicit subscription fee, you're essentially paying for the same thing as a TiVo with lifetime service. "

        Sorry your wrong...
        Both have the same payment options. Either a one time lifetime fee, or a monthly payment.

    • Original ReplayTVs, way back at the beginning, had a lifetime subscription built into the cost. Sometime after that, they went to a subscription model of about $10 (or so) a month, or you had the option to buy a "lifetime" subscription. What this did was allow them to lower the initial cost of the units to be more in-line with that TiVo did.

      I don't know of any other way to receive program data, so I think we ReplayTV owners will be SOL for program guides. It'll still function as a VCR like device...I th
  • TiVo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrpuffypants (444598) <{mrpuffypants} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @08:30AM (#5643692)
    As much as people speculate that TiVo is going under (about as much as the rumors that Apple will fail as well) they seem to be a company with well-defined goals and a good marketing plan.

    TiVo's now just as recognizable as "Xeroxing" a document, or buying some "Kleenex". Now that they've entered the lexicon for a large part of the world I think they will have tremendous staying power.

    Also, they've treaded lightly in regard to their new "Home media option," which allows people to share TV shows across a home network, and play pictures and music on their TiVo's. A careful use of copyright protection has, so far, kept them out of the legal wranglings that SonicBlue had to face the minute that every major media company in the world sued them after the ReplayTV product announcement.
    • Re:TiVo (Score:2, Informative)

      by banzai51 (140396)
      With Sonic Blue down, TIVO is next in the sights. Expect legal proceedings to begin within the next year.
      • Re:TiVo (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Erasmus Darwin (183180) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @09:08AM (#5643850)
        "With Sonic Blue down, TIVO is next in the sights."

        I have to disagree. There's a fairly clear delination between the features that got Sonic Blue in trouble (automatic commercial skip; sharing shows with people over the internet) and the features that TiVo supports. Furthermore, TiVo's been fairly careful about both partnering with networks (through such features as the TiVo Showcase, which allows networks to advertise specific special shows) and limiting the ability of people to pull TV recordings off the device (as it's enough of a hassle that you're probably better off just using a separate TV capture card in your PC).

        The most important thing is that what the TiVo does is generally no different (or even less powerful) than that of a VCR -- at least from the perspective of avoiding advertising and sharing shows. A VCR lets you timeshift programs and then fast-forward through the advertisements. Ditto for a TiVo. In contrast, ReplayTV let you make the commercials automatically disappear. A VCR lets you record a program and then pass that single copy on to friends. A TiVo doesn't even let you do that, though you can view that copy from anywhere in the house. In contrast, ReplayTV let you send out up to ~15(?) separate copies of the show while retaining the original.

        So overall, I think you fears are unfounded. TiVo just doesn't have the risky exposure that Sonic Blue had with the Replay units. Even the suit against Sonic Blue was on shaky legal ground, so TiVo should be sitting high and dry.

        (As a minor aside, I'd like to clarify my comparison between TiVo and a VCR above. Generally, when people refer to TiVo as a better version of a VCR, I have to correct them. TiVo is better than having a VCR, a couple dozen scrap tapes, a copy of TV Guide, and a trained monkey who knows how to change the tapes and record shows. It blows the entire VCR paradigm out of the water. However, with respect to the issues at hand -- avoiding commercials in television shows supported by advertising and the sharing shows with friends -- the VCR analogy is still fairly applicable.)

        • Your forgetting that TV execs have been recently getting their panties in a bind over "illegal time shifting" aka recording like we have always done. Plus, correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Tivo have a 30 second skip feature? Isn't Tivo going to introduce file sharing soon? Also remember that the TV industries arguements haven't been shot down yet in the courts, so all the same arguements they made against Replay will see the light of day against Tivo. Lastly, Tivo has been tolerent of hacking. Look for
          • "Plus, correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Tivo have a 30 second skip feature? Isn't Tivo going to introduce file sharing soon?"

            The 30 second skip is only available by a backdoor. Furthermore, the code to enable backdoors for the latest revision of the TiVo software is unknown -- thus enabling backdoors requires the user to actually login to the TiVo (over the serial port) and change the backdoor code to something that's known (as it's stored as an md5 hash that TiVo hackers were unable to brute-force).

    • Re:TiVo (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sylvester (98418) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @08:59AM (#5643807) Homepage
      TiVo's now just as recognizable as "Xeroxing" a document

      Yeah, right. 'cause my parents have heard of a TiVo.

      TiVo is absolutely nowhere *near* as recognizable as Xerox, which is probably still even less recognizable than Kleenex.

      Maybe, concievably, amongst 18-25 yo middle & upper class males you have 50% recognition of that term. Amongst the same group I bet you have 80% for Xerox and 90% for Kleenex.

      Admittedly I pulled those numbers out of the air, but you've got a twisted sense of reality if you think TiVo is as recognizable of a brand as Xerox and Kleenex.

      -Rob
      • I have to agree. The parent poster apparently doesn't associate much with non-geeks. The TIVO is still very unknown to the general public. What little marketing there has been hasn't been effective at all. I've even tried mentioning it to people, and they have no clue as to what I'm talking about.
      • Re:TiVo (Score:2, Informative)

        by Eustace Tilley (23991)
        google hits on "Xerox": 2,980,000

        google hits on "TiVo": 451,000

        google hits on "Kleenex": 164,000

        You lose
        • Re:TiVo (Score:3, Funny)

          by sylvester (98418)
          google hits on "Xerox": 2,980,000

          google hits on "TiVo": 451,000

          google hits on "Kleenex": 164,000


          google hits on "Bread": 5,470,000

          google hits on "Internet": 143,000,000

          Clearly more people eat internet than know what bread is.

        • Really, I would be interested to know.

          Fucking nerds.
    • Re:TiVo (Score:2, Informative)

      by wendyg (43303)
      AIUI, the company has said several times that if it fails it will open the TiVo boxes so they can be programmed etc. without the service.

      wg
  • What if... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Quixote (154172) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @08:30AM (#5643694) Homepage Journal
    Glad I bought my TiVo

    What if it was the other way around, and TiVO was going under? Obviously you wouldn't be too happy (of course), but the bigger question is: will SONICBlue release the specs of their service, so that others can now provide it ? Would TiVo release these specs if they were going under? Or will the bankruptcy court treat these as trade secrets, worth some monetary value to the creditors, and prevent the release?

    I'm just wondering what the future holds for such fee-based services, where the fees are taken upfront. Will the people who forked over the $300 (or whatever) for "lifetime service" be considered creditors too? Shouldn't they be?

    • The word from TiVo is that if they ever go bankrupt that they will send out a "unlock" signal to all of their boxes which will allow them to do DVR functions, obviously w/out service updates or guide info from TiVo.

      You could do things like pausing and rewinding live TV and setting manual recordings, but nothing like "Season Passes" would be avaliable.
      • The question however, is whether this is built into the service agreement with customers, or is just "their word." In bankruptcy court, the secured creditors would hardly let something of value like that simply slide out the door.
      • Re:What if... (Score:5, Informative)

        by MarkGriz (520778) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @09:44AM (#5644106)
        The TiVo hacking community would be quite capable of "unlocking" the box, or getting it to download alternate program guide information if it came to that. They have not so far because they have no desire to piss TiVo off, but would rather peacefully coexist. TiVo has been generally supportive of the hacking community and will probably continue to be, so long as no attempt is made to deprive them of their main source of revenue (subscriptions, not hardware). I'd venture to say that Tivo's support has probably gone a long way in helping promote their product.

        The TiVo community forum [tivocommunity.com] is a great resource for all thing TiVo. Having just got a Directv Tivo box (which is awesome, by the way), I intend to be spending alot of time there, learning as much as possible.
        • Yeah, that's a great website. Just to show you a measure of how open TiVo is with the community, they host that forum for free on their servers but still don't have a great deal of editorial control over what is posted there. If somebody breaks their NDA then stuff gets taken down usually, but that's about the extent of the control they have over the forums.

          Also, many TiVo staffers post there very frequently as conversations about TiVo and their policies arise on the forums.

          Overall, a very open community
    • Re:What if... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Zathrus (232140) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @08:44AM (#5643743) Homepage
      the bigger question is: will SONICBlue release the specs of their service, so that others can now provide it ? Would TiVo release these specs if they were going under? Or will the bankruptcy court treat these as trade secrets, worth some monetary value to the creditors, and prevent the release?

      TiVo stated once upon a time that they'd do this. Fat chance. A judge will certainly rule that this is information of value and prohibit any official release of information.

      That said, there are TiVo hackers that have figured it all out already, at least for Series1 boxes. The S2 boxes are locked down more tightly (although it's being cracked very, very slowly), so dunno about that yet. DirecTiVo's aren't even under the perview of TiVo anymore, so unless DirecTV went tits up you'd still have service on them.

      Will the people who forked over the $300 (or whatever) for "lifetime service" be considered creditors too? Shouldn't they be?

      They are considered creditors. Of the lowest class (which is pretty much where creditors are anyway in bankruptcy court). Most creditors are lucky to see ten cents on the dollar after bankruptcy court, so it may be that you'd get a few more months or weeks of service and that'd be it. Depends on how the judge rules... with the obvious issue that pissing off your customers is not a good way to get out of bankruptcy. Based on that I'd be surprised if any judge would invalidate the lifetime service option.

      Oh, you mean what happens if the company went really and truely bankrupt? And nobody bought the assets? Well, then you're still being treated like a creditor. And you're getting the same thing any other creditor in your situation would get - absolutely nothing. The various bits of IP may be sold off, but that doesn't mean you'll get access to any of it - including things like how to download scheduling data.

      I suggest you look into what happened to any one of the failed "Internet PC" companies to see what would happen to your hardware. Unless you hack it, you're going to wind up with a large doorstop.
      • Re:What if... (Score:5, Informative)

        by guacamolefoo (577448) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @09:54AM (#5644185) Homepage Journal
        Will the people who forked over the $300 (or whatever) for "lifetime service" be considered creditors too? Shouldn't they be?

        They are considered creditors.

        Correct so far.

        Of the lowest class (which is pretty much where creditors are anyway in bankruptcy court).

        Wrong. Creditors come ahead of the equity owners of the company. Unsecured creditors, which is what the customers essentially are, are in a poor position, but they do not have the last tit -- that is reserved for the lucky, lucky investors (i.e. the people whose money was just pissed away). You might know them as "shareholders" or "the rich" or "pension plans" or "your 401(k)" or "mutual funds".

        Most creditors are lucky to see ten cents on the dollar after bankruptcy court,

        Depends on the company and the type of creditor, but secured creditors can do quite well in bankruptcy. Sometimes, it is groups of creditors that force a company's hand and put a firm (or individual) through an involuntary bankruptcy. While you may feel thoroughly evil when you do such a thing (I did this once), it can really save a creditor's bacon to shut down a company rather than letting it flounder under a shitty business plan or under shitty management.

        so it may be that you'd get a few more months or weeks of service and that'd be it.

        Probably right. Two types of bankruptcy exist for businesses -- Chapter 11 (reorg) and Chapter 7 (liquidation). Chapter 7 is death city. Sell it all, pay creditors according to a plan that the bankruptcy trustee devises and that the bankrutcy judge approves. Chapter 11 lets the company convert debt into equity (usually) and it lets the company shitcan some contracts that it has, reaffirm others, and basically try to salvage the cashflow positive business segments while jettisoning the shit. This tends to help out customers, employees, and creditors. Some suppliers and customers and equity owners get killed, but the net disruptive effect to the economy is much reduced versus killing off the whole company in a liquidation.

        Depends on how the judge rules...

        And what the trustee's plan is. Ans what the creditor's committee comes up with.

        with the obvious issue that pissing off your customers is not a good way to get out of bankruptcy.

        Au contraire. If you can jettison certain contracts, including money-losing ones with customers (which means throwing some consumers overboard) you might actually save the rest of the business. This results in a more stable foundation for serving your other customers in profitable segments, and increasing their willingness to do business with you. Businesses don't want every customer, they only want profitable customers. My business fires clients all the time and I note significantly that we are nowhere near bankruptcy. Sonicblue can do that in bankruptcy and help themselves out tremendously. There may be some blowback, but it will fade. Plus, blowback beats the hell out of destroying the company to try to keep an unprofitable business segment afloat.

        Based on that I'd be surprised if any judge would invalidate the lifetime service option.

        It's really not up to the judge. It is up to the trustee. The "lifetime service option" is just a contract. Sonic Blue will be able to determine which contracts it wants to void and which it must honor. I bet they toss the replay tv business. Then, the "value" of those services becomes an unsecured debt that goes to the end of the creditor line. The judge will then rule on a plan for sonic blue that the trustee comes up with, subject to input from the creditors (and it is unlikely that the replay tv people will collectively or individually have much say). I doubt that the replay tv people will get much love under these circumstances.

        Don't get your hopes up -- you are likely looking at an unpleasant screwing and you won't even get a reach around. I'm not being a troll here, it's just that you need to be realistic about what is going to happen. Bankruptcy is not a place for rose-colored glasses.

        GF.

    • assets (IANAL) (Score:3, Informative)

      by asv108 (141455)
      I think the company and the courts would realize that the service specs are by far the most valuable asset of the company. There is no release of an asset in to the public domain when a company is in bankruptcy, it doesn't make any sense. When a company hits chapter 7 (Chapter 7 not 11), they enter a state of liquidation, from my understanding of liquidation the idea is to distribute the proceeds from the sale of assets fairly amongst the creditors who are owed money. I'm sure those creditors are not intere
  • What're your thoughts on why it REALLY went down? Price point for Replay? Difficult to hack? SONICblue's legal bills? People asking "What is a SONICblue??"
    • Re:What went wrong? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by spanky1 (635767) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @09:23AM (#5643946)
      The hackability of TiVo is certainly awesome, but I doubt that even 5% of TiVo users hack their system. The price between the two systems has always been comparable, so I doubt that was it either. It probably boils down to marketing and the legal battles.

      I'm glad TiVo is playing it safe and not implementing features that piss off the networks (automatic commercial skip, sharing of recorded shows, etc). The ReplayTV had some great features that TiVo lacked, but it got the networks on their bad side.

      In any case, I can already rip shows off of my TiVo and burn them easily to VCD or SVCD. The only real problem is my TiVo is WiFi-enabled so a 1 hour show takes like 3 hours to transfer. 100mbit would be better but I haven't run Cat5 all over the place.
    • by deanj (519759) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @09:47AM (#5644126)
      I've owned one from the beginning, and lived through the SonicBlue buyout of the original ReplayTV company. Their biggest problem was that they didn't go for a subscription for these things from the beginning. The "lifetime" subscription was built into the cost of the unit. This made the price point much higher than TiVo, and given the choice between the initial cost of a ReplayTV and a TiVo, people picked the TiVO. Nevermind that a lifetime subscription buyout for TiVo made it the same price as a ReplayTV... People didn't look at it that way.

      After they fixed that, the biggest problem was that they never got "mind share" (did I really use that phrase....shoot me now!) for the product the way TiVo did. Tell anyone about a ReplayTV, and they're more than likely to say "Oh, like a TiVo".
      I don't think I've ever seen a ReplayTV commercial in all the time I've owned one.

      They had been trying to OEM these things to other companies that do set-top boxes, but I think in the end, the companies decided to do it for themselves, rather than partner with SonicBlue.

      It's a great device....and fun while it lasted.
      • The name "ReplayTV" was a poor choice IMHO. Too many damn syllables. It hardly rolls of the tongue like Tivo does.
        I doubt that alone lead to their downfall but it certainly didn't help them in the brand recognition department.
  • Which business units are affected? all? SonicBlue makes pretty good mp3 CD players (not to mention the rest), so it's a bit of a shame if that goes down... though now I've got my iRiver iMP400 I can hardly complain :-)))

    Daniel
    • by ajlitt (19055)
      Funny thing is, SonicBlue never made any of their own MP3-CD players. The first few (100, 90, 250) were all rebadged Reigncom (the OEM for iRiver) models. The latter ones (150, 350) are made by some Chinese OEM (Starlite maybe?)
  • by dschuetz (10924) <slash AT david DOT dasnet DOT org> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @08:45AM (#5643746) Homepage
    I've got 5 Rio products -- 4 Rio Receivers and one Rio Riot. I love 'em all. They've still got the best features I've seen (the Riot's interface is still far beyond that of the iPod or any other HD portable I've seen). And the Receivers are finally selling at what I think is the ideal price point ($75-100, on eBay).

    Unfortunately, SonicBlue never really supported any of these products. They bought a fantastic HD-based car MP3 player (empeg), and promptly killed it off -- even as major manufacturers were starting to integrate MP3 playback into cd players (and now, finally, cd-changers).

    They started selling the Rio Receiver, but at too high a price point, and they never updated the software. And now, there are at least three other commercial MP3 receivers from "big companies" (onkyo, phillips, and motorola), but all of 'em are (get this) even MORE expensive than the Rio Reciever was. SonicBlue could have undercut the competition, released some software upgrades (there's a great open source movement on that front that they could have tapped into), and kicked major ass.

    All in all, it's been a disappointing ride for customers like me. I'm really glad that the Receiver is so open (people have re-written just about every part of it except the HomePNA kernel module). At this point, I think the best thing that could happen would be for the original empeg/receiver engineers to buy the car and home receivers back and open-source the hardware. Get a flourescent screen, better CPU (for high-rate Ogg decoding), and even cooler open-source client/server software.

    But probably some other company will buy the rights and bury them. :(
    • I remember when.. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rf0 (159958)
      I remeber buying for first Reo when it was made by Diamond Multimedia, along with the S3-Virge card. I loved it and still use it to this day. The interface was simple and worked well. Its sad to see the Reo story end like this

      Rus
    • They bought a fantastic HD-based car MP3 player (empeg), and promptly killed it off

      I was all set to buy an Empeg, until I saw a posting on their web site (before they were bought) that said the next version due out would have a PCMCIA slot. That meant I could throw an Orinoco card in there. That meant I could hack up some scripts which would let it rsync up to my main server at my house once I pulled into the driveway. That meant I would have paid double what they were asking.

      As soon as SonicBlue

  • ReplayTVs with lifetime subscriptions are still selling on ebay right now for $200+. Should I feel sorry for the people who don't know the news?
    Can ReplayTVs be programmed like a VCR to record like TIVO does? I guess it's not a total loss. On ebay however, they're being advertised as LIFETIME SUBSCRIPTION!
    • I seriously doubt that people with a lifetime service agreement are going to be left twisting in the wind. The new company that purchases the Replay line will pick up the lifetime service obligation for the sheer reason that it wouldn't want to alienate it's new user base. Plus, since SonicBlue allowed users to pay by the month with the release of the 45xx and 50xx series of Replays, there is a large percentage of the user base that is paying monthly. It's a decent revenue stream that is fairly steady fo
      • The new company that purchases the Replay line will pick up the lifetime service obligation for the sheer reason that it wouldn't want to alienate it's new user base.

        No, they don't care about pissing off their USER base. They care about pissing off their CUSTOMER base. If you paid SonicBlue for a lifetime subscription, then SonicBlue goes belly up, and sells thier customers off to someone else, the new company is only going to care about those people that will bring them in new revenue. A new company w

        • No, they don't care about pissing off their USER base. They care about pissing off their CUSTOMER base.

          Of course their main customers are likely to be people who have heard about how great a ReplayTV is from someone who owns one. If current owners are favourably disposed towards the new owner, then this makes them more likely to recommend their products. A happy user base leads to a large potential customer base. Oh, and don't forget that users may wish to buy upgrades, add-ons and even a second one fo

  • Don't forget GoVideo (Score:5, Informative)

    by aredubya74 (266988) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @09:01AM (#5643819)
    With the pending bankruptcy, this product might have been vaporware used to stoke investor interest. But man, do I wanna buy one:

    GoVideo® D2730 Networked DVD [sonicblue.com] - World's First Networked DVD Player!

    "The GoVideo Networked DVD Player is a high end, slim-line Progressive Scan DVD player, and is the first player of its kind to be able to stream video files through a wireless network to a consumer electronics component. The Networked DVD Player works with either a wired PCMCIA Ethernet Adapter (included) or an optional PCMCIA 802.11b Wireless Network Card. The D2730 can also stream MP3 and WMA audio files and JPEG image files, as well as MPEG1 and MPEG2 video files."

    Yes, I can roll my own (even stylishly, with a Shuttle XPC [shuttle.com]. Yes, I can do so with a cool Linux distro (can't remember the couple I've examined off the top of my head - anyone? Bueller?). But I sure as hell can't do it for $250, which was the SRP for this unit.
    • According to their latest press release, they're selling their GoVideo assets to Opta Systems.

      "In addition, SONICblue has entered into a definitive agreement with Opta Systems, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Carmco Investments, LLC, which is expected to acquire substantially all of the assets of SONICblue's GoVideo business unit for approximately $12.5 million. The terms of the sale of these business units will require the approval of the Bankruptcy Court."

      What's interesting is the fact that Opta/C

  • Yet, somehow.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by David_Bloom (578245) <slashdot@3lesson.org> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @09:04AM (#5643829) Homepage
    Yet, somehow, they managed to get RedHerring's "Top 100 Companies Most Likely to Change the World" award [sonicblue.com] (see left column on that link).

    They're just changing the world differently now, by their absense.

    SonicBlue invented many nifty products, including, obviously, the MP3 player (invented under its former name, Diamond), the audio set top box (they made the chipset in DELL's box), and many other innovations. They'll be missed.

  • Oregon is full. Demonstrating this: SONICblue, based out of the Portland-metro area city of Tigard, was a sizable employer here. If you're in Oregon and not born there, I'll take this opportunity to remind you that it's generally polite to leave when you're finished visiting out-of-state.
  • I want to replace my ReplayTV with an HD Tivo when they ship. I have one of the Panasonic Showstoppers. The thing that is a killer... with the hard drive update, my box would sell for $400 on eBay. However, if the service is discontinued... :( Oh well, price of technology... I don't know what I'll do if Replay cuts service before HD DirecTivo ships, I don't want to buy two DirecTivos... :(

    Now if DirecTV committed to HMO, maybe I would, so I could move the DirecTivo Series 2 to the bedroom when HD Tivo
  • Its sad to see yet another company goto the wall. I recently got my first PVR in the form of Sky+ and it has changed my viewing habits. i.e. I watch what I want when I want. The difference is that I'm basically having to pay a reoccuring fee to the TV provider rather than a 3rd party.

    This in itself does make me think that its the best solution as it does intergrate with Sky but I do pay for that privilige. For example TiVo's are no longer being solded in the UK so its a one horse race. What it does mean ho
  • Too Bad (Score:2, Informative)

    by ShishCoBob (516335)
    This is too bad. The Rio Volt is, IMO, by far the best mp3 cd player on the market. I bought one when they first came out and I still haven't seen one I like better. As far as I can remember it was the first one with a fair sized display on the front hat was back-lit. I can't remember any others at the time that did. It had the features that everything does now with ID3 tag display and so on. Since I bought mine they came out with the three different models of them. They were nicely constructed too. I've dr
  • by mik (10986) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @09:20AM (#5643914)
    It is highly likely (IMHO) that Replay will end up being purchased by D&M or a competitor - after all, there is both a significant installed base of users and a non-trivial revenue stream from subscriptions in addition to the IP of the DVR hardware. Heck, maybe even TIVO will bid.

    IANAL, but I would think that any purchaser of the replay business unit would be responsible for honoring existing service contracts, including those lifetime subscriptions. If the contracts are breached by replay (e.g. by the buyer or even by replay simply folding), then the owners of the abandoned subscriptions would be due damages and/or part of the auction proceeds.

    If the service is abandoned for any reason, it is pretty clear that the replay hacker community will no longer need to restrain themselves - people have been *very* supportive of replay and have tended to come down pretty hard on anyone looking to steal services. If we owners are abandoned, we'll be moving into reverse engineering mode bigtime!
    • IANAL, but I would think that any purchaser of the replay business unit would be responsible for honoring existing service contracts, including those lifetime subscriptions.

      Well, those lifetime subscriptions are a substantial liability, not an asset, and an obstacle to another company picking up the business unit as is. I suspect that the best that Replay TV owners can hope for is that somebody else will offer a replacement subscription service--at additional cost.

  • by smartin (942) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @09:33AM (#5644032)
    I love my Tivo and am happy to pay the Tivo company for my listings and updates, but if they go out of business i'm not to worried because the Tivo is an open system. My investment is resonably safe because there is a development/hacking community built up around the box and it will continue to work and be supported by the community. This illustrates an important reason to buy Linux based products from a consumers point of view. Many of these new devices are great but aren't guaranteed to survive. If you buy a device based on a closed technology, it will probably be useless if the vendor goes out of business, if you buy one based on an open technology, you at least have a chance of it still being useful. Cases in point are the Audrey and Rio Receiver.
    • The Audrey is quite hackable. You should check out this [linux-hacker.net] or this [audreyhacking.com]
    • Although the TiVo units are built around a PPC Linux kernel, it is not an open system. Everything that runs on top of the kernel (myworld, etc.) is not GPL and definitely not open.

      I like to compare TiVo to the Apple Macintosh. Both are closed systems with a very large user dev/hack community. The fact that they have an underlying open source base doesn't change anything.
    • I love my Tivo and am happy to pay the Tivo company for my listings and updates, but if they go out of business i'm not to worried because the Tivo is an open system.
      Actually, the Replay has been pretty well reverse-engineered. I think that even if the company goes belly up, enough is understood about the protocol for something to be hacked up to keep mine running
    • The Audrey is not an open system, and it is not based on Linux. It is based on Qnix, which is free for non-commercial use. The Audrey applications themselves are closed, and were developed by a third party (not 3COM). I am fairly certain that that at least the Address Book application uses GDBM [freshmeat.net], which is a GPL'd library (not LGPL) and as such they should have released the applications under GPL. There is (or was) an active Audrey hacking community, at http://www.audreyhacking.com [audreyhacking.com].

      Disclaimer: I have an
  • by szquirrel (140575) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @09:49AM (#5644138) Homepage
    Hey, what do you know. The same guy who piloted 3dfx down the toilet was at the helm when SonicBlue went tits up.

    Look, I understand that CEO is not an easy job, but how much accountability is this guy held to when investors are left holding the bag of his failures?
    • Wow! 3DFx was an impressive company with really good technology. I was a NVidia man my self but up until the end I debated the wisdom of my choice. 3DFx had sound technology, loyal customers, and some really powerful IP (their multi-chip rendering was by far the best.) It takes a real moron to run that strong of a company into the ground. It would seem from the outside that they could have backed off, sured things up and lived to see another day. I can't believe someone else hired him! What the hell a
    • Damnit, I liked 3dfx. I still run a Voodoo3 3000 AGP with 16mb of texture memory on my craptastic PC. It gets 20 FPS in 1024x768x16bit Quake 3. 3dfx technology powers my favorite arcade game - Hydro Thunder. Its death was unfortunate, as they had some great technology for their time (and some truely asinine leadership).

      Sadly, I never knew SonicBlue. Never wanted or bought any of their products.
    • Look, I understand that CEO is not an easy job, but how much accountability is this guy held to

      Your concern is entirely understandable, but all it does is to create a kind of professional scapegoat CEO who goes from dying company to dying company turning off the lights. This can be lucrative, because they get paid CEO salaries, but don't actually have to fulfill any company ambitions.

      Meanwhile, the person actually responsible walks off to a different executive job, obviously with a much more relaxing s

  • Interesting... (Score:4, Informative)

    by BigJimSlade (139096) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @09:56AM (#5644208) Homepage
    CostCo just started carrying the ReplayTV a couple weeks ago, which requires a subscription to its service. Wonder how many shoppers are going to get screwed by this one?
  • Mindset (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tgibbs (83782) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:11AM (#5644327)
    Maybe I'm just of the mindset that if I want to record something, I will. I would rather not have the Tivo make an educated guess at my tastes.

    I'm of the mindset that likes to have a choice. So if I want my TiVo to do this, I'll turn the feature on. If I don't want it to do it, I'll switch it off.

    • Re:Mindset (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MarkGriz (520778) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @11:37AM (#5644899)
      I agree. I've only had mine for a week and it's already recorded a few interesting things that I probably never would have seen otherwise.

      I've been careful to "thumbs up" on some manly programs, just so my Tivo doesn't think I'm gay ("not that there's anything wrong with that")
      • Yes, initially I was going to turn it off, but I was surprised at how good it was. It has definitely turned me on to a show or two. While I only occasionally watch the suggestions, most are at least things that I might watch. And it's a handy visual indicator of the amount of free space left on the HD.
  • by SuperQ (431)
    Of course, the Empeg design team is still working on software projects for Rio. We're all hoping the death of SonicBlue does good things for the Empeg.

    In another year or two, we could see another serious attempt at automotive mp3 players.
  • by The Lynxpro (657990) <lynxpro@noSPAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @11:59AM (#5645062)
    TiVo was smart enough to make themselves synonamous with PVR technology. They were smarter in the subscription based model from the get-go and that caused them to leapfrom ReplayTV. By the time SonicBlue purchased Replay, the game was already up. Did it make me mad that when TiVo launched Series2 they did not bundle it out of the box with USB 2.0, Firewire, or a built-in ethernet port? Yes. But I went ahead and purchased it because I enjoyed my old Series1 and I had a gut feeling Replay would tank. Sure, if you want broadband on a TiVo, you have to buy a USB-to-ethernet dongle (if you are going wired) and you also have to pay $99 for the Home Media Option if you want to stream MP3s or photos, program via the net, or share programs with other TiVo units in your home. Does that bite? Sure, but it is causing TiVo to become profitable and that adds extra to the value of the user experience since the company isn't going under. As a matter of fact, that counts for a whole lot.
  • by jbarr (2233) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @12:27PM (#5645305) Homepage
    ...this is very disturbing and disappointing. I own a modified model 2001, a stock 2020, and a new 5040, and these have been indespensible.

    Problem is that there is no way to set the clock or do manual recordings without Guide Data (unless you bought a Lifetime subscription on the 5000 series.) If the dial-up and Internet connections get shut down, these become bricks.

    I guess I could always get TiVo units, but ReplayTV has always been my system of choice.
  • And that's not all (Score:3, Informative)

    by whm (67844) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @02:18PM (#5646212)
    The ReplayTV and Rio products are what SonicBlue is perhaps more recently known for - but don't forget some of the huge companies of yesteryear that SonicBlue also gobbled up. For starters,

    Diamond Multimedia [diamondmm.com], who was once one of the larger producers of mainstream video cards,

    and S3 [s3.com], the unforgettable yet forgettable video chipset.

  • by djan (121552)
    TiVo --> VHS
    ReplayTV --> Beta

    We now know who won the PVR war.

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