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Rio Brand Closes Doors 377

Posted by Zonk
from the ipod-wanted-for-questioning dept.
Castar writes "In a press release today, D&M Holdings announced the end of the Rio brand. Rio had a troubled history, but were responsible for the first mass-market MP3 players as well as more recent popular players such as the Rio Karma. This closing follows the sale of Rio's IP to Sigmatel, maker of chipsets for many audio players, including the iPod Shuffle." From the release: "The company's decision to exit the Rio business followed a determination that the mass-market portable digital audio player market was not a strong enough strategic fit with the company's core and profitable premium consumer electronics brands to warrant additional investment in the category. The original goal of strategic advantage with wholly-owned and branded portable client devices was reconsidered in the context of the costs required to effectively scale and compete in this sector, where competition has grown intense. D&M Holdings will now focus all its resources on the core Premium AV business and advanced content server products."
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Rio Brand Closes Doors

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  • AKA (Score:4, Funny)

    by hexghost (444585) on Friday August 26, 2005 @05:42PM (#13411492) Homepage
    We got pwn3d by the iPod.
    • Re:AKA (Score:2, Insightful)

      by vagrancy (907283)
      ....of course we got pw3nd by the iPod. Style, grace, and a helluva lot of features. Expensive, yes. Awesome, yes. Worth it? You bet your sweet (or unsweet) music collection.
    • Actually... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by default luser (529332) on Friday August 26, 2005 @06:33PM (#13411905) Journal
      It's more like this:

      Diamond Multimedia was on the road to recovery. Despite falling sales of modems, and the video card market crash after 3dfx started making their own boards (which also claimed Jazz, Hercules, Orchid and Canopus's US market, just to name a few), DMM had made smart moves into selling motherboards and, of course, the Rio.

      Then Diamond made the boneheaded decision to purchase S3. It was like they had done a complete 180...S3 was in serious trouble, and Diamond was in no position to bail them out.

      The Rio's successor was more of the same: just more built-in memory, no new features. As a result, they lost momentuum.

      Eventually, Diamond faltered under the wave of crap. S3 was sold off to VIA, and the audio division of Diamond became SonicBlue. Then ReplayTV sucked, and SonicBlue missed the boat on small hard drive mp3 players.

      So, you see the lovely lack of foundation SonicBlue has been trying to stand on. I wonder what they're going to dop now that they sell virtually nothing. Maybe sell off the name to some other company.

      Indicentally, I've noticed that the Diamond name has been revived recently, not a bad move for a distributer wanting to open a new market in the US.
  • "The company's decision to exit the Rio business followed a determination that the mass-market portable digital audio player market was not a strong enough strategic fit with the company's core and profitable premium consumer electronics brands to warrant additional investment in the category."

    Translation: We're sick of getting our ass kicked by the iPod. We give up.

    • No, the statement should just make clear the company was run by managers making bombastic statements nobody understands, and generally creating a lot of hot air. All the developers have probably left the company, leaving them no choice but selling the leftover code and finding a new job (again).
  • "We've closed because we weren't making any money out of it anymore"... meh.
  • by bigwavejas (678602) * on Friday August 26, 2005 @05:43PM (#13411499) Journal
    The company's decision to exit the Rio business followed a determination that the mass-market portable digital audio player market was not a strong enough strategic fit with the company's core and profitable premium consumer electronics brands to warrant additional investment in the category.

    Truth is, Apple simply crushed them with superior development, product and marketing. Apple also maintains a strong market share from the popularity of Podcasting (free advertising) and the Apple Music store. Not to mention a generation that embraces the Ipod and its culture, who can blame Rio for jumping ship?

    What they did offer was a nice alternative. I owned a Rio mp3 player and functionally it worked just fine, no qualms. In fact, I enjoyed having a unique player, rather than the trendy Ipod. The problem was Rio just didn't offer any compelling "stand-out" features and the pricing was on-par with Apple's Ipod selection (which gave buyers very little reason to migrate to a Rio player).

    • by radish (98371) on Friday August 26, 2005 @05:58PM (#13411646) Homepage
      The problem was Rio just didn't offer any compelling "stand-out" features
      They offered several features which were compelling to me (and not found in Apple products):

      Gapless playback
      FLAC support
      Vorbis support

      That's why I don't want an iPod at any price, and why I just ordered a spare Karma in case mine (now 18 months old) ever dies.
    • by PCM2 (4486) on Friday August 26, 2005 @06:09PM (#13411730) Homepage
      The problem was Rio just didn't offer any compelling "stand-out" features and the pricing was on-par with Apple's Ipod selection
      I think you've nailed it right there. We old geezers in the audience can remember the advent of another personal audio device, the Walkman. "Walkman" was a Sony brand name. For a while, most of the portable tape players sold were Sonys. But let's face it -- they were just tape players. Pretty soon people started using the word "Walkman" as a generic term to mean any kind of portable cassette player. A lot of other manufacturers were already producing cassette mechanisms and sticking them into a smaller form factor wasn't really rocket science.

      What's more, there just wasn't all that many ways a manufacturer could distinguish itself. It was hard to compete on long battery life when every device was expected to use AAs and you had those pesky DC motors to run. Sony got another run at it with "Mega Bass" but even that feature wasn't innovative enough for Sony to corner the market. Their "Sports" models were popular for a while, with the shiny yellow impact-proof plastics. Truthfully Sony probably remained a leader, if not the leader, throughout the whole Walkman phenomenon. But at the end of the day, if you were going to go out and buy a portable tape player today you probably wouldn't care if it was made by Sony or not, and you'd still probably call it a Walkman.

      But so now you have the MP3 player market and things aren't so simple. There are more formats to consider, more gizmos you can add on to take advantage of those little CPUs and big hard drives. I personally own an iRiver player, but I have to admit that Apple's iPod UI is way superior. Apple is pretty much kicking ass in this market, and it's doing it because it came up with a solid, innovative product to begin with and there hasn't been a single other feature anyone's come up with yet that can't be had from a stock iPod or a few add-on accessories.

      It's possible that other manufacturers could put together product lines that have most of the features and appeal of the iPod and force the prices in the market ever downward. At that point, maybe the term "iPod" would effectively become generic, as well. But right now Apple has a helluva lead and I haven't seen anything that I'd expect to give the iPod a serious run for its money.

      (Oh, the reasons I went with the iRiver were OGG support and the ability to record to either WAV or MP3, including optical line-in. But iRiver has disappointed me with some of its choices, particularly in the things it promised to deliver with firmware updates but never did, choosing instead to keep cooking up new product lines to try to catch up with Apple.)

    • by Castar (67188) on Friday August 26, 2005 @06:10PM (#13411738)
      The problem was Rio just didn't offer any compelling "stand-out" features and the pricing was on-par with Apple's Ipod selection (which gave buyers very little reason to migrate to a Rio player).

      The real problem is that they didn't advertise their compelling features. Marketing was Rio's gigantic failure. They had Ogg playback, Gapless (which no one has managed to even duplicate!), an ID3 database-based storage system, really long battery life, better EQ and sound quality, and a smaller form factor. (This is all on the Karma, BTW)

      Of course, they didn't TELL anyone about those features, so is it any wonder they failed?
    • The Carbon's built in mic - making it a small and convenient package for catching musical ideas, recording meetings, etc.

      I still love my carbon...
  • Why I didn't buy (Score:3, Informative)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Friday August 26, 2005 @05:43PM (#13411501) Homepage
    I didn't buy a Rio for one simple reason: No expandability. I couldn't add a larger memory card. So I got a little Kodak camera/mp3 player instead that could use compact flash.
    • I didn't buy a Rio for one simple reason: No expandability. I couldn't add a larger memory card. So I got a little Kodak camera/mp3 player instead that could use compact flash.

      Hmmm... I just added a 512Mb card to my Rio player. Most of the models I see listed show they are expandable.
    • Re:Why I didn't buy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pthisis (27352) on Friday August 26, 2005 @05:47PM (#13411551) Homepage Journal
      I bought my riocar empeg because of easy expandability. It's just a StrongArm running Linux, and I still haven't used the 2nd laptop drive bay (I have a single 40GB drive in there now).
    • Re:Why I didn't buy (Score:3, Informative)

      by merreborn (853723)
      Depends which model you're talking about. All of the original Rio PMP300-based models took smartmedia cards. I personally spent a good $300 on a 64MB PMP300SE with an additional 32MB smart media card. God, flash was expensive in '98 :( At any rate, I can't speak to the model you were looking at, but Rio did make expandable players.
      • I had one of them too.. Too bad it wouldnt take anything above a 32mb, when the price dropped...

        But ya, the parent poster is smoking something.
    • Re:Why I didn't buy (Score:3, Informative)

      by jnaujok (804613)
      Funny, my wife's RIO (something...mumble) took SD cards. It had 256MB built in, and then she could drop in a 1GB SD card and listen to 10-20 hours of audio. (Audio books at 56kbits don't take much space). And it was about 2.5 inches (that's 7CM) across.

      I always wanted to swipe it.
  • Personally, I'm a little dissappointed. I have a Rio S35S. It's no iPod, but it hasn't given me any trouble, battery usage is good, takes an SD card. Overall a quality product.
    • I had its baby brother the S30S as my first MP3 player, and you're also right it's no iPod. :-)

      I agree with you on the pros (battery life, expandability, etc...), but what really sold me on the iPod was the UI. iTunes is just so much easier to use than anything else. (IMHO of course). I started using iTunes and that got me to buy an iPod. Funny thing is I originally bought it to listen to audiobooks, but am now listening to more music than ever.

      The overall experience of iTunes and iPod convinced me to gi

  • Say what you might about non-ipod music players, but the Rio 600 was a reasonably good, affordable device... I still use mine for some offbeat audio applications - such as adding sound effects to Halloween costumes...
  • It would be a sad day, a grievous day, indeed a day of bitterness and infamy the likes of which music lovers around the world would remember and mourn for many years to come. It would be the day of darkness, the day of lamentations and gnashing of teeth, of rolling around in the dust and tearing out of the hairs upon our heads.

    It would be such a day if, that is, I knew who the hell Rio Brand was.

  • by JesseL (107722) on Friday August 26, 2005 @05:46PM (#13411541) Homepage Journal
    ...to ever fail miserably was the Rio Car. An in-dash computer for playing music, running linux on an ARM processor, with a hard drive, and ethernet - too bad it cost something like $600.
    • by Klaruz (734) on Friday August 26, 2005 @06:23PM (#13411835)
      It cost something like like $600 now... (well, i think they're like $400 or so now)

      They cost like $2000+ new and they were worth it. The iPod wasn't even a glimmer in steve's eye, and there's still NOTHING like it on the market yet. CDR mp3? ha! Plug in my ipod? bah. You can have my MkII carplayer when you pry it from my cold dead hands.
      • by dfghjk (711126) on Friday August 26, 2005 @06:47PM (#13411986)
        of course that was done by another company that rio bought out. empegcar I believe. Why that type of product hasn't succeeded I don't understand. Why iPod integration in cars is so crappy I don't understand either. Why the Kenwood Music Keg is so bad is hard to believe yet it is. Why can't we enjoy superior sound and usability in the car at this point?
        • by Klaruz (734) on Friday August 26, 2005 @06:59PM (#13412074)
          True, I should have mentioned that, but I wanted a short post. The guys who built it are very smart, I can still find them on the empeg bbs. The thing has a community around it that rivals other fanatical communities of dead products like the amiga.

          I realize some day I'll have to retire mine, I still brainstorm about what the perfect mp3 player for the car would be like, and it always looks something like an empeg.
  • One of the mantras I heard ad nauseum during the Dot Com era was that if you can get there first, you'll get mindshare, which will lead to marketshare, which will lead to market dominance. First-movers have been shot down enough times now that everyone should recognize that being first in a market is not enough, and it can actually be a hindrance.

    Your competitors get to watch what you're doing, learn from your mistakes, then jump in at the right time. I'm not saying that being first in a market is never a good strategy, but it's long past the time for the business development people out there to wake up and recognize that if you have a first to market strategy, you'd better have an excellent plan for capitalizing on the initial advantage.

  • Strategic Failure (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday August 26, 2005 @05:47PM (#13411550) Homepage Journal
    "not a strong enough strategic fit" == "we couldn't compete anymore"

    A press release means never having a reporter respond to your "I'm resigning for personal reasons, to spend more time with my family" with "Senator, what about the dead body they found in your bathroom?". Not that today's reporters ask Senators anything more than "where do I get the press release?".
  • by Jjeff1 (636051) on Friday August 26, 2005 @05:48PM (#13411555)
    I own an Empeg [empeg.com]. It's now several years old, but at the time, was the best tech out there for putting MP3s into a car. In fact it's still nothing to shake a stick at.

    But the empeg folks sold their outfit to rio and started working there. That was pretty much the end of the empeg. It was never really marketed by Rio, and the price never came down much. Rio pretty much let it die. It should have been a really popular product.
  • by amrust (686727) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `tsurcram'> on Friday August 26, 2005 @05:48PM (#13411559) Homepage
    if they could have just got that "Riocasting" thing off the ground.

  • Ok, enough of the Apple wins Rio loses comments. Anyone know if the Rio brand will still have support from anyone? Meaning if someone's Karma dies now...is there anyplace to send it?

    I was wavering between an iPod and a Karma not too long ago. The thing that made me choose Apple was the simple fact that about 60% of reviews of the Karma (on Amazon and other online review sites) were negative. People seemed to love the Karma for about 91 days...and the warranty runs out at 90 days. I read many reviews th
    • I've loved my Karma for over 18 months, and I just ordered another as a spare in case I break it. Fantastic piece of technology, and considerably more reliable than my GFs iPod which has had to be returned twice already.
    • Re:I wonder... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gogo Dodo (129808)
      It was noted in the press release: D&M Holdings will continue to support retailers and customers of its Rio brand through all final sale and post-sales activities, including customer service, repair, warranty and sales channel support. D&M Holdings is committed to continuing service levels without compromise.
    • Re:I wonder... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Bobartig (61456)
      I'd bet good money Rio and Apple are using the same HDD's for their players. If the drives are crapping out, its 99% drive MFR, or user's fault.

      Some people are astounded by the rate at which HDD based MP3 players crap out, but I'm not. When has it ever been the case that we went running, camping, road tripping with any kind of HDD strapped to our waist, and had the HDD accessed every couple minutes the entire time? They're just not up to the task yet. Either their failing a bunch, or their being broken a bu
      • I'd bet good money Rio and Apple are using the same HDD's for their players.

        You'd lose good money, too. Apple uses Toshiba drives, the Karma at least used a brand new, first generation Hitachi drive that gained a reputation for flakiness.
  • The sole reason I bought the Rio Karma was its ability to play OGG files; the open source alternative to Mp3 (and is arguabley a better codec than Mp3). When my Karma dies, what do I do with my 15 gigs of Oggs?
  • Remember that they were subject to one of the first music industry lawsuits relating to digital distribution? I found a summary here [morganfinnegan.com].

  • The company's decision to exit the Rio business followed a determination that the mass-market portable digital audio player market was not a strong enough strategic fit with the company's core and profitable premium consumer electronics brands to warrant additional investment in the category. The original goal of strategic advantage with wholly-owned and branded portable client devices was reconsidered in the context of the costs required to effectively scale and compete in this sector, where competition ha

  • Is D&M Holdings the remains of Diamond Multimedia or something else?
  • I've seen you on the beach and I've seen you on TV
    Two of a billion stars, it means so much to me -
    Like a birthday or a pretty view
    But then I'm sure that you know it's just for you.
  • by rikkards (98006)
    portable digital audio player market was not a strong enough strategic fit

    More like their audio players were pieces of shit.
    Wife had a Nike PSA before philips took over and it it was a lemon
  • They really only ever got it right once. The Rio Karma is the perfect music player and at the recent pricepoint of $180, it's exactly everything a music player should be. The problem was that they originally asked too much for it. I mean 20 Gigs of music for $500? That's ridiculous. But 20 gigs for $180, that's reasonable. I just got my Karma in May and I have to say I love even more than the iPod I had before. It does a perfect job of segueing from one track to the next with no blank hole like the i
  • Not Surprising (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GarfBond (565331) on Friday August 26, 2005 @06:23PM (#13411836)
    Between Rio's flagship MP3 player (Karma) having major reliability issues (eg hard drive, scroll wheel) and absolutely zero marketing (Rio has never run tv commercials or anything of the sort) I'm not surprised this happened. I own a Rio and while I love it, it's easy to see that switching owners three times set it back considerably and strapped it for resources, at a time when Apple's outclassing them in every visible way *and* has a giant marketing budget for the iPod.

    Farewell Rio. You made some great products, you made some poor ones, but I do love my partially-working Karma :) Seeing as how Denon is retaining the brand rights, they could very well attempt a comeback in the next decade or so when the market's matured considerably.
  • Anyone remember the Empeg? The linux based car mp3 player that Rio bought and renamed? That thing was pretty slick. I still see them on Ebay every once in a while.
  • I bought the very first RIO that they released and believe it or not, my wife still uses that old thing - LOL. It's waaaay obsolete now but she doesn't mind and it gets her through one hike (barely - its only 32MB!!). Now it's officially a collectible - sign of the times where a 5 year old device becomes a thing of the past...
  • by BlastM (663010) on Friday August 26, 2005 @06:45PM (#13411967) Homepage Journal
    In fact right now I'm listening to some FLAC-encoded music on my Rio Karma through my stereo.

    The Karma is a technical masterpiece. Any audiophile or Linux geek who doesn't own or yearn for a Karma is quite crazy.

    Reviewers and market analysts unvariably bestow the title of "iPod Killer" on a new DAP based on one or two big features. Maybe it's size, or maybe it's Ogg Vorbis playback that makes a player an iPod killer. In my opinion iPod Killer isn't a feature but an overall package. The iPod is exceptional in no particular area (except perhaps design). It is so successful because it is a solid overall package that performs everything at an acceptable level.

    The Rio Karma was the one player that, from a technical standpoint, I believed could be the iPod killer. (Of course, the marketing strength of Apple prevailed, which says a lot about the market). But technically the Karma defeated the iPod on all fronts. Ogg Vorbis and FLAC playback were the big ones, but it's the little things that really make you appreciate it as a player.

    Gapless: My Karma is getting long in the tooth, but there's nothing out there, even today, that comes close to the Karma technically. I couldn't ever go back to a player that doesn't have gapless playback (i.e. automatic elimination of the gap between subsequent MP3 files (inherrent to the MP3 format), and playing gapless Vorbis and FLAC files back gaplessly). None of the HDD players do this (if you know of one that does, please let me know! I want one!)

    97dB S:N RCA Line Out: The RCA ports on the dock provided an amazing sound on high-end equipment via the true line out. Using a 3.5mm->RCA adapter in the headphone port just isn't the same.

    100Mbps Ethernet port: Not having USB2.0 at the time I, and many others bought the Rio Karma, the ethernet port on the dock was a great way for not only uploading files quickly, but uploading them from a distance, e.g. with your Karma sitting in it's dock on the stereo or hooked up to your car stereo in the garage (using a laptop with wifi to bridge the connection).

    Java app: The Java app made uploading and managing music on Linux and MacOSX as well as Windows easy. A lot easier to download a Java app from the built-in web server than to pull out the install CD, run the install, reboot for every computer you want to upload files from (assuming it runs Windows).

    Embedded Web Server: OK this one isn't really crucial to the player (it's really cool to show off) but it sure is convenient for downloading the Java app to control the unit. The web server had a lot of unrealised potential (e.g. adding a web interface to control the player) but the Rio developers never added that, and now they never will.

    The Dock: The little marvel of a dock, included with all Karma's sold, was cool in its own right. Aesthetically it fits in with most stereo equipment better than the iPod and its dock. Not only does it have a 100Mb ethernet port, stereo RCA outputs, USB2.0 and power port, but it glows blue and flashes in time to the music!

    So to say the Karma was ahead of its time is not entirely accurate. The Karma's time never arrived.
  • by J. T. MacLeod (111094) on Friday August 26, 2005 @06:50PM (#13412005)
    If they sold their IP to the same company that produces the tech Apple is using, maybe Ogg playback and gapless playback will make it to the iPod?

    Here's hoping...
  • by rsmith-mac (639075) on Friday August 26, 2005 @11:01PM (#13413191)
    What truly makes this a sad occasion is that it marks the passing of the company/entity that's responsible for MP3 players being legal devices at all. When Diamond Multimedia released the Rio PMP300 in 1998(their first player and the first mass-market player), the RIAA sued claiming that such devices were illegal under the Audio Home Recording Act, which stated that digital recording devices(which were limited to DAT tapes at the time of writing, 1992) are subject to royalties(among other things) due to their ability to perfectly copy music, none of which Diamond was following.

    Largely speaking, it was the MP3 equivalent of the Betamax case, and the RIAA lost in 1999 [internetnews.com] after it was ruled that the PMP300 was an audio playback device and not a recording device, meaning it was allowed to exist as-was under fair use and the precedent of the Betamax case. Diamond/Rio may have never made the breakaway device that solidified the market like the iPod, but as they were willing to stand up to the RIAA and fight for user rights(and admittedly a nice profit), it's a shame to see the company finally wind down.

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