Diamond Rio Buys Car MP3 Player Company.

By Richard Menta- 11/9/00

SonicBlue (formerly S3), maker of the Diamond Rio line of MP3 portable players has just added a new star to its roster. With the purchase of Empeg, a UK company that was the first to come to market with an in-dash MP3 player, S3 now has a line of MP3 automobile stereo systems to offer in the states.

The guts of the Empeg's unit are based on the Linux operating system and run on the ARM processor. The few critics able to test drive one of these players have hailed the companies technology. Despite the high praise, the Cambridge based company did not have the marketing muscle to fully develop the audience the company targeted them to.

The screen on the new Rio line of MP3 car stereos offer the ability to change screen colors for better viewing.

Running well over $1,000 US, only so many people can afford them. Right now, these units are either sold as toys for the well off or for commercial transportation services like buses, cabs, and even small aircraft.

SonicBlue offers the experience in mass production that can help lower the prices on these players as well as improve product branding (Empeg's products will be re-badged under the Rio name). Meanwhile, SonicBlue gets instant access to the dashboards of American consumers, a huge competitive advantage over traditional makers of car stereos who are yet to produce a product. Don't be surprised to find these units as an option in new Lincoln's or Mercedes next year.

Hugo Fiennes, Empeg's Technical Director said "The deal enables us to focus on what we're best at - developing cool products".

Empeg has been a partner of SonicBlue's for a while now, developing the code for the upcoming S3/Dell Rio Receiver. With a relationship already in place Empeg Commercial Director Steve Sanders said he expects the deal to be over and done with within two weeks' time.

The 20GB Rio Riot Jukebox can be ordered from Amazon

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