iRiver Turns Focus on In-Dash MP3 Players

By Richard Menta 10/12/04

With all the hub-bub of the Apple iPod and the upcoming iPod Killers that it will go head-to-head against this holiday season, iRiver has announced that they will turn their attention to an area that offers huge promise for digital music appliances but is presently underserved - the car.

Not since the Rio Car have we heard much about this niche. It seems like a natural, a hard drive based-player that holds your entire record collection, leaving the car floor free of CD and cassette cases. One that pulls from the dash when you want to load a significant volume of songs and takes flash media when the user only wishes to transfer a few tunes.

The 256MB Rio Cali is available on Amazon

Yes, it seems like a natural and yet we have not seen many such products yet. The aformentioned Rio Car (originally the Empeg Car made by a British outfit later purchased by then Rio parent SonicBlue) and a Hungarian unit we reviewed a couple of years ago called the Dension Car are two of the very few examples. Most in-dash players today are simply CD players that read the MP3 format.

One can speculate why adoption has been slow with all the file traders, but this has left opportunity for others and iRiver is the next to address it.

Marilyn Chen, iRiver's CEO, made the announcement today that her company will develop in-dash players for the car. According to Chen, the units will "integrate an MP3 player, satellite radio and email functionalities on a single-chip solution".

iRiver has been one of the more successful competitors against the dominant iPod, carving out a modest slice of the overall market for digital music portables. Still, while the company has new products to go directly against iPod the decision to open into new markets is not only welcomed, but strategically sound now that digital music has gone main stream.

Chen did not say when the first models will appear or if the company is working with any automobile manufacturers to offer models to be installed on the assembly line. She did say that the company was moving to an OEM, OBM, ODM business model meaning they will supply players under other's brand names.

The company is also near completion of a new plant in China that will produce over 700,000 units per month when fully functioning.


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