twice connect
careers

iRiver Wading Into Branded Portable Market

4/29/2002 02:00:00 AM Eastern

iRiver, an OEM manufacturer of MP3-CD headphone portables to major CE suppliers in the United States and other countries, has begun marketing its first iRiver-branded portable audio products in the U.S. and will expand its branded selection to include portable video devices.

iRiver claims No. 1 worldwide unit share in MP3-CD portable manufacturing in 2000 and 2001 when its branded and OEM production is combined. In Korea, iRiver-branded MP3-CD portables have been available for two years and account for more than 60 percent of retail-level market share in MP3-CD portables there, the company said.

iRiver is a division of Reigncom, a privately held Korean company founded in January 1999, and is said to have generated $100 million in calendar-2001 revenues. About 65 percent came from the manufacturing of MP3-CD portables, according to iRiver America president John Kim. Reigncom also distributes chips in Korea, markets test equipment to measure the performance of optical-disc hardware, and develops software for optical data encoding, decoding, and servo control.

The company, which is preparing for a public offering in Korea, builds its portable audio products in its own factory near Shenzhen city in Guandong Province.

In the United States, the company began December shipments of its first branded product, the multicodec $199-suggested SlimX, said to be the thinnest MP3-CD portable on the market at 0.66-inches, or 44 percent thinner than other models.

The company's next products, said Kim and iRiver Korea president Joon Yang, include the following:

  • the ChromeX muticodec, codec-upgradable headphone-CD portable due late April at a suggested $99.

  • the $369-suggested iDP-100 headphone portable, which plays quarter-size write-once 500MB DataPlay discs. It's due June 15.

  • a flash-memory portable due September.

  • portable video late this year or early next. Products will include a portable DVD player and a DataPlay-enabled portable that plays MPEG4 videos, not just audio.

  • a 3-inch MP3-CD portable and a hard-drive portable in 2003.

Although the market size for 3-inch MP3-CD portables and hard-drive portables is small, said Joon, iRiver will offer them to fill out its line for retailers. The company's largest opportunity is MP3-CD portables, which retailers will push more aggressively than flash-memory portables this year, Kim noted.

Here's what iRiver had to say about the three products it has announced to date:

SlimX: The device plays CDs encoded with MP3, Windows Media Audio (WMA), and ASF files. ASF is the audio codec for Microsoft's Windows Media Video format.

The device's programmable processor with built-in flash memory permits upgrades to decode additional formats. To upgrade the device, consumers download a new decoding algorithm from iRiver, burn it to a disc, then play the disc in the portable. For now, iRiver is offering the AAC codec as an option.

Only SONICblue offers a codec-upgradable MP3-CD portable, Joon said. Other select manufacturers offer feature-upgradability but not codec-upgradability.

The SlimX is promoted as offering the longest battery life of current MP3-CD portables. It features conservatively rated 10-hour playback time on two internal rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. An external two-AA battery pack adds 13 more hours.

It's also said to offer the highest capacity anti-shock memory buffer of any MP3-CD portable: 64MB for storing 3 minutes of Redbook CD audio and 8 minutes of compressed 128kbps audio.

ChromeX: When it ships in late April, iRiver expects ChromeX to be the lowest priced multicodec CD portable on the market at a suggested $99. It will also be codec-upgradable. Included codecs are MP3, WMA, and ASF. An AAC upgrade will be available.

It's 1.2-inches-thick and features a 16MB anti-shock memory buffer to store 45 seconds of CD music or minutes of 128kbps compressed music.

It's conservatively rated to deliver 15 hours of playback time on two internal AA batteries. It comes with LCD-less remote and supports ID3 tags.DataPlay-enabled portable: The iDP-100, due June 15 at a suggested $369, is codec-upgradable through its USB port and is equipped with decoders for MP3, WMA, AAC, and Q Design's QDX. The latter is required by DataPlay. The iDP-100 ships with a DataPlay-developed DRM technology to copy-protect all files on prerecorded discs. At least one 500MB disc will be included in the price.Although the market size for 3-inch MP3-CD portables and hard-drive portables is small, said Joon, iRiver will offer them to fill out its line for retailers. The company's largest opportunity is MP3-CD portables, which retailers will push more aggressively than flash-memory portables this year, Kim noted.

Here's what iRiver had to say about the three products it has announced to date:

SlimX: The device plays CDs encoded with MP3, Windows Media Audio (WMA), and ASF files. ASF is the audio codec for Microsoft's Windows Media Video format.

The device's programmable processor with built-in flash memory permits upgrades to decode additional formats. To upgrade the device, consumers download a new decoding algorithm from iRiver, burn it to a disc, then play the disc in the portable. For now, iRiver is offering the AAC codec as an option.

Only SONICblue offers a codec-upgradable MP3-CD portable, Joon said. Other select manufacturers offer feature-upgradability but not codec-upgradability.

The SlimX is promoted as offering the longest battery life of current MP3-CD portables. It features conservatively rated 10-hour playback time on two internal rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. An external two-AA battery pack adds 13 more hours.

It's also said to offer the highest capacity anti-shock memory buffer of any MP3-CD portable: 64MB for storing 3 minutes of Redbook CD audio and 8 minutes of compressed 128kbps audio.

ChromeX: When it ships in late April, iRiver expects ChromeX to be the lowest priced multicodec CD portable on the market at a suggested $99. It will also be codec-upgradable. Included codecs are MP3, WMA, and ASF. An AAC upgrade will be available.

It's 1.2-inches-thick and features a 16MB anti-shock memory buffer to store 45 seconds of CD music or minutes of 128kbps compressed music.

It's conservatively rated to deliver 15 hours of playback time on two internal AA batteries. It comes with LCD-less remote and supports ID3 tags.

DataPlay-enabled portable: The iDP-100, due June 15 at a suggested $369, is codec-upgradable through its USB port and is equipped with decoders for MP3, WMA, AAC, and Q Design's QDX. The latter is required by DataPlay. The iDP-100 ships with a DataPlay-developed DRM technology to copy-protect all files on prerecorded discs. At least one 500MB disc will be included in the price.