BusinessWeek: Look out iPod? iRiver flash-memory players now at top of their class in the U.S.

“ReignCom’s iRiver models now account for a fifth of all flash-memory players sold in the U.S., according to market researcher NPD Group Inc… Its flash-memory players are now at the top of their class in the U.S. Look out, iPod? …Yes, Apple Computer Inc.’s iPod rules in the segment with hard drives, where prices range from $300 to $500. That’s twice the cost of most flash-memory players, but the hard-drive units can hold up to 40 times as much music — 10,000 or more songs. Not everyone wants so much capacity, however, and ReignCom has come out of nowhere to grab the top spot in sales of the less capacious flash-memory-based players. Worldwide, it sold 1.2 million last year. Revenues nearly tripled, to $193.3 million, in 2003, while profits jumped fivefold, to $36 million. Investors like the tune. Since listing in Seoul on Dec. 19, ReignCom shares have more than doubled, to $94,” Moon Ihlwan reports for BusinessWeek.

“Plenty of others are looking to get on the bandwagon. All the big Japanese consumer-electronics makers now offer players, as do Samsung and a host of smaller Korean rivals. Perhaps the biggest challenge, though, comes from Apple, which just introduced the iPod Mini. This $250 machine costs less than iRiver’s top flash players but holds about four times as much music on its hard drive. In response, ReignCom in June started rolling out a line of hard-drive-based players. Although the gadgets cost slightly less than iPods, they’re not as sleek, and iRiver sold just 73,000 of them last year. Now, ReignCom is one of five hardware makers working with Microsoft Corp. (MSFT ) to develop a handheld audio-video player capable of holding more than 100 hours of movies and thousands of songs. Sure, it’s another big bet, but ReignCom has wagered heavily before — and won,” Ihlwan reports.

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: “Look out, iPod?” Ihlwan answers her own question with, “Perhaps the biggest challenge, though, comes from Apple, which just introduced the iPod Mini. This $250 machine costs less than iRiver’s top flash players but holds about four times as much music on its hard drive. In response, ReignCom in June started rolling out a line of hard-drive-based players. Although the gadgets cost slightly less than iPods, they’re not as sleek, and iRiver sold just 73,000 of them last year.” This article is a study in how to integrate a popular word or two (such as “Apple” and “iPod,” for search engine purposes) into a story about a teeny company which is now forced into hitching its wagon to Microsoft. This miniscule company will supposedly now make hand-held video players (for which no market has been established), presumably to be laced with proprietary Microsoft DRM, because Apple is kicking its tiny collective ass off the map in the digital music player market.

41 Comments

  1. wait, 1.2 million units last year? wow!! oh wait…apple sold 700,000+ ipods last quarter alone!! and with the ipod mini poised to wipe out high end flash players, I’m betting on apple. for some reason these analysts never get the idea of what consumers really want, the ipod.

  2. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. iRiver holds the #2 and #4 in the MP3 player top five (#1, 3, and 5 spots being held by theiPod:-)) It offers some pretty neat features that the iPod doesn’t. like direct MP3 encoding, FM radio (you can record from the built in radio as well), as well as voice recording and EQ. All this fuctionality in a device smaller than a Bic cigarette lighter. It also works on a Mac. I almost bought one because, as songwriter by trade, having a voice recorder where I can dump the audio files directly into my Mac music program (Logic) is very handy.

    Of course, I’ll most likely get an iPod mini when the price comes down a bit and a mic is available for it, but the iRiver gadget is quite cool.

  3. Not only that, but count the 336,000 sold in Q3, and the 300,000 sold in Q2 (636,000 foor those who are keeping track), in ADDITION to the 733,00 iPods sold in Q4 (alone), and we’re talking about….

    nearly 1.4 (1.399) MILLION iPods sold in Q2-Q4 ALONE!!

    We’re talking CALENDAR Quarter, of course. NOT Fiscal Quarter.

  4. The iPod is not for everyone and nobody (including Apple) ever said it was. If you only want to pay $100, you’re going to probably get a cheap iRiver player with 64/128MB of capacity. However, if you want the best and are willing to pay $249-499, you can get an iPod or iPod mini with 4-40GB of capacity. You get what you pay for, just like with anything else in life. You can either go cheap or get the best if you’re willing to pay the price…

  5. Warning: Just because iPod has the lead now, doesn’t mean it will stay that way forever (think Apple’s slow decline into single digit market share)…

    iPod is cool, sleek, easy to use, and now even cuter, but it’s still missing a hell of a lot of features. Sure now it has voice recording, but that requires adding something to make it bigger, which isn’t very efficient. What about recording? FM radio? etc.?

    I love my iPod, but some of these things being integrated might help immensely. Just because the iPod is number one doesn’t mean that people who enjoy radio are going to go for it instead of something cheaper and with more features…

  6. Depending how the market share evolves within the next year Apple will no doubt sell a low cost player if the numbers support it. Adding features also should be in the cards later this year no doubt. The iPod mini shows that Apple isn’t standing still and plans to compete fiercely.

  7. The difference is, no other electronics company except maybe Sony has the cachet that Apple does with hipsters, computer geeks and musicians.

    When was the last time you saw a Dell Jukebox or Sony product being featured in music videos, and written about all over the place?!?

    Sure the iPod won’t last forever, what does? The point is, Apple again is leading the way. i think it frustrates other companies to no end what Apple does. They just totally end run the competition on innovation.

  8. Why do people keep saying they want an FM tuner in the iPod? If you have THOUSANDS of songs on your iPod, why the hell would you want to listen to the radio and put up with the mindless dribble of most of the DJs out there?

    The recording capability I can agree with. The hooks are there- it just needs an integrated microphone and a separate mic jack to be able to add a higher quality mic IF you so choose.

  9. The iRiver players are also now supporting Ogg Vorbis. Apple continues to refuse to support this open source patent-free format. Its sound quality is arguably better than the others at bitrates above 128. There are a lot of geeks and open source developers that refuse to buy the iPod because of its lack of support for Ogg Vorbis. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever why Apple has not included Ogg Vorbis support in the iPod. The code is available after all. Just drop it in the firmware and voila!

    Many people use more than one computer in their home. I use Macs and Linux. I’d like to be able to share my music between the two. And I won’t use MP3 because I think it sucks.

    And yes, I do own an iPod. A little more openness from Apple could go a long ways.

  10. General comments on the comments:
    1) Wow! Recording music from the radio! Oh, wait, I stopped doing that when I was 12, because it sucked. (And don’t try to sell the “digital recording” b.s., it’s still a sucky method.)
    2) If you need voice recording, chances are you already own something to handle that, right? If you absolutely need to a) cut your clutter; or b) have something new, there are options for recording to your ipod now or, if you don’t want to look like a tool in your business meetings just get a dedicated digital voice recorder.
    3) WTF is there to listen to on FM radio anyway? If you want that, buy the top 10 singles, make a 40 minute playlist for your iPod, and there you have it. Like AOR instead? Get your Steely Dan, Journey, Styx, Tom Sawyer (by Rush), Van Halen, and make a 40 minute playlist for that. Get the picture? Monkeys program radio.
    4) If you need all that other crap, get a laptop or one of those big-ass phones people are jabbering into (not that I can hear them with my iPod playing).
    Just my 2 cents.

  11. Don’t put anything into the iPod that can be added as an accessory. The iPod is about the purity of all your chosen music, organized your way, at any given time in any given location…in your pocket in the smallest size possible. That is the greatness of the product.

    If you want the other stuff…get an accessory.

  12. gzero belched out of his neck

    “Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.”

    Did, it sucks

    “iRiver holds the #2 and #4 in the MP3 player top five (#1, 3, and 5 spots being held by theiPod”

    Wow only two more to go!

    “It offers some pretty neat features that the iPod doesn’t. like direct MP3 encoding, FM radio (you can record from the built in radio as well), as well as voice recording and EQ.”

    Voice recording and EQ are availalbe on the iPod, recording MP3 from a LOUSY FM rip is for poor children. And yes once you build your music collection, you dont want to hear radio ever again.

    “All this fuctionality in a device smaller than a Bic cigarette lighter.”

    Easily crushed like one, misplaced like one and mistaken for one.

    “It also works on a Mac. I almost bought one because, as songwriter by trade, having a voice recorder where I can dump the audio files directly into my Mac music program (Logic) is very handy.”

    So you were thinking of a glorified tape recorder, until you started adding to your music collection and realized the flash players are undercapacitated.

    Don’t come around here pretending your a Mac user and push your “lamepod” get back to iRiver and fill out your resume, Apple is going to crush your ass and your scared.

    People think they are so smart.

  13. When I bought a 20 GB 1G iPod, I thought it would be more than enough.

    Now it’s a year later and I almost have a 40GB iPod filled.

    Buying a flash based is really just a waste of time and money.

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