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Goodbye Ricavision? Media Center and SideShow Darling Disappears

One of the early darlings of Windows Media Center, and a great hope for Vista SideShow, seems to have disappeared ... with beta tester dollars.


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Ricavision, a great hope in the Media Center space, appears to be out of business.

Phones are disconnected at the Irvine, Calif. headquarters of the PC maker, which was one of the most promising purveyors of Windows SideShow technology.

A former employee who answered his cell phone indicated that Ricavision was essentially gone.

Privately held Ricavision International Inc. was founded in 1993 but reinvented itself in 2004, when it focused its operations on Windows Media Center.

Ricavision caused quite a stir at CES 2006, where it launched its Plix brand of high-end Media Center PCs.

That was about the last we heard from the company until one year later when, at CES 2007, the company wowed Vista lovers with a prototype remote control running Windows SideShow.

SideShow was then – and still is -- an emerging technology that enables little bits of information grabbed from Vista PCs (e.g., Outlook appointments and electronic programming guides) to be accessed even without booting up. (Read the SideShow White Paper.)

In its first iteration, Ricavision's product used IR for A/V control and Bluetooth for SideShow communications. It was originally scheduled to ship in April 2006 for about $199 retail.

Not even close.

Beta Tester Loses Out


Our Media Center/SideShow adviser Derek Flickinger of Interactive Homes Inc., beta tested the first version of VAVE. He thought it was pretty cool, despite the usual pre-release bugs, driver issues and tooling. Worst of all, it was not a universal remote.

We never ran that story. Ricavision put the kibosh on it.

The new and improved VAVE100 appeared this past January at CES, improving upon the original design in several areas. Flickinger believes that, based on the specs of the VAVE100, "Ricavision really did listen to input and had incorporated some pretty cool features."

This one would have universal remote capabilities, among some other niceties.

Being the eternal optimist, SideShow aficionado, and in retrospect a bit of a sucker, Flickinger for some reason forked out $350 (plus shipping!!) for a beta unit of the VAVE100 in June. Ricavision said on June 4 that the units should arrive at their offices "next week!"

If they did arrive, then Ricavision never let on. Months passed and Flickinger wondered when the darn thing would arrive. His emails and calls went unanswered.

After reaching several disconnected phone numbers at the Ricavision office, and calling unanswered cell phones of every related contact in his database, Flickinger finally reached a human being who was about as happy as Flickinger: not very.

Ricavision had gone underground.

Ricavision was a Media Center darling for a year or so, and many geeks were counting on its VAVE100– seemingly the only SideShow remote in development.

So why do I seem to be the first one to report on the disappearance of the company? Was Flickinger the only would-be beta tester to get burned?

We hear elsewhere that a Microsoft developer recently ordered one of Ricavision's SideShow development modules. It arrived disheveled and the display was reportedly broken.

Whither SideShow?


What will happen to SideShow now?

After a strong showing at CES 2007, SideShow disappointed at CES 2008.

"Windows SideShow still is alive and kicking," says Flickinger. "In our opinion, the VAVE100 would have been the device that made Windows SideShow take off. "

He notes that there are now "quite a few" Windows SideShow Gadgets available for accessing applications on a Vista PC. The solutions, he says, are particularly compelling for mobile phone applications.

Still, Flickinger is disheartened by the Ricavision fiasco.

"This whole thing is a shame," he says.. "It could have been the right product at the right time. The concept of Windows SideShow still is a great idea, especially with the Windows SideShow Gadgets for Windows Media Center."

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PicoLCD

Flickinger (available for hire, by the way), offers a word of advice for developers: "From a usability perspective, having both [A/V control and SideShow] in the same remote was confusing. I think a separate Windows SideShow device almost would be more effective."

Flickinger remains optimistic. Recently, he picked up a cute PicoLCD for Windows SideShow for a paltry $50.

"It's not nearly as usable as the Ricavision remote and only supports Glance Data (four scrolling lines)," he says, "but it's a lot less money."

And, um, at least the company shipped the product.

UPDATE - 10/8
I just heard from another beta tester who did receive the VAVE100 but returned it for "a lot of reasons." He never got a refund. He has heard similar things from the other would-be beta testers "and they all said the same: no contact what so ever with Ricavision."




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Article Topics

News · Product News · Media Center · Media Center · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

5 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by LIGHTNING ROD  on  10/08  at  12:09 PM

Beware any slimy little company with the word “International” in their name.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  10/13  at  06:22 AM

Update: one of the beta testers did hear back from Ricavision after this story was posted. They have subsequently refunded his money for the beta unit.

I haven’t heard from the other testers.

Posted by G  on  10/14  at  06:29 AM

Crestron has support for Vista Side Show on many of its interfaces including remotes.  Although it is not as cheap as the products discussed here, it does provide enhanced functionality.

Posted by DrFlick  on  10/20  at  10:41 AM

This is Derek.  We also received a refund for our remote.  Also, it looks like Ray (the one who purchased the development unit that arrived with a broken screen) will be getting a replacement unit.  I guess there still is life out there for at least a littl while longer.

  =D-

Posted by Will R  on  11/16  at  12:58 PM

I got one of the BETA units at a substantial discount (+ a then-favourable $-£ exchange rate) and it works pretty well.  The only downside is the battery doesn’t exactly go for ages before it needs recharging. It doesn’t look like it’s ever going into ‘production’ so I guess support is non-existent…

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