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Imerge Closes Media Server Business

Parent company Nortek is closing Imerge, despite recent innovations in the company's media server line, including Blu-ray support


Imerge at ISE 2010

What will become of Media Servers?
With today's news of Imerge's demise, we should ask again: doe the media server category have legs?
View this discussion thread.

The headlines are getting old: Media Server Business Closes Doors.

The latest casualty is Imerge, the UK-based manufacturer whose Xiva platform was once the darling of third-party server vendors.

Imerge was one of the most established developers of music servers, particularly in Europe, offering the popular audio-only SoundServer since since the early 2000s. The company added DVD management capabilities by 2008.

Imerge CEO Cameron Wade said in a letter to customers and partners, “It is with great regret that I must inform you today that, effective immediately, Imerge Ltd. is ceasing all business operations.”

Wade says the decision to close shop was made by parent company Nortek, Inc. “as part of a larger restructuring of its Home Technology Group of companies.”

That group comprises several manufacturers in the custom electronics business, including Linear, SpeakerCraft, LiteTouch, Gefen, Omnimount and Panamax. Recently, Nortek combined three subsidiaries – Elan (with Sunfire), Niles and Xantech under a single umbrella known casually as the Linear Audio Video Control group.

Why Did Nortek Buy Imerge?
Nortek is in the habit of acquiring profitable companies, but by all accounts Imerge was not profitable when it was purchased in 2005. So why did Nortek buy it? We had some opinions back then
At the same time, SpeakerCraft, which had been master distributor for Imerge in the U.S. since 2009, did not continue that relationship when the deal expired this year. SpeakerCraft president Jeremy Burkhardt would not comment on that decision, other than to say, “You know how we feel about iPod. Our dealers have been very successful using it as a whole-house source.”

Before it distributed Imerge, SpeakerCraft itself sold a media server based on Imerge’s platform. The same goes for Crestron, Elan, Integra, Linn, Marantz, Meridian, Niles, Onkyo, Revox and Xantech. All of these top-tier brands licensed Xiva for their own media management solutions.

Media Servers in 2010

Just halfway through the year, we declare 2010 a bad year for the custom media server category. By April, Sunfire and Colorado vNet had dropped their DVD server products. Escient, a pioneer of the category, closed its doors for good.

All three of those companies had generally ceased development on their music and movie servers, but Imerge was different. The company showcased perhaps its most ambitious new product line ever during Integrated Systems Europe (ISE 2010) in January.

There, Imerge introduced the MS1-HD, which added a Blu-ray drive to its flagship MS1 movie/music server. With the MS1 line, Imerge moved all storage out of the player and onto networked servers called XiVASafe. Blu-ray discs and DVDs could be played on the MS1 and copied to the servers for access anywhere in the home.

A clever iPod/iPhone navigation tool (video) let users flip through menus and select media with flicks and taps.

Also during ISE, Imerge introduced a novel music store, apparently unique in the industry.

The Xiva Music Store (video), powered by 7digital, recommends songs and albums based on the user’s own CD collection stored on Imerge. With a few clicks of the remote, customers can purchase music for their XiVASafe hard disk.

“Our customers don’t necessarily listen to popular music,” said Imerge’s James Meredith during ISE. “When we researched, we found out just how difficult it is to find music they like.”

Purchased music then could be synchronized with the user’s iTunes library.

Imerge: A Sad Loss

There were rumblings that Imerge might find a buyer in its final days, but so far an eleventh-hour rescuer has not emerged.

Dan Benjamin, who headed U.S. sales for Imerge until yesterday, tells CE Pro, “We were really making great headway.”

He says, “Dealers were clamoring for a viable alternative” to the handful of media server brands currently serving the custom installation market.

Is it still possible Imerge could be revived? “I hope so,” says Benjamin. “I would be 100-percent on board.”

Read CEO Cameron Wade's letter to Imerge customers

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Article Topics

News · Product News · Video · Digital Media · Media Servers · Movie Server · Nortek · Media Server · Imerge · Xiva · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / 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. [More by Julie Jacobson]

18 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by David  on  06/22  at  11:01 AM

Another one gone.  So sad.  Well at least there is still the mighty K-Scape as well as the newer Mozaex (formerly known as Axonix) and a handful of others.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  06/22  at  11:20 AM

Here are the movie servers currently serving the custom market. Please let me know who I’m missing.

Complete systems with copy/storing/management:
Mozaex (formerly Axonix)

Aggregation/management only, not copy/store

Media Centers (serving custom market)
Ace Computers

Posted by Alan Ainslie  on  06/22  at  12:42 PM

Well, while it is sad to see Imerge go, do remember that not only does Naimnet have piece for piece replacements for several of the models but we have some innovative configurations as well. 
For the traditional analogue distribution market as well as the IP connected NaimNet and DigiLinX markets, and with Drivers for Crestron, AMX already on the books for many months and Control 4 driver on the way.  Entry level UnitiServe for the UPnP market as well.
All with first class tech support and training, and direct distribution by Naim Inc in the USA.  Global distribution through qualified high capability Distributors.
A sad day though and sincere best wishes to all involved.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  06/22  at  12:44 PM

Thanks, Alan. Does Naim support DVD copying and management?

Posted by WHOSNEXT  on  06/22  at  01:38 PM

Let’s have a pool on which Nortek company will be the next to fold.

Posted by Robert Archer  on  06/22  at  01:42 PM

Julie it doesn’t. It’s a music server that’s part of its UntiSystem whole-house, wireless audio system line.

Posted by Jonathan Smith  on  06/22  at  02:20 PM

Robert is quite right, it is audio only, however it serves into both NaimNet and Uniti system. NaimNet is an IP based system and Uniti is UPnP.
We also make the worlds only upgradable music server.
For what’s it worth I think it’s a great shame Imerge have gone. They blazed a trail and made some very good products!
I wish all of their staff the best.

Posted by Nick Carter  on  06/22  at  02:28 PM

As former VP Sales, I’m biased, but ReQuest pretty much has it all.  MRAV, MP3, WAV, Flac, DVD server w/ BluRay control.  Supports 3rd party drive arrays.  Multi-home media sync. Webserver. Remote diagnostics.  Killer integration API.  Oh yes, and they are a rock sold business with over a decade serving the CEDIA channel.  Less spendy than KScape. Syncs with iTunes, control by iPhone.  Hulu, YouTube, etc., etc.  Love my ReQuest!

Posted by Dave Perrico  on  06/22  at  03:03 PM

I’m biased too but our line of Media Servers using our DVDLobby / MusicLobby products can do everything KScape and Request can too and a whole lot more. Cinemar should be in the list too.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  06/22  at  04:26 PM

Hi, DAve—can you please shoot me an email with a sample whole-house media distribution system incl. hw and sw?

jjacobson at ehpub dot com


Posted by JackB  on  06/22  at  07:49 PM

Now that the MacMini has HDMI out, XBMC on the Mac is a great option for media management.

Posted by Flip  on  06/23  at  01:50 PM

RE: Cinemar & DVD Lobby

Yeah, except that they sell DIRECTLY to ANYONE (ie: end users) right off their own site.

Here is any even cheaper option for that “market” DAVE…. MyMovies.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  06/23  at  02:04 PM

Flip, product exclusivity is nice, but you’re going to run into problems if that is your sole criteria for selecting lines.

Posted by Harald Steindl  on  06/23  at  03:39 PM

Since everybody uses “Imerge” and “DVD ripping” within the same sentence. grin
Did their MS-1(HD) really support DVD ripping out of the box? To the best of my knowledge their older MS5000 did NOT. The dealer had to install a piece of software onto the machine before it would rip commercial (read encrypted) DVDs. So if there would have been some legal issues, the dealer were hosed. This is NOT nice….

Posted by dirk diggler  on  06/23  at  04:17 PM

Imerge had the tiger by the tail in 2005, did they not? Countless licensees to include Crestron, Elan, Sonance and Integra. A solid install base of audio servers (branded and OEM), good support and interesting products.

They blew it.

Products with no upgrade path. Products prone to thermal failure. Poor QC. Outdated, buggy controller software. DVD controllers nobody wanted. Forcing installers to install a dvd ripping app.

Lastly, establishing an online music store. You know, for when Netflix, Hulu, Youtube,  Itunes or Rhapsody just won’t do.

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