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.
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.
What will happen to SideShow now?
“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.”
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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Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at email@example.com
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