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 Closes Media Server Business
Imerge at ISE 2010
Julie Jacobson · June 22, 2010

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

  About the Author

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. Email Julie at [email protected]

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  Article Topics

News · Imerge · Media Server · Nortek · Xiva · All Topics
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