· Has the Rio Car been discontinued?
(Entry last updated on May 4th, 2008)
In September 2001, Rio announced that it would EOL ("end of life") the Car Player. In other words, the empeg Car/Rio Car product will no longer be manufactured. The total number of existing players in the world is about 4000 Mk2/2a players and about 350 Mk1 players, and no more will be made.
The reason for the EOL was that they were unable to sell enough of them. The component and manufacturing costs for the player were very high, so the retail price was also very high. As a result, only a select few people purchased them: those who understood the tremendous potential of a very high quality hard-drive-based player, and were willing to pay this high price to realize that potential. It wasn't until Rio deep-discounted the players (selling them below their original cost in order to get rid of the stock) that they were able to move the units in any sort of volume.
So Rio decided that they didn't want to be in the retail car MP3 player business. The empeg team in Cambridge continued to do R&D and software development for Rio for a while afterward, until Rio eventually dissolved completely. Examples of their post-car-player work for Rio are the Rio Receiver network player, the HSX-109 Rio Central, the Rio S-series portables, the Rio Nitrus portable, and the Rio Karma portable.
This does not mean the "end" of the car player for existing owners, however. Unofficial support will be available indefinitely in the form of user-community help on this site and on the Unofficial Empeg BBS. Also, at the time of this writing, there was continuing offical support channel via a third-party service.
But what about the player software?
The 2.0 software (and its derivatives) is the final official software for the player. The 3.0 Alpha was unfinished when the team split up, and there are no plans to finish it.
Since the members of the empeg team will continue to create new products for other companies, and the owners of the empeg player software IP are using pieces of its code for future projects, the current player software cannot become open-sourced.
Finally, remember that the player is essentially a complete Linux computer in a very small box. The possibilities for future third-party software development are limitless. Even though its player software is proprietary, the kernel is open-source and its hardware specifications are well known. There is nothing preventing anyone from writing a completely new piece of player software (or any other kind of software for that matter) from scratch. Development efforts in this area are already underway, and the empeg team encourages and even offers advice to developers of third party software for the player.