The world of digital music players is rapidly being changed into the world of digital “media” players. In a highly competitive race deep in the middle of a still new and emerging market, the “video” player is the newest contestant to lace up its running shoes. iRiver throws its digital media hat into the ring with the U10 video player.
iRiver steps into the marketplace with a very confusing, sometimes downright perplexing, piece of electronic hardware. In some places the people at iRiver seem to have knocked one out of the park for everyone who loves digital media. In other places it seems the people at iRiver swung at a fastball in the dirt and struck out in front of everybody and their dog.
Let’s start with where iRiver gets it right, great battery power and an impressive screen. Though the screen comes in a little smaller than the iPod (2.5”) and Creative’s Zen Vision (3.7”) at 2.2”, it does have great quality. The battery power is more than exceptional at up to 28 hours of life. Nobody in the industry can compare to that strength, especially at the initial asking price of $199.99 or $249.99.
Where iRiver gets it completely wrong is why they can put such a low price tag on a digital media player, the hard drive. The U10 provides just two models, 512MB and 1GB, almost nothing when trying to watch video. For some reason the iRiver media player doesn’t offer anything to compete with Apple and Creative in this mode, as the competitors offer systems beginning at 30GB.
Next is the very unfriendly navigation system that does nothing to compete with the iPod clicking wheel feature. To be able to navigate through the iRiver U10 video player you must be a little more on the “techie” side and that eliminates a vast majority of the pop culture market.
iRiver seems to be trying to float something out on the market in an effort to learn what the consumer wants, possibly before releasing a more potent competitor to iPod and Creative. Their goal seems to be to find out if the consumer wants battery life, easy of use, or a lot of space. It will be interesting to see their next step.