Sonicblue to acquire ReplayTV

Sonicblue is best known for its Rio brand of MP3 digital music players. The company also offers home networking and Internet access products. Adding ReplayTV gets Sonicblue into digital video and helps round out its digital media offerings, says Andy Wolfe, chief technical officer.

The two companies make a good match, Wolfe says. "ReplayTV changed the way people watch TV, the way Rio changed the way people listen to music," he says.

Expected to replace VCRs over time, technologies such as ReplayTV's digital video recording captures television broadcasts onto a hard drive instead of videotape. Because it records shows digitally, Replay TV lets you pause, rewind, and replay live television instantly. The technology also makes it easier to find and record your favourite shows using a free service that keeps track of current listings. (TiVo charges for its service.) Originally, ReplayTV offered its own hardware, but late last year amid a financial crunch, the company switched to purely licensing its technology to other vendors and service providers, Wolfe says. Panasonic was first to license the technology and service from ReplayTV. Its player is called the ShowStopper, and the first version offered 30 hours of recording time.

Today's stand-alone boxes that digitally record television shows are just the start for ReplayTV, Wolfe says. In the future, the technology will appear in other types of hardware, including cable and satellite TV boxes, and be built into TVs, he says.

In the meantime, current ReplayTV customers have nothing to fear, Wolfe says. Service will continue as usual as the two companies finalise the purchase and Sonicblue integrates the ReplayTV service and employees.

Building a digital empire

In addition to the ReplayTV deal, Sonicblue announced a "definitive agreement" in its pending acquisition of Sensory Science. The deal will bring Sensory Science's own long list of digital products under the Sonicblue umbrella, he says.

Those products include Go Video digital consumer products, California Audio Labs products, and Rave-branded MP3 players.

Whereas the ReplayTV purchase is more of a technology deal, Sensory Science is more about real consumer electronic products, he says. The company has much experience shipping hardware, sourcing equipment and services, and testing and repairs. Its products reside in both the mainstream and the high end, he says.

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