iriver was for a long while the “also-ran of the also-ran”: the followers with me-too products on the portable mp3 player scene. Their former company name, iRiver, didn’t help much in suggesting originality – it looked like they’ve pirated it straight off the iPod. (Actually the company was founded in 1999, before iPod’s launch in 2001. That’s probably why they’ve changed the company name from iRiver to iriver, dropping the capital R to shrug off the shadow of Apple’s “iProduct” naming convention).
I must say I was rather pleasantly surprised about iriver’s to-be-launched Life Unit – from the looks of it, this is positioned as a high-end entertainment hub that handles all the media you could imagine: music, movie, flash, photo, e-book, Wifi-streaming; it charges and syncs with their portable players; – you name it, they’ve covered it. They’ve also got Niro Nakamichi onto the team for sound design.
The aesthetic also looks exquisite and refined, though the friendly, rounded iriver logo does seem slightly awkward nested among the precise and pristine lines in the Life Unit. I’m particularly drawn to the flippable remote control – the touch screen controller opens up to reveal a finely-crafted Qwerty keyboard. All of this does suggest that iriver put a lot of attention into this product, and that could be just a suggestion of their ambitions to come.
This actually triggered me to rethink and reposition the new roles of digital media and the devices – that will come in a later post soon!