I recently had the opportunity to take the new IOGEAR Portable Media Player out for a test drive. To say the least, I was impressed. Here is a device little bigger than a cigarette pack that can hold 50 hours of DVD quality video, or 30,000 MP3 music files.

Keith Renty is the strategic business and product development manager for IOGEAR and agreed to an interview.

Can you tell us a little about IOGEAR?

We are based in Irvine, California and are a subsidiary of Aten International who are headquartered in Taiwan    . In total the company has about 1500 employees, a little over 100 are here in the Irvine location. IOGEAR has been in existence since 1999.

I was looking at your web site, IOGEAR makes a pretty eclectic range of products. Is there a core product?

Our core products are in the KVM (Keyboard Video Mouse) switch arena. This is not something that the average home user would need, they are devices that allow a single keyboard, mouse, and screen run several computers.  We also make a wide range of cables, and we can also boast about being the first company to create a USB hub. In fact our company holds 350 international patents.

Todays technology marketplace is moving at the speed of light, what is cutting edge today, is old hat next week. It must be a real challenge to stay ahead of the game. Clearly you have done that. Your new Portable Media Player is a fine example of that. The way I see it, and tell me where I am wrong. You have two options, you take a snapshot of where the ‘component’ industry is at a given moment, and time compress the the development life cycle down as much as you can, or, you have a conceptual idea and you wait until the component industry catches up. How do you do it?

Yes, you are somewhat correct. If you take a snapshot of where the technology is today, and design a product based on that data, you are too late. You have to design for the future, but trying to foresee where the industry will be a ‘year out’ is not an east task. You have to gamble on what the consumer will want.

As the saying goes “there is no pleasing some people”. I showed the IOGEAR PMP to an acquaintance and the first words out of his mouth was “Do they have a 250 gig version”. Do you?

I like to think of our PMP as merely a shell. Our architecture, and our firmware can handle whatever you want to put inside it. And yes there is a 250 gig version, in fact that was our original plan. However the price point was not right. We needed to bring a product to market that appeals to the majority, not a product that only appeals to the people with deep pockets. Incidentally, why stop at 250? Technically you could open the unit up and put a 500 gig drive inside it.

I am a simple guy, and I like simple things, I like products that have a clear purpose, and do them well. In fact what I hate is the direction that cell phones have gone in. I don’t need a camera, mp3 player, internet browser, gps, etc. I just want a phone. IOGEAR seems to follow that philosophy, is this a conscious corporate decision or happenstance?

Oh, very much so. We make a product that does a job, and does the job very well. If you look at our line of products, they are all designed with a mission, one function, and we do that function to perfection.

What has been the early customer reaction been to the IOGEAR PMP?

It has been great. Last night I was at a promotional gathering and everyone loved it. This unit can pack so much media into such a small space. I have a couple at home, my favorite use for it is audio, and with the 120 gig capacity I can pack a lot of songs on a single unit. I am a bit of an audiophile, by keeping the music in CD format (rather than compressing into digital MP3) I can still get over 300 albums on the unit.

I noticed that there is no Mac or Linux support, why not?

We do not officially talk about support of these platforms, but if you plug the drive into a Mac it does see it. It just looks like an external drive. As for Linux, I believe in your review you mentioned that when you plugged it in and Linux recognized it.

What is next for the IOGEAR PMP?

We are looking at a number of options, some we may adopt, some we may not. We are driven by the consumer and what he or she wants. Right now we are looking at the possibility of adding some sort of rechargeable battery pack, but, we have to consider how this would affect the cost and size of the unit. An external plug-in may be one solution.

Another area we are exploring is the Automotive Industry, many SUV’s are being factory equipped with LCD screens, what better way to keep the kids happy than an IOGEAR Player.

People have asked me about putting a screen on the unit, that may, or may not happen. As you add features you add complexity, and that complexity ripples through the entire process, from design, manufacturing, sales, and support.

Long term, which in this business is less than a year, well we have some pretty exciting ideas.

Oh, and if look at your unit, there is stamping that is not currently being used, would HDMI make sense?

Editors Note – Keith told me a bunch of other stuff, but he swore me to secrecy. This is a company that is flying high. They understand the business, and they understand what the consumer wants. IOGEAR is the company to watch, they are going to be leaping ahead of the competition. And Keith, when you read this interview, remember I want a review unit of that thing that does not yet exist!

Simon Barrett


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