Internet radio

With Reciva Dead, internet radio makers manage the fallout

The impact of Qualcomm’s shutdown of its Internet radio aggregation platform Reciva earlier this year continues to trickle down to the Internet radio manufacturing industry. The loss of this platform means that Reciva compatible internet radios can no longer connect to audio streams on the web, effectively rendering them unnecessary.

Grace Digital page for users affected by the closure of Reciva.

Sangean Electronics is one of the manufacturers blocked by the closure of Reciva.

“The official date was April 30, 2021,” said Andrew Wu, director of marketing for Sangean. “The response we received [from Qualcomm] was: “We have decided to withdraw this optional service, for commercial reasons. We wish you good luck in finding alternative solutions ”.

“It’s not the first internet radio platform to shut down,” Wu said. “But it’s the first time that a vendor hasn’t come up with a viable solution.”

“The shutdown has been difficult for both brands and customers who used Reciva-based devices,” said Greg Fadul, CEO and co-founder of Grace Digital, another internet radio maker. “For Grace Digital, it was very difficult. We are a family business and we were partners and friends of the Reciva team. However, over the years Reciva has been sold twice and the companies that acquired them decided that they would no longer support legacy servers.

Why did Reciva close?

Qualcomm did not respond to Radio worldrequests for interviews on the closure of Reciva. However, internet radio makers who supported this platform have put forward several reasons for its demise.

The first is the complexity and cost of running the Reciva platform. “In 2003, Internet radio processors were extremely slow and had little memory. So Reciva’s strategy was to have its servers do the heavy lifting, with the radio only performing the basic streaming function, ”said Fadul. “Their server system was not just an aggregator of Internet radio stations, but a high-end global set of dozens of servers located in key cities around the world. The server network provided radio authentication, managed connections for premium services, and various settings and configurations for the radios, among many other functions.

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Fast forward 18 years and quality Internet radios perform all of these functions on the radio itself without the costs of an intermediate set of servers.

The C. Crane CC WiFi-3 is one of the receptors affected by the discontinuation of Reciva.

To make matters worse, “there was no way to upgrade due to the age of the code and its incompatibility with the new hardware,” said Bob Crane, president of radio equipment company C. Skull. “Plus, there aren’t many people who basically understand the ins and outs of this proprietary code and programming. The original software was also heavy and slower than the newer chips.

Despite this, Crane said he believed the driving force behind Qualcomm’s Reciva shutdown was the cost of maintaining its global server system. As manufacturers switched to newer, more self-contained internet radio tuning systems, Qualcomm had to cover this cost without collecting revenue to pay for it.

“The problem with Reciva happened in part because there was no recurring income for the founders,” Crane said. “That’s why all the software developers on the planet – think Adobe, Microsoft, and Oracle – have mostly switched to subscription purchases, because there has to be a way to fund ongoing maintenance and future development. “

At C. Crane, “We have ramped up production of our new CC WiFi 3 Internet Radio as quickly as possible based on,” said Crane. “We also developed a program to take care of our Reciva-based CC WiFi owners, offering them a progressive discount that took into account when they purchased their old sets. We tried to come up with a reasonable solution with proof of purchase and a deadline so that we could support as many people as possible.

“Since Grace Digital did not own the Reciva radio software – we only had a license for the code, which meant we couldn’t change the radio software – unfortunately there was nothing we could do to save the old radios. Reciva, ”said Fadul. Fortunately, his company launched its own self-sustaining aggregation platform in 2018 to support its new generation of internet receivers.

“To help our dedicated customers in the transition to our new platform, Grace Digital is offering discounts for the purchase of new radios,” said Fadul. “The vast majority of people understand the situation and realize that the closure was beyond our control. “

At Sangean, “we contacted the responsible parties to work on possible solutions, but we were not offered any options that would allow our Reciva devices to continue to function,” Wu said. “Therefore, we took the responsibility. and offered our new Internet radio devices to our customers at a loss. This is a very unfortunate situation and we want to make sure that all of our customers are happy, but it is not always the case. However, the majority accepted our offer and were satisfied with our response.

The reality of business today

At first glance, the logical conclusion to be drawn from shutting down Reciva is never to buy a device that relies on third-party servers to function.

The problem with this conclusion is that it ignores the fundamental nature and ubiquity of third-party server solutions on the Internet. “Any platform that uses a server is at risk of crashing or being shut down,” Fadul said. “Basically everything that YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, your cell phone and even old POTS lines uses servers / databases. “

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But that’s just the tip of the iceberg: “All software platforms are probably at risk when you think of the countless updates and new ‘necessary’ equipment purchases that we’ve probably all made. over the past 15 years, ”Crane said. “I guess even Alexa can have a meltdown for the original units after 15 years if you look at the software and hardware upgrades that Amazon has released so far. And even Sirius is considering terminating one of its old platforms, ”as reported by on September 21, 2021.

The business reality of “finite lifetimes” applies even to broadcast radio. For example, although AM radio remains viable in North America, the recently published UK Government’s Digital Radio and Audio Review indicates that domestic AM services (also known as medium wave) should be shut down, due to the drop in AM audience to 3% of the whole. the radio listens to it.

Protect listeners

Given this reality, the best Internet radio manufacturers can do – and are doing – to protect listeners is to make their latest models cross-platform.

For example, Grace Digital allows users to save and view up to 100 presets on their latest Internet radios. “The radio presets are not relayed to our servers for playing,” Fadul said, “so even if we had a short or long server outage, it wouldn’t affect your ability to play those 100 stations. It wouldn’t affect your ability to play those 100 stations. also not your ability to play SiriusXM, Pandora, Bluetooth or Chromecast.

“It took us years to develop and optimize the software, but we learned from the shutdown of Reciva and put all the software in place to make sure we don’t have this problem anymore,” he added. . “Live and learn.”

As for the closure of Reciva threatening the very existence of Internet radio as a viable consumer technology? Bob Crane is not worried. While he acknowledges that smart speakers “are eclipsing internet radio sales, it would be unwise to underestimate the dedication of radio listeners who have a preference for the way they listen,” he said. .

“With smart speakers you are handing over some of your privacy to a big company for marketing. Internet radios created by us and others do not track you at all. Rather, it is a personal experience well suited for someone who loves and trusts radio a lot, ”said Crane.

This is why C. Crane, Grace Digital and Sangean plan to continue developing and selling Internet radios – Grace Digital has two models slated for release in 2022 – despite the risk of future Reciva-type platform closures. . “Stand-alone internet radios provide the convenience and simplicity of enjoying various radio streaming services,” Wu said. “They are not only viable, but trendy.”