Panbo

Raymarine E-Wide hands-on #1, & money talk

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Nov 23, 2009
Mark_n_Jim_-_Raymarine_visit_cPanbo.JPG

Raymarine product manager Mark Garland and marketing manager Jim McGowan kindly came to Maine last Thursday and swapped a new E140 Widescreen for the C140W I used for radar comparisons all summer. They were lucky in terms of testing-on-the-Bay weather, but not so lucky in terms of dire sounding Raymarine financial news that I felt compelled to drill them about. I'll save that for last, though, as the E Wide is definitely worth top billing...

The E Widescreen now on Gizmo is running Beta software but it seems quite close to the speed and quality needed for shipping around Christmas as planned.  And note that it does not yet support both Navionics and Jeppesen C-Map cartography, as originally announced, but the C-Map delay was announced at Lauderdale, and C-Map 4D support will supposedly be added back in by Spring.  Besides, support for Navionics cartography, both embedded and Platinum +, seems pretty good.  I did not experience finger drag delays like Kees reported from METS, and zooming with the range keys is reasonably fast.
   Of course the big deal about E Wides is the "hybridTouch" interface, which I took to fairly easily.  I don't mind that a few functions, like zooming, can only be done with keys (and hence you don't have to constantly see Garmin-like + and - keys overlaid on the screen). But I did quite naturally adopt touch for picking an active screen, selecting a MARPA target, laying down waypoints, and querying POI data. And I suppose if it had been really rough, I could have gone back to the keys for those tasks.
   This screen shot of Gizmo entering the harbor -- pretending to be a sailboat, icon wise -- illustrates a few things. For one, the 3D implementation is much better than it used to be, and I think it will be used a lot more.  Raymarine does need to let users move the boat icon down the head-up 3D screen, or put it there permanently like Garmin does (because you don't need maximum detail of what's behind you), but it does let you tap POIs for info, which Garmin doesn't {Correction: I'm told you can tap/select nav aid detail on a Garmin, which I'll have to try again}.  This E Widescreen can not overlay radar on 3D (like Garmin, Furuno, and now Simrad), and Raymarine's making no promises in that regard, but I saw it demoed on an apparently rogue beta unit in Lauderdale, so I think we can hope.  The reason the radar shown on this screen looks somewhat messy is that I have it set in "Bird Mode", which I found surprisingly useful in the outer harbor and Bay. It picked up some mooring bouys that other presets didn't, but declared its uncertainty with that light blue "may be noise" color.  

Raymarine_E_Widescreen_3D_on_Gizmo_cPanbo.JPGIn the screen shot below I tried to duplicate the Furuno NN3D and MSTZ image recently posted.  The detail is fairly similar (given that one of the two boats on floats dead ahead is no longer there).  Incidentally, all the controls screen bottom work by touch -- Radar Overlay control excepted -- but the soft keys just below them are just as easy to use, probably easier on E Wides with smaller screens.  I think I prefer using the rotary control for settings like that overlay, as oppossed to having the full vertical screen percentage bar Garmin's all touch 5000 series has. A combination of buttons and touch may be the way to go.
   Further screen note, and credit to Navionics: At least for Camden, its latest P+ color photo maps are a few years fresher, and appear slightly higher res, than Furuno's, which I thought to be the best. But that may vary up and down the coast and elsewhere, and both photos -- the "latest" available -- show Gizmo sitting on a granite wall that was taken down during the winter of 2006-2007.  You've been warned!

Raymarine_E_Widescreen_on_Gizmo_slip_cPanbo.JPGI'll be testing the E140 Widescreen some more, to be sure (though Gizmo's time in the water runs out soon), but thought I'd close Hands On #1 with a screen showing the neat manual built into the units.  It seems quite well done, and useful, and I'm not sure any manufacturer has done this to such graphic detail before?

Raymarine_E_Widescreen_built-in_help_cPanbo.JPGNow the business stuff.  Last Thursday Raymarine again reported down sales and bank covenants violated, plus the rumored buy out by Garmin has not materialized. The London Times seems to have a thorough overview of the situation, but it's Reuters that quotes a British analyst saying, "Insolvency is the most likely course, if I were a betting man."  Ouch!  But let's note that the analyst has a sell rating on Raymarine stock, and may even be making money as the stock plummets. At any rate, his focus is stock value, when in fact stock value and actual business value are two separate things.  Observe the history of Iridium Satellite and many other companies that have come back to life fine though their original stock did not.
   The people I know at Raymarine, like Mark and Jim, don't seem to know much more about this situation than we do -- which is how it's supposed to work at public companies -- but they point out that the banks have extended their possible loans another 15 million pounds, which Raymarine has not exercised but does not seem like what a smart banker would do if a company was close to "collapse", as IBI puts it.  Heck, even the "sell" analyst who's quoted everywhere added, "If you strip off the debt, this is quite a good company. It should be chucking off cash."  And, while I'm no business analyst, 92 million pounds of debt does not seem that big a negative given Raymarine's place in the marine electronics market, and its current product assets.  When Raymarine visited last week, all six boats still afloat where Gizmo is tied up at Wayfarer -- a very diverse little fleet -- are Raymarine equipped, and Garland told me that about 1,000 E Widescreens are already on order.
   So I find it quite hard to believe that Raymarine will collapse as in no products being sold or serviced.  Change likely, stock holders screwed probably, but collapse like that I doubt.  But if I was Raymarine I'd sure be worried that potential customers are passing them by because they're worried about such a collapse.  I don't know what British security laws allow -- have you ever heard of a U.S. company board having to tell its stockholders that it's unlikely they'll realize any value? -- but this would be a good time for whatever assurance is possible.

Comments

I strongly agree with Ben "I find it quite hard to believe that Raymarine will collapse as in no products being sold or serviced.".

The prospect of Stockholder value being wiped out hurts of course, I am sure that includes many Raymarine employees, but debt gets renegotiated and life goes on in companies less well positioned than Raymarine.

What may be a little different here is that the R&D moves made by Raymarine are really substantial and appear to be very successful across multiple product types including hybrid touch chartplotters (you only need a few minutes with one to feel how different they are from the Garmin's), ST70 displays (I have first hand experience with these), and HD scanner's (a leap in radar image quality is a priority for me over AIS)

Ideally Raymarine�s debt would be renegotiated six months ago and the bad news not lingering so long, but it must be especially difficult to figure out the right transaction for the debt holders given all the new product coming out and the economy making it difficult to forecast how much would be sold.

Maybe the Christmas season will answer some of this. I am quite giddy about the prospects Raymarine product will be under my Christmas Tree next month (An HD Scanner please Santa), and I can't think of a better gift for others than a single color ST70 display to compliment the cockpits of a ST60 equipped power or sailboat.

The ST70 is very cool by the way, and may belong on your Christmas list. It's simply for the wife to purchase (just one part number E22105), simple for her to understand what it does and why you would like it, low risk (it will bring an instant smile to the owner of any ST60 equipped sail or power boat), easy to install (seatalk or, ahem, N2K), and in addition to blending in well with existing ST60's (after you purchase the matching $21 sun cover part number A25004-P) it's fun to actually use as you explore and configure your boat's data to be easily viewable / come to life while underway better than your chartplotter does (sans cartography).

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at November 23, 2009 8:43 AM | Reply

When I wrote "right transaction for the debt holders", I meant of course the "haircut" they need to take on their debt and get over with. (I wrote last month I think the debt holders will ultimately get the best value if they take a haircut, and Raymarine continues on it's own without being sold.)

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at November 23, 2009 8:49 AM | Reply

Thanks for the information. I have a Raymarine E120 (came on the boat) and will install the DSM30 Sounder soon (with SeaTalk Switch, NMEA 0183 Mux and KVH heading sensor) but holding out on the RD424HD high def dome radar because of concern. If I didn't already have the E120, DSM30 and other Raymarine stuff I would consider changing to Garmin. Hope they can survive.

Posted by: Mike at November 23, 2009 9:06 AM | Reply

-- have you ever heard of a U.S. company board having to tell its stockholders that it's unlikely they'll realize any value? -- but this would be a good time for whatever assurance is possible.

Yes, the historical list of companies going completely out of business, (Ch7) is a long one. Have you ever heard of Global Crossing, WorldCom and Enron? The fact that Raymarine has outstanding products has nothing to do with it's financial situation. It is bad accounting that sinks a company and when that happens share holders and those doing business with that company are left holding the bag. Just hope whoever picks up the pieces after the implosion is willing to provide support for anyone who buys a Raymarine C140W today. In my opinion, this is likely so buying a C140W represents low risk, however, I certainly would not buy their stock.

Posted by: Richard C at November 23, 2009 9:42 AM | Reply

We're in agreement, Richard. My point was about British security laws; I've never heard of a U.S. company stating that its shares were worthless even the day before it went Chapter 7 or 11. Hard to imagine a board issuing such a statement unless it felt strongly obliged to.

Posted by: Ben at November 23, 2009 10:10 AM | Reply

Glad to hear that the E series W (we need a better acronym!) works well in practice.

Posted by: Kees at November 23, 2009 2:25 PM | Reply

Seriously, anyone thinking about investing in a product of substantial value (like the new C/E-Wide series, HD radar etc) from a company that looks as shaky as Raymarine is taking a chance. I mean would you rush out and buy a new car from a manufacturer who looks to be going to the wall and the uncertainty of where the brand will eventually land up. You can�t rely on a rescue package from a buyer and hope that they are going to pick up the pieces and continue to deliver to you a good service and reliable back up and spares. I�m not so sure that there will be too many Raymarine creditors being taken for a ride but the staff and banks will certainly be the most exposed. Let�s hope it never goes there but at this stage the argument for seeing Raymarine in a big spot of bother is quite a convincing one.

I do not believe that the new hybrid touch screen is going to be Raymarine�s saviour either. The market is tough and all competitors from Simrad to Furuno and Garmin are fighting for the little market share there is. Keen pricing is driving down profits and this is what is giving Raymarine the rough end of the stick. Raymarine is not in financial trouble because they build bad product, in fact the opposite is more likely to be the case. They�re still around because they build good products but the market, their costs and their debt is what is strangling them.

Reasons given in Raymarine�s �09 Interim Report (June �09)
(i) higher sales discounts, much of which were applied to items being superseded by new product
introductions;
(ii) by pricing adjustments to compensate the Group�s principal manufacturing outsource partner, Flextronics, for substantially reduced production volumes; and
(iii) by higher provisions against inventories and product warranties.

Another point to consider is that in recent years Raymarine acquired a few of their distributors. Other than boosting their revenue by double biting at the cherry and increasing their group overheads, I am not sure why this seemed to be such a good idea at the time?

Ben, do you know if Raymarine intends keeping the E-series MFD�s or will they only have the hybrid version?

Posted by: John at November 23, 2009 9:54 PM | Reply

John, I don't think Raymarine is going to be rescued. Angels specialized in this sort of work are quite rare. But let's step back from the dire words, most of which are from journalists unfamiliar with the marine electronics industry, or from stock analysts who may be profiting from Ray's distress, or by a company board mandated to report bad news but prohibited from speculation. Let's us speculate.

What if we took a poll of 10,000 diverse but average boaters all around the world. The question: what brand of marine electronics would you probably buy when you get a new boat or replace gear on your present boat? Can we agree that Raymarine's percentage would be pretty high. (And that the percentage who know anything about Raymarine's troubles, or care, is quite low?)

I think that brand recognition and loyalty (and to some extent locked-in-ness) is worth a LOT, but just how much is very hard to speculate. For one thing, the company has to have products that could sell. That seems true; Ray's got a pretty darn current and complete line. And you have to know how big the pie is. Professional market intelligence on marine electronics is almost nonexistent, but the entities who do have a good sense of the M.E. pie, even if it's shrinking (what isn't?), are Raymarine and the other major players as well as some big suppliers.

You also have to feel secure about distribution. I think Raymarine comes with that (all the majors bought distributors, by the way, it was kind of a stampede). And you have to figure the negatives like debt and existing warranty costs (the "savings" of not taking that on are probably more than offset by the ensuing damage to the brand).

And no doubt I've forgotten some factors. Manufacturing efficiency? Possible market disruptions? But nonetheless I speculate that Raymarine is worth a fair bit more than its negatives. (But -- caution, brain puzzle -- it may be worth less to the companies who know best what it's worse.)

At any rate, what I speculate is going on is a fairly high stakes poker game amongst potential acquisitors, Raymarine's bankers, and its management, who may very well hope to squeak through to better times.

But all that's strictly speculation. And please remember that I have little real business experience, and only small or micro ones at that. I'm just a really interested onlooker.

Posted by: Ben at November 24, 2009 12:34 AM | Reply

I am curious how a solid company got into debt as they did. Personally I have found the interface on the c80 rather poor, with lots of data / screens and so forth buried and hard to get to, ir hard to learn and remember. I've experienced crashes which I have never had on other gear as well which required restarts. The customer support was terrible when I AIS B came out and I wanted to display it on the c80.

When it works, which is most of the time, it's great, yet I have mixed feelings about MFDs, ie putting all your eggs in one basket. Failure means your without all data. This means that we have back up gear, which certainly is a good idea.

What I have found over the years is that we now have all this data to look at, and in my case it's below decks on a very readable color display. Very nice, but I need to be in the cockpit so I am waiting for smaller cockpit repeaters (4") which support ALL the data - charts, radar, AIS and so forth. It's the only format that will work for my situation, though I realize many have more size flexibility.

Having a small iQue which touch screen zoom and pan, I look forward to hybrid type interfaces in the next gen or in those mini cockpit repeaters I dream about. Wouldn't it be great if we could have no data wiring for these systems and it was all wireless?

The marine electronics industry seems so fragmented and fragile with companies coming and going like the seasons. With this gear so expensive it makes it hard to put so much cash and time into one of these tricked out systems with the thought that a company as "solid" as Ray might fade away like Datamarine, or Vigil, Signet, Kenyon and others.

Posted by: SanderO at November 24, 2009 6:31 AM | Reply

They don't bring you an HD radome ? What about dual range ? I heard that a software update will put the dual range in the C Wide.

Posted by: Benoit (fr) at November 24, 2009 6:49 AM | Reply

That's an RD418HD showing on the screens, Benoit. I've been trying it for a couple of months. The dual range seems to work well, or at least better than the C Wide, which awaits an update, and the automatic speed control is also working. Will test more.

Posted by: Ben at November 24, 2009 7:46 AM | Reply

Ben, like you I am very interested in marine electronics and an interested onlooker at what this industry has to offer. In fact I am quite fascinated by it and it�s one area where I can bring my fascination with modern technology into a past time that I just love....boating!

I believe that anyone (businesses) that is half interested in the marine electronics industry has already had a look at Raymarine. Let�s face it, their troubles are very real and very public so their competitors are all well aware of the opportunities, if any. You make a very valid point and I agree 100% that Raymarine is a well recognised brand and if one was to do a poll then there would be very valuable support from a large percentage of boaters. However, as with most things and marine electronics in particular, loyalty stops at the customers back pocket. Generally speaking, most boat owners will chase the next best toy, faster, user friendly, better charts etc. This is why Simrad have designed their NSE series to drop straight into the C and E series MFD holes and Furuno developed the FI-50 series instruments to drop straight in the ST-60 instrument holes. Simrad (Navico), Garmin, Furuno etc are not interested in buying �90M worth of Raymarine�s bank debts and then still throwing in the operational rescue package. Raymarine has had a great place in the sun and even with a very large percentage of boaters remaining loyal, Raymarine (for whatever reason) have not managed to keep an even keel in the stormy weather from the GFC. The market is crowded and Raymarine is no longer the only manufacturer with a complete line up. Simrad have caught up very quickly and in my opinion offer a better and more complete range. Furuno who has always been a leader in quality and features lacked some product in their pleasure boat line up but with the introduction of their award winning MFD, digital radar and FI-50, AIS, NavPilot series pilots, MaxSea plotters integration and very competitive pricing I think they are now more than just a high-end solution but compete very well against Raymarine. Then of course Garmin has slid into the action as well and they have some excellent MFD products

Posted by: John at November 24, 2009 8:32 AM | Reply

One more thing to add to the Raymarine thought process of upgrading. By introducing the new wide series that has basically cut off a large percentage of their upgrade opportunities. I know it's physically impossible to increase the size of a display without increasing the dash footprint but I know of a few hardcore Raymarine followers that cannot fit wide series into their helm stations because the production boat helms were designed to accommodate one or two C/E-120 series displays. i think Simrad NSE or Furuno NN3D may get this upgrade business?

Another thought. Raymarine may be a well known brand but as far as "time in the business" goes, Raymarine has only been around since 2001. The current downturn in the economic climate is the first real test that the economy has thrown at them and they have not been able to deal with it. The company its self is not even 10 years old and unlike some of the other big brands like Simrad, Furuno and Garmin they have seen business prior to the boom that put Raymarine on the map in the last 8 or so years?

Posted by: John at November 24, 2009 8:42 AM | Reply

Just a question; did the deep discounts Raymarine offered boat builders to provide RM stuff as standard equipment contribute to this debt? Was this policy a mistake, or did it capture a share of the market?

Posted by: Sandy Daugherty at November 24, 2009 8:57 AM | Reply

Sandy, in hind sight it appears that it was a mistake. They bought a lot of real estate at the helm stations of production boats which did get the desired affect of grabbing raymarine a bunch of market share but did it help the company in the end. It does not look like it? some outboard manufacturers do the same thing but it's risky business!

Posted by: John at November 24, 2009 9:54 AM | Reply

John, I think your observations about the industry are quite astute. But I'm pretty sure that your conclusions about what's going on behind the scenes are 100% speculation. Unless you are sitting at the table, you have no more idea than I do what deals may still be in play. My speculation is that are some perking away.

Posted by: Ben at November 25, 2009 11:44 AM | Reply

I really like Raymarine and was going to go with a Cwide but I'm glad I waited to buy my new system.
I can't justify dropping 10 large ones or more if the company is not going to be around.

Anyone like me will be waiting and watching

I think I will wait til spring 2010 and see what's shaken out.

Posted by: peter coupland at November 25, 2009 6:54 PM | Reply

Ben, you're correct, my thoughts on Raymarine's future are merely speculative. I have been in and around the marine industry for 25 years (I did an apprenticeship as radar technician)and I've seen a few speed bumps along the way but nothing like we've experienced over the last 18 months! I read the IBI online news letter every morning and not a day seems to pass by without reading of some industry player taking a big fall, reducing staff or being bought out to consolidate costs du to the downturn. Given these very tough times I think that it is a realistic assumption that Raymarine, (who's share price dropped to 5.10 on Thursday this week) will at best struggle to emerge from this downturn. I hope that my assumption is wrong and I do say a silent prayer hat this great brand is snapped up by a company that is committed to continue the development and support of what is a major brand in marine electronics.

The reality is that thousands of customers (like Peter Coupland's post above) will not take a chance with their hard earned cash and risk buying a brand that right now has a very uncertain future. I'd like to believe otherwise but I'm affraid this brand's future will be relying on good fortune and luck more so than good management.

Posted by: John at November 26, 2009 8:09 PM | Reply

I wrote earlier "The ST70 is very cool by the way, and may belong on your Christmas list. It's simply for the wife to purchase (just one part number E22105), simple for her to understand what it does and why you would like it, low risk (it will bring an instant smile to the owner of any ST60 equipped sail or power boat), easy to install (seatalk or, ahem, N2K), and in addition to blending in well with existing ST60's (after you purchase the matching $21 sun cover part number A25004) it's fun to actually use as you explore and configure your boat's data to be easily viewable / come to life while underway better than your chartplotter does (sans cartography)."

>> If your interested, there is an on the water review I wrote about the ST70 called "Repeat Yourself" in the centerfold of Mad Mariner's DIY Boat Owner magazine Issue 4 that came out this week. It makes the point you only need one ST70 (as opposed to upgrading all your displays) as it blends in well with other ST displays. The article is not technical perhaps making it a good choice to leave out somewhere around the house for your wife to read and help justify the $650 cost for this innovative product or it's equivalent available from other major manufacturers (Garmin, etc.) have other gear on your boat instead. I don't know how practical it is to integrate just a single new display to other manufacturers installs, with Raymarine it works very well aesthetically and technically.

I also wrote earlier "Ideally Raymarine�s debt would be renegotiated six months ago and the bad news not lingering so long, but it must be especially difficult to figure out the right transaction for the debt holders given all the new product coming out and the economy making it difficult to forecast how much would be sold."

>> I have 22 years of business experience. Although I don't have access to inside info nor have attempted to look at public info, I think it's a fair guess that the conditions are right for debt holders to forgive a portion of the debt or swap equity for debt so they can best salvage their investment from an independently operating Raymarine. I think the 15 million they are making available to Raymarine is a strong sign they want this company operating at full steam now and going forward while they work out the details.

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at November 28, 2009 10:05 AM | Reply

Dan, thanks for the useful ST70 article. Interested to hear if you think that the ST70 is worth the 50% premium over the Garmin GMI 10, which has the same size and resolution screen.

Thanks!

Posted by: Adam at November 29, 2009 1:37 AM | Reply

I don't know about the cost difference being that much? I had considered the Garmin from the positive review Ben wrote, especially about it being brighter, but felt if I put another vendors product in my cockpit I would have to replace them all for it to be asthetically pleasing and that would be too many $$$ and battery power, where as with the ST70 I felt I could get away with just one, it wouldn't be too ugly amongst the other ST60's, and I only need one new display to get 80% of the product benefit vs all displays being replaced.

I was partially wrong. The ST70 isn't only "not too ugly", it blends in very well and I got 300% of the benefit I was looking for, not 80%. I still feel I only need one, and it's kind of like an ipod, until you own one you don't get it. The ST70 makes your boat performance data available to you in ways the ipod makes your music available to you in a way you can't understand until you own one.

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at November 29, 2009 1:55 PM | Reply

I just got a new ipod touch...you're right until you
have one its hard to appreciate.
one amazing 99cent app is a bubble level and inclineometer that blows away the 40dollar lee valley one i have.
plus I have all navionics charts loaded on.

But how do i get an ipod to work with a usb gps?

Do you think it is possible?

sorry I am going off thread here a bit.

Posted by: peter coupland at November 29, 2009 8:05 PM | Reply

Peter,

You stand a better chance of getting an answer if you post this question on the Panbo forum.

Kees

Posted by: Kees at November 30, 2009 10:32 AM | Reply

thanks Kees I haven't checked out the forum...but I found a company called Dual that is bringing out a gps cradle/battery for ipods!

Posted by: peter coupland at November 30, 2009 5:36 PM | Reply

The jungle drums are getting loud regarding the Raymarine sale, now reportedly definite. There are at least two rumors going around about who the buyer is -- FLIR and ZF. One is obviously wrong, and quite possibly both are.

In terms of more solid information, Raymarine is proud to note that the E-Series Widescreens are now shipping.

Posted by: Ben at January 8, 2010 11:34 AM | Reply

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