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Equipment Discussions >> Cats & Casses

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Starhawk
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Loc: Tucson, Arizona
Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: bunyon]
      #5873478 - 05/20/13 10:59 AM

Well said, indeed. All I would add is the high proportion of individual users in astronomy means the bulk of the customer base is paying most of what they can afford for this. It makes the experiences very personal. A company will have a process defined for dealing with a vendor who made a bad delivery with some route to normal relations, and the details will stay private if at all possible. Individual people really can't do that. That one problem car or major appliance can be the last one, and they'll tell anyone who asks the story.

I for one wouldn't be surprised by very major changes from this event. Give the new organization some breathing room and a chance to prove themselves.

-Rich

Quote:

Deserve's got nothing to do with it. And it's questionable, anyway.

Meade, like most other companies that serve the amateur astronomy community, isn't a very big company. Not a huge cash flow, not many customers (all relative to the general marketplace). One bad run can easily bring such a company down. Without going into all the particulars, they've had such a run. A lot of folks unhappy with their recent work, a couple of very visible product failures. I don't know the details in all cases but, I suspect, had the folks at Meade had sufficient time, they could right the ship. But given the business world, they were never going to get that time. One can only hope now that the new owner can pull them around. Given their history and the relatively few players in the business, I suspect they can.

But it seems a good warning to all: making astronomy products for the amateur market is a tough business. Not many people there to buy your products and, when they do, they probably won't buy in bulk (ask yourself, even if you're one of those guys who goes through scopes and gear on a daily basis, have you ever up and ordered a pallet of eyepieces?).

Pretty much any of the companies we deal with here could go down with one bad launch. Carl Zambuto makes a dozen straight bad mirrors and, whoosh, all the air goes out of the room. Even though I've been ticked at pretty much every maker/dealer at one point or another, my hat is off to them for trying to serve such a small and demanding community and for making it possible to do stuff that, 20 years ago, I'd have thought impossible for the mid-level amateur.



Quote:

I find it disturbing that Meade has been acquired by a foreign competitor. Meade has a long history of supplying quality optics. I agree they made some mistakes, like all other such suppliers. They did not deserve this fate. It's a cutthroat business.







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bierbelly
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: jrcrilly]
      #5873517 - 05/20/13 11:26 AM

Quote:

Quote:

I find it disturbing that Meade has been acquired by a foreign competitor.




If this goes through (and it surely will), Meade will be acquired by their primary supplier, who happens to be foreign. Very similar to what happened to Celestron, except that wasn't voluntary.




Meade gets funding and Jinqua (or whatever) gets a marquis-level trademark. Not a bad deal.


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Jon Isaacs
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: bunyon]
      #5873556 - 05/20/13 11:45 AM

Quote:


Meade, like most other companies that serve the amateur astronomy community, isn't a very big company. Not a huge cash flow, not many customers (all relative to the general marketplace). One bad run can easily bring such a company down. Without going into all the particulars, they've had such a run




Paul:

As an observer of Meade products and fortunes over the last 20 or so years, I think it has taken more than just one bad run to bring them down, I think it has been a long term process, probably the result of a company driven by stockholders and the marketing department rather than savvy amateur astronomers. Hopefully that will change with the prospect of Scott Roberts guiding Meade's future.

The current problems with the roll out of their new mounts are strikingly similar to the last time Meade came out with new GEMs, the LXD-55/75. The announcement and advertising began long before the arrival and when the product arrived, it was flawed. It's just bad strategy, people get excited at the announcement, then they become frustrated with the wait and then disappointed with product.

Another example of poor marketing was the decision to call the ACF series of scopes, Ritchey–Chrétien Telescopes. That was a serious mistake, the scopes were a definite step up from the standard SCTs that had been around for more than 30 years but that was all lost in the silly attempt to call them something they were not. These were high end scopes aimed at the knowledgeable amateur, the exact people who could easily see through this scheme.

And then there was the changes in their support policies, as I recall they decided not to supply parts for their scopes.

In any event, the consumer has seen a long term erosion of whatever confidence they might have had in Meade, one bad run does not defeat a solid company. Compare Meade to Orion. Maybe it's because Orion is a vendor/designer rather than a manufacturer but Orion seems to have their finger on the pulse of the modern amateur astronomer..

Consider the modern commercial Dob. A joint venture between Orion and GSO, today, every commercial Dob, whether GSO or Synta, directly springs from the original XT-6, XT-8 and XT-10 that hit the scene more than 13 years ago. Orion has capitalized on that market, developed Intelliscope and now has developed affordable GOTO Dobs. Meade sole product is the Lightbridge, GSO's truss Dob.

The ED-80, a joint venture between Orion and Synta, it marked a revolution in affordable, apochromatic/ED refractors. And Orion has been riding that wave ever since. Meade seems to be a non-player in that field.

Looking back, Meade has long had a mixed record, copying other's designs, importing a variety of scopes, capitalizing on the Meade name by marketing a variety of poorly outfitted department store telescopes. The LX-200 series probably represents the pinnacle of Meade, they really had a solid product with that one.

My memory maybe faulty but I remember reading a story by Roland Christen where he wrote that when Meade was introducing their line of ED/apo doublets, John Diebel, Meade's founder, told Roland that the Meade doublets were going to put him out of business.

It didn't happen that way. Astro-Physics is flourishing, Meade has gone under. Maybe if Meade had stuck with quality products for the amateur astronomer, something Orion has done, the story would be different. I do think that if Scott Roberts does take charge of Meade, the future for Meade and for amateur astronomers is bright.

Jon Isaacs


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rdandrea
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: bierbelly]
      #5873562 - 05/20/13 11:47 AM

Quote:

Meade gets funding and Jinqua (or whatever) gets a marquis-level trademark. Not a bad deal.




Not bad at all. If you look at the last 10-Q, the sale price was about equal to the reported value of tools, machinery, and equipment. So they got the brand essentially for free, or for whatever debt Meade incurred since the last filing. Meade was hemorrhaging cash-- It looks like they recently (~December)issued a bunch of shares to a Capital company, which I assume were discounted, probably in return for enough cash to pay their accounts payable and keep going.

I think to be viable, though, they need to cultivate a market for their products in Defense or Homeland Security--something in addition to selling to us amateurs.


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Glen A W
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Reged: 07/04/08

Loc: USA
Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: rdandrea]
      #5873612 - 05/20/13 12:17 PM

I am surprised they lasted this long. It was a miracle, in light of the losses upon losses. I am sorry to see this, yet at the same time I know it had to be. Meade should never have gone public. That was the ruination of the company right there. They had been on a high after the ETX boom and they could never regain that. I believe it is probably inappropriate for companies in this business to be publicly traded, especially if astronomy is their main occupation. Small companies are put under the wrong pressures by going public.

Good luck to Meade. GW


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rmollise
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: Jon Isaacs]
      #5873661 - 05/20/13 12:42 PM

Quote:



As an observer of Meade products and fortunes over the last 20 or so years, I think it has taken more than just one bad run to bring them down, I think it has been a long term process, probably the result of a company driven by stockholders and the marketing department rather than savvy amateur astronomers. Hopefully that will change with the prospect of Scott Roberts guiding Meade's future.






Very good, interesting post. A couple of quibbles, natch.

The "ACF scopes" you speak of was the RCX 400 series.

As for commercial Dobs? Not really. Meade was there at the same time, actually even a little before Orion, with their StarFinder Dobs. At any rate, both Orion's original Dobsonians and the StarFinders owe more to Jim Braginton's Red Tube Coulter Odysseys than anything else. To this day, import Dobs follow Jim's basic design--with the good and bad inherent in that. Oh, Orion's original Dobs (the "Explorers" I believe they were called) were not made by GSO but by an American vendor.

Meade? I date the beginning of the decline to about 2006 and the RCX. It was an advance, and I was VERY impressed by the single scope I got to use, the 10-inch at a Cherry Springs Star Party. But it was not _quite_ there. I'm not sure the lawsuit had that huge an effect--if I recall, Meade's opponents were only awarded 1$. What killed the RCX was problems out of the box, especially with the focus/collimation system.

Edited by rmollise (05/20/13 12:52 PM)


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rmollise
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: rdandrea]
      #5873674 - 05/20/13 12:49 PM

Quote:



I think to be viable, though, they need to cultivate a market for their products in Defense or Homeland Security--something in addition to selling to us amateurs.




I don't think so. Even if a Chinese company could get in on that, they don't need to.

Yes, Meade has fallen in the esteem of amateurs--who always made Meade the bulk of their profits--but even with all the problems, Meade was still able to produce some decent scopes. Like the ACF 10-inch LX200 a buddy of mine bought not long back. Superb instrument. And a lot of amateurs still have a soft place in their hearts for Old Blue.

All it takes is for good, reasonably priced product to start flowing again and Meade will be on its way back. I believe that if the sale goes through, the steady hands that will be at the helm will see to that.


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jgraham
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: rmollise]
      #5873677 - 05/20/13 12:50 PM

"Meade should never have gone public."

+1

It'll be interesting to see what happens.

I'm just about to finish restoring a 1989-ish 10" f/6.3 LX6. Absolutely wonderful scope. The scope, coatings, mount, and tracking are in great shape. (I fired the tracking up for the first time last night with the scope on its shiny 'new' wedge and field tripod.)


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bunyon
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: rmollise]
      #5873679 - 05/20/13 12:50 PM

Jon and Rod, you guys have almost certainly been better observers of Meade than I. I wasn't aware of several of the events in Jon's posts. I do think, being small companies in a small community, they're especially susceptible to bad news being huge. I'd be glad to know it takes more than a couple of mistakes to kill one.

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rdandrea
Carpal Tunnel
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: rmollise]
      #5873759 - 05/20/13 01:23 PM

Quote:

I don't think so. Even if a Chinese company could get in on that, they don't need to.




It's unclear at this point how the company will be structured. It might be a subsidiary incorporated in the US. And Chinese ownership is apparently no longer a bar to bidding on military contracts. In Feb. 2011 Cirrus Aircraft was sold to a Chinese company. In July 2011, the Air Force Academy ordered 25 Cirrus-built training aircraft.

We'll see how this plays out.


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rmollise
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: rdandrea]
      #5873775 - 05/20/13 01:29 PM

Quote:

Quote:

I don't think so. Even if a Chinese company could get in on that, they don't need to.




It's unclear at this point how the company will be structured. It might be a subsidiary incorporated in the US. And Chinese ownership is apparently no longer a bar to bidding on military contracts. In Feb. 2011 Cirrus Aircraft was sold to a Chinese company. In July 2011, the Air Force Academy ordered 25 Cirrus-built training aircraft.

We'll see how this plays out.




That may be. Or it may not be. The main thing? I wouldn't want to see them do it. One of the things that got Meade bogged down in the first place IMHO was straying off the astronomy beam too far.


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Jon Isaacs
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: rmollise]
      #5873880 - 05/20/13 02:35 PM

Quote:

As for commercial Dobs? Not really. Meade was there at the same time, actually even a little before Orion, with their StarFinder Dobs.




I know that Meade was there with the Starfinder Dobs long before Orion ever dreamed of the XT series. Orion was selling sonotube Dobs manufactured by Discovery. Celsetron was selling both Discovery manufactured Dobs and in house dobs.

But my point was this: If you look at the commercial Dobs that are available today, whether it's Skywatcher, Orion, Meade, Apertura, Astro-Tech, Zhumell, they are all direct descendants of the original Orion XT-6/XT-8/XT-10.

Those first Orion metal tube Dobs, the XT-6 and the XT-8, were manufactured by GSO in Taiwan in about 1999. About 2001, the XT-10 came along. Then Orion decided to switch suppliers to Synta and since then, the XT series has been manufactured by Synta/Skywatcher... Skywatcher sells their line of Synta Dobs, Celestron sold them too there for a while.

When Orion switched to Synta, it left GSO in need of vendors to sell their stuff. A variety of smaller vendors filled the gap, Hands on Optics, OPT sold GSO Dobs, Hardin was the US importer for some years. Hardin stopped importing scopes to focus on their main business of high end optics, Zhumell took over, Meade began selling the Lightbridges, Astronomics/Astro-Tech began selling GSO Dobs, Apertura is the most recent importer.

Along the way, various metal tube Dobs have been added, GSO with the 12 inch and 16 inch tube as well as truss models between 8 and 16 inch. Orion has a great variety including the XT-4.5, as well as 12 inch, 14 inch and now a 16 inch GOTO scope.

But all these can be tracked directly back to the original XT-6 and XT-8, the first commercial metal tubed dobs...

Jon


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jrcrillyAdministrator
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: bierbelly]
      #5873897 - 05/20/13 02:50 PM

Quote:

Quote:

If this goes through (and it surely will), Meade will be acquired by their primary supplier, who happens to be foreign. Very similar to what happened to Celestron, except that wasn't voluntary.




Meade gets funding and Jinqua (or whatever) gets a marquis-level trademark. Not a bad deal.




Yup. It's not as though they haven't been deeply involved with each other for decades.


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Jon Isaacs
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: jrcrilly]
      #5873914 - 05/20/13 02:58 PM

Quote:

Yup. It's not as though they haven't been deeply involved with each other for decades.






As others have pointed out, the present scenario is nearly identical to Celestron being owned by Synta...

A bit of irony... There was a time when Celestron had a close relationship with Vixen. Then Celestron began having the Vixens cloned by Synta. The final step was when Vixen began selling Synta cloned Vixens as Vixens.

Jon


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rmollise
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: Jon Isaacs]
      #5874009 - 05/20/13 03:36 PM

Quote:


But my point was this: If you look at the commercial Dobs that are available today, whether it's Skywatcher, Orion, Meade, Apertura, Astro-Tech, Zhumell, they are all direct descendants of the original Orion XT-6/XT-8/XT-10.




In a way, I suppose. But all of 'em...the Explorers, the StarFinders, the Celestrons (which came a little later than the Orion and Meade Dobs) really are the descendants of Jim's second wave of Dobbies, the Red Tubes. Meade was selling Dobs before Orion, but not "long" before...really only a few months to a year or so, I believe. The metal tubes were nice, but it really was just a minor change from Coulter's "resists a nearby megaton range thermonuclear explosion" Sonotube dobbies.

Edited by rmollise (05/20/13 03:41 PM)


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rmollise
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: Jon Isaacs]
      #5874020 - 05/20/13 03:39 PM

Quote:



As others have pointed out, the present scenario is nearly identical to Celestron being owned by Synta...

A bit of irony... There was a time when Celestron had a close relationship with Vixen. Then Celestron began having the Vixens cloned by Synta. The final step was when Vixen began selling Synta cloned Vixens as Vixens.

Jon




Celestron began selling Synta's GP Clones when they wanted, I suppose, something less expensive than the real deal for the Great Polaris C8. Synta had already brought that mount to market and were selling it a fair number of places, I think you'll find...


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Jon Isaacs
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: rmollise]
      #5874114 - 05/20/13 04:09 PM

Quote:

The metal tubes were nice, but it really was just a minor change from Coulter's "resists a nearby megaton range thermonuclear explosion" Sonotube dobbies.





Having seen and looked through a number of red tube Coulters, I have to say the changes were more than just minor...

In any event, my point was and is that the current crop of commercial Dobs are essentially just different models of those original XT6's and XT-8's. At the time they arrived on the scene, they represented a serious change in the marketplace and they quickly replaced what had been available before.

In any event, Meade did miss the boat with their Dobs, once the Orion's arrived, the Meade's were in trouble. In today's world of 2 inch two speed GSO Crayfords, it's worth remembering Meade had the gall to charge money for upgrading to a 2 inch Plastic focuser.. I think that was the model 77?

Jon


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rmollise
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: Jon Isaacs]
      #5874210 - 05/20/13 04:42 PM

Quote:



Having seen and looked through a number of red tube Coulters, I have to say the changes were more than just minor...

In any event, my point was and is that the current crop of commercial Dobs are essentially just different models of those original XT6's and XT-8's. At the time they arrived on the scene, they represented a serious change in the marketplace and they quickly replaced what had been available before.

In any event, Meade did miss the boat with their Dobs, once the Orion's arrived, the Meade's were in trouble. In today's world of 2 inch two speed GSO Crayfords, it's worth remembering Meade had the gall to charge money for upgrading to a 2 inch Plastic focuser.. I think that was the model 77?

Jon




Well, sort of...

Meade, and then Orion, and then Orion and its Chinese partners gussied up the original, the Coulter, but that's it. Better spider, somewhat better primary mounts, somewhat better focusers. The results were pretty much the same, though, with most of the Chinese Dobs being no better really. The thing they REALLY needed to upgrade the too-small side bearings was what they didn't do, and still struggle with today with kludges like springs.

Not long after Orion went Chinese, Meade decided to get out of the Dobsonian business--they really hadn't been pushing them for some time. I believe they, like Celestron, decided that small, cheap Dobs were more trouble than they were worth for them. Orion also gave up on "its" Dobs and began importing GSOs and Syntas, which were, quite frankly not much--if any different from the Dobs those companies were already selling under various brandnames.

Jon, if you want to know who REALLY revolutionized the small Dobsonian, it was good old Meade. They came in when Coulter was still the only game in town other than custom rigs like Sky Designs, and they did everything you want to praise Orion and the Chinese for FIRST. Better focuser. Better finished, attractive tube, better focuser, better primary mount, a real spider. The only thing the Chinese and Orion added MUCH LATER was the metal tubes...but I am not really sure how much of an "advance" that was.

OH, and the 2-inch Meade focuser? Yes, it was lousy. But you've forgotten what Orion was putting on its dobs when the plastic fantastic Meade came out. What Orion was giving you was a cotton picking HELICAL job.

Howsomeever...other than these things I agree with you 100% as always.


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GeneT
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: MikeCatfin]
      #5874231 - 05/20/13 04:55 PM

Quote:

Regardless of my feeling toward Meade, I think this deal was inevitable and good for the long term prospects of the company.




My thinking exactly.


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Jon Isaacs
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Re: Meade Merges with another company new [Re: rmollise]
      #5874262 - 05/20/13 05:16 PM

Quote:

The thing they REALLY needed to upgrade the too-small side bearings was what they didn't do, and still struggle with today with kludges like springs.




If you do the engineering analysis, the springs have the same effect as larger bearings...

I do remember the 6 and 8 inch Meade's with the iron counterweights that helped keep the mirror warm...

As far as the differences between what Meade was selling and Orion.. I bought an original XT-8... the Meade's of that era were a work in progress, Orion was a reasonably finished product...

It may be that was the only real difference...

Jon


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