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Equipment Discussions >> Cats & Casses

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Starhawk
Space Ranger
*****

Reged: 09/16/08

Loc: Tucson, Arizona
Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: EddWen]
      #5986149 - 07/23/13 02:02 PM

Edd,

I think part of this is being driven by a resource sink which pretty obviously destroyed products in the quest to make good enough even better.

While it is pretty obvious the business question doesn't stem on whether or not GOTO is here to stay- obviously it is. But having insufficient funds to add a bunch of features to a GOTO system at the expense of the mechanism it's supposed to be controlling clearly had business input and business consequences.

-Rich


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starrancher
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 06/09/09

Loc: Northern Arizona
Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: EddWen]
      #5986153 - 07/23/13 02:06 PM

I can't understand where the conception of Go-To setups costing five times the amount of a manual setup costs comes from . Or where the concept that a Go-To setup is in an avoidance of leaning the night sky comes from .
I started out plotting celestial coordinates off of the sky atlas , making a list of the objects that I wanted to view along with those coordinates in advance of the viewing session and then using the setting circles on the GEM mount to find them . I remember my very first time out in doing this , successfully finding sixteen objects . Now this was basically an all nighter , but I consider that to be a pretty dang good night for a greenhorn . A good friend of mine bought an 8" Meade SCT on an LXD5 mount in 1998 ? . By the time he added an RA motor drive to it , he had almost a grand wrapped up in the unit . Ten years later when I bought my first LXD75 scope with the AR5 on it , the LXD75 SCT8 was running $1,395.00 . That's only about four hundred bucks more than he forked out 10 years prior for a setup with not only the RA drive but also a DEC drive and full on Go-To function with a 30,000 object data base . Not hardly 5 times the price , not to mention the fact that the LXD75 mount and tripod was a vast improvement over the previously produced LXD5 with its shaky aluminum tripod legs .
I've also learned substantially more of where things are in the night sky post Go-To than I ever did pre Go-To . Why ? Instead of concentrating on coordinates and setting circles , I could sit back , watching the Go-To slew , while actually paying attention to the sky and where the scope was pointing . This in conjunction with using simple sky charts for reference greatly accelerated my learning of the night sky . Now I'm a pro ! Thanks in a great part to the Go-To technology !
Just my two coppers .

P.S. Now that I think of it , the LXD5 that I refered to was I believe actually the LX50 . My bad . So disregard the LXD5 as I don't believe there ever was such a thing .

Edited by starrancher (07/23/13 05:08 PM)


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Cotts
Just Wondering
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Reged: 10/10/05

Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: DrGolds]
      #5986165 - 07/23/13 02:19 PM

Quote:

GOTO mounts are extremely useful when you live in a light polluted environment.




THIS +1 My limited time with my scope is very valuable to me when I do get to dark skies and I do not wish to waste that time trying to find Struve 2967 with an atlas, a Telrad and a 50mm finder. Been there, done that.

Dave


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Starman1
Vendor (EyepiecesEtc.com)
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Reged: 06/24/03

Loc: Los Angeles
Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: jrcrilly]
      #5986174 - 07/23/13 02:23 PM

GoTo technology kept Meade at the forefront of technology for years. Had the LS worked right out of the box, it would have been a shot in the arm for Meade's bottom line.
I spent 30 years star hopping, then got GoTo with a Meade LX200 Classic, and my observing log grew from 3500 objects to 9300 in ten years. Even to the serious observer, GoTo is very useful.

But Meade had a seemingly never-ending bunch of failures, starting with some of the early LX90s, continuing with the LS scopes, the LX80 mount, the LX800 scopes, etc. It looked like every product released was still in Beta testing. That hurt their reputation among dealers. We liked the products--when they worked--but were afraid to recommend them to customers.
That's NOT where you want to be as a manufacturer.

At least where I worked at the time, had every Meade product worked perfectly, they would have outsold Celestron and they'd be a strong and profitable company today.

But, as my mother used to say, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."
And so, here we are, waiting to see who picks up the scraps and to see what they do with them.


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BGeoghegan
super member


Reged: 03/22/10

Loc: Eastern CT
Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: Starman1]
      #5986219 - 07/23/13 02:52 PM

Here are 2 new releases from Meade and MITC:

Yesterday: Meade BoD continues to recommend shareholders reject the MITC tender offer ($3.65/share) in favor of Sunny's offer at $4.21. At the time of Meade's filing the MITC offer had expired but MITC hadn't announced returning tendered shares or continuing their effort to acquire Meade. The Meade BoD recommendation is for "the Company's stockholders [to] vote in favor of the adoption of the merger agreement with Sunny Optics, Inc. ("SOI")..." Does anyone know when that vote might be?

http://biz.yahoo.com/e/130722/mead8-k.html

Today: MITC allows tender offer to expire and tendered shares are to be returned:
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/mit-capital-inc-tender-offer-130000219.html

Bob G

Edited by BGeoghegan (07/23/13 02:53 PM)


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EddWen
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 04/26/08

Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: Starman1]
      #5986224 - 07/23/13 02:52 PM

Well, OT until we hear some more news.

My introduction to go-to was my NexStar 11 GPS. I bought it in 2003 to replace my 1980 C8 when it's coatings went bad.

I didn't buy it because of go-to, I should be ashamed to say I bought it because it had styling. The first telescope I'd ever seen that had some aesthetics, beyond just functionality, applied to it's appearance. Cool !!

Anyway, go-to is so simple that it is just normal now.

I used the setting circles on the C8, and when I got my Questar in 1989, I was upset because the scribe line for the dec axis was a degree off. The indicator line for RA was about .050" wide. So I changed the RA to a pin-point indicator. I polished out the dec scribe line and put one in the correct location and all was good.

Just joking here folks, but one of the NexStar's alignment procedures is manually point the scope North and the OTA Level, lock the clutches, press Align and it goes to a star of its choosing to have me center to refine the alignment. Probably in violation of the Meade patent.


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EddWen
Pooh-Bah


Reged: 04/26/08

Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: BGeoghegan]
      #5986283 - 07/23/13 03:32 PM

Thanks Bob.

Well, that's it then. We're on hiatus for 30-60 days while Meade is down to it's last roll of the dice.


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csrlice12
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Loc: Denver, CO
Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: EddWen]
      #5986310 - 07/23/13 03:46 PM

Quote:

Thanks Bob.

Well, that's it then. We're on hiatus for 30-60 days while Meade is down to it's last roll of the dice.




Actually, Vegas might be their last remaining choice to make a profit if Sunny pulls out......


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Starhawk
Space Ranger
*****

Reged: 09/16/08

Loc: Tucson, Arizona
Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: EddWen]
      #5986315 - 07/23/13 03:49 PM

Has Meade been force to lose time or resources thanks to the MITC Bid? Naively, it seems to me they did no harm at the end of the day.

-Rich


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mclewis1
Thread Killer
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Reged: 02/25/06

Loc: New Brunswick, Canada
Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: EddWen]
      #5986319 - 07/23/13 03:51 PM

As Edd and others have pointed out amateur astronomy is a tough marketplace today no matter how you slice it up so any new or re organized company is going to have to execute well in all areas. The days of carrying poorly performing products on the backs of better performing ones is over.

Automation (automated alignment, goto, autoguiding, etc.) is important to any product family ... but it has to function virtually flawlessly. Any substantial increase in support overhead because of additional automation (or any other reason) is unacceptable. This of course assumes that the core functionality is solid. Tripods must be robust and stable, tracking relatively smooth (backlash not too large), The gears, motors, and clutches etc. must all be solid but appropriate for the intended price points. User interfaces must be easy to use for both novice and expert users (a capability that's much tougher than most realize). Remote and computer control capabilities must not be overly complex and should not require a technical degree to implement.

Optical performance appropriate for a specific price point/market segment is a given. The rest are the intangibles for most customers (market/product/portfolio management, etc.) but represent arguably much tougher requirements for the new company.

Meade appears to have most of these points covered to various degrees. Any potential new ownership/management must clearly focus the new company on those market segments where they can both leverage existing product capabilities and compete effectively.

Meade has always had the ability to represent their products in a technically appealing manner (who hasn't at some point drooled over the contents of a Meade ad). Unfortunately today that isn't enough for success, and the strength of it's competition means that premium pricing based on the "cool factor" probably isn't going to fly. While advanced automation capabilities (automated alignment, integrated autoguiding) are valuable a new Meade needs to ensure that the core functionality has been firmly established. Separate Starlock, market it as an upgrade but ensure that the non Starlock products compete effectively.

A new or reorganized Meade should have the opportunity to refresh it's product portfolio in such a way to be better aligned with today's market. Existing new products (LX80/850/600) along with the LS series appear to offer a good foundation. Justifying having F8, ACF10 and traditional F10 SCT optics is going to be tough. Unless there is some compelling manufacturing cost benefits I can see the traditional SCT optics going away and the ACF slotted into the same price points. Good quality ED refractors are a nice addition to the product portfolio but I question the value of this in a highly competitive marketplace (there are lots of other ED refractor choices out there).

LS price points are going to have to be more competitive (automated alignment capabilities are not commanding much additional value). An effective sub LS product line is probably also going to be necessary (a refreshed ETX isn't going to cut it).

One reality that all vendors face is that the market that benefits the most from much of the advanced automation (and therefore perceives the most value of) is the novice or lower end goto. This market however is both the most price conscious and puts the most pressure on support organizations. The high end or advanced goto marketplace has the most capabilities to embrace advanced automation but the least use for it (and therefore sees the least additional value). Meade's original execution of introducing some advanced automation capabilities to both higher end and entry level marketplace(s) makes sense but clearly the lack of execution has hurt them in both areas.

Competitive bundled pricing (ota and mount) is obvious, but unbundled ota pricing and capabilities (standardized dovetail mounting points are one example) must be improved. It must be simple and clear how to take a Meade f8 or ACF ota and use it on another vendor's mount. Another area of unbundling where Meade may gain some small advantages is separating mounts from tripods, especially at the high end.

Only once it's re established with resellers and end users will Meade be able to improve margins with extra value product and marketing capabilities. Regardless of what specific product directions the new company takes the execution of the fundamentals must be the number one goal. We're now well into the "once bit twice shy" area, and the advanced amateur marketplace won't go along with getting it's fingers burned again.


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Starhawk
Space Ranger
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Reged: 09/16/08

Loc: Tucson, Arizona
Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: mclewis1]
      #5986382 - 07/23/13 04:33 PM

This is really an outstanding post.

-Rich

Quote:

As Edd and others have pointed out amateur astronomy is a tough marketplace today no matter how you slice it up so any new or re organized company is going to have to execute well in all areas. The days of carrying poorly performing products on the backs of better performing ones is over.

Automation (automated alignment, goto, autoguiding, etc.) is important to any product family ... but it has to function virtually flawlessly. Any substantial increase in support overhead because of additional automation (or any other reason) is unacceptable. This of course assumes that the core functionality is solid. Tripods must be robust and stable, tracking relatively smooth (backlash not too large), The gears, motors, and clutches etc. must all be solid but appropriate for the intended price points. User interfaces must be easy to use for both novice and expert users (a capability that's much tougher than most realize). Remote and computer control capabilities must not be overly complex and should not require a technical degree to implement.

Optical performance appropriate for a specific price point/market segment is a given. The rest are the intangibles for most customers (market/product/portfolio management, etc.) but represent arguably much tougher requirements for the new company.

Meade appears to have most of these points covered to various degrees. Any potential new ownership/management must clearly focus the new company on those market segments where they can both leverage existing product capabilities and compete effectively.

Meade has always had the ability to represent their products in a technically appealing manner (who hasn't at some point drooled over the contents of a Meade ad). Unfortunately today that isn't enough for success, and the strength of it's competition means that premium pricing based on the "cool factor" probably isn't going to fly. While advanced automation capabilities (automated alignment, integrated autoguiding) are valuable a new Meade needs to ensure that the core functionality has been firmly established. Separate Starlock, market it as an upgrade but ensure that the non Starlock products compete effectively.

A new or reorganized Meade should have the opportunity to refresh it's product portfolio in such a way to be better aligned with today's market. Existing new products (LX80/850/600) along with the LS series appear to offer a good foundation. Justifying having F8, ACF10 and traditional F10 SCT optics is going to be tough. Unless there is some compelling manufacturing cost benefits I can see the traditional SCT optics going away and the ACF slotted into the same price points. Good quality ED refractors are a nice addition to the product portfolio but I question the value of this in a highly competitive marketplace (there are lots of other ED refractor choices out there).

LS price points are going to have to be more competitive (automated alignment capabilities are not commanding much additional value). An effective sub LS product line is probably also going to be necessary (a refreshed ETX isn't going to cut it).

One reality that all vendors face is that the market that benefits the most from much of the advanced automation (and therefore perceives the most value of) is the novice or lower end goto. This market however is both the most price conscious and puts the most pressure on support organizations. The high end or advanced goto marketplace has the most capabilities to embrace advanced automation but the least use for it (and therefore sees the least additional value). Meade's original execution of introducing some advanced automation capabilities to both higher end and entry level marketplace(s) makes sense but clearly the lack of execution has hurt them in both areas.

Competitive bundled pricing (ota and mount) is obvious, but unbundled ota pricing and capabilities (standardized dovetail mounting points are one example) must be improved. It must be simple and clear how to take a Meade f8 or ACF ota and use it on another vendor's mount. Another area of unbundling where Meade may gain some small advantages is separating mounts from tripods, especially at the high end.

Only once it's re established with resellers and end users will Meade be able to improve margins with extra value product and marketing capabilities. Regardless of what specific product directions the new company takes the execution of the fundamentals must be the number one goal. We're now well into the "once bit twice shy" area, and the advanced amateur marketplace won't go along with getting it's fingers burned again.




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csrlice12
Postmaster
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Reged: 05/22/12

Loc: Denver, CO
Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: mclewis1]
      #5986386 - 07/23/13 04:36 PM

We could make a lot of money if it wasn't for all you amateur astronomers out there demanding quality for your coin.........thanks for listening, the mfgrs.

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rmollise
Postmaster
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Reged: 07/06/07

Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: csrlice12]
      #5986422 - 07/23/13 04:52 PM

Quote:

...and the person who invents a cheap, aftermarket GoTo kit for various models/weights/types of scopes will make a fortune...the key being easy to install and affordable; if it will be stable enough for AP would be a big bonus (maybe a more expensive, better geared unit).




No they won't, because absolutely nobody is going to go back to making non-go-to fork mount SCTs, or very many go-to scopes of any kind.


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rmollise
Postmaster
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Reged: 07/06/07

Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: starrancher]
      #5986447 - 07/23/13 05:02 PM

Quote:

I can't understand where the conception of Go-To setups costing five times the amount of a manual setup .




You are exactly right. That conception is in error. There are no non-go-to 8-inch and larger SCTs available, and a modern go-to C8 is much less expensive in real dollars than a non-go-to C8 of 20 years ago, for example.

Edited by rmollise (07/23/13 05:04 PM)


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tim53
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Reged: 12/17/04

Loc: Highland Park, CA
Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: starrancher]
      #5986467 - 07/23/13 05:14 PM

Quote:

I can't understand where the conception of Go-To setups costing five times the amount of a manual setup costs comes from .




Just referring to SCTs (though it's true of other optical configurations as well), a new SCT with the basic bells and whistles these days costs at least 5 times what I've paid for my used SCTs with AC drives.

If you could buy a modern SCT with a simple synchronous motor drive, it would still be less expensive than the goto version, and the goto plus starlock version, etc. Though I wasn't suggesting that it would be a fifth the cost (though it might be, now that I think of it).

There are still a lot of fully-functional vintage SCTs out there.

-Tim.


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Spacetravelerx
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 12/23/12

Loc: New Mexico
Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: mclewis1]
      #5986503 - 07/23/13 05:33 PM

Quote:

As Edd and others have pointed out amateur astronomy is a tough marketplace today no matter how you slice it up so any new or re organized company is going to have to execute well in all areas. The days of carrying poorly performing products on the backs of better performing ones is over.

.....





mclewis - excellent post from the Great White North!


A couple of questions though. You indicate
Quote:

having F8, ACF10 and traditional F10 SCT optics is going to be tough. Unless there is some compelling manufacturing cost benefits I can see the traditional SCT optics going away and the ACF slotted into the same price points.


Why do you see the traditional SCT going away? I have to tell you I really like the the F/8 ACF optics on my LX850. Celestron certainly sells traditional SCT optics still. Do you see everything going to Celestron Edge HD?

The ED refractor market place is crowded, I agree. However I have to say I am very impressed with the imported Meade ED APO 6000 series. So impressed I will now purchase the 130 mm to go with the 80mm. I think it is just a matter of marketing, word of mouth, etc. Also, I do see a market for these units - high quality views that are still grab and go level (well up to maybe 5-6"). These do NOT beat the view of my 14" f/8 ACF, but it will get used more around the countryside. Why can't Meade compete in this market?

Great write up!


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A. Viegas
Pooh-Bah
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Reged: 03/05/12

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Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: tim53]
      #5986519 - 07/23/13 05:44 PM

All this chatter on the pros of GOTO vs. non GOTO vs. quality and what not misses the basic reason Meade is where it is today. Sure they had some poor business decisions (lawsuits) and they executed poorly on some product introductions (LX80), but in reality its the overall demise of the broader amateur astronomy market that is to blame. Whether the global sales number is $100 or $250mn its a pittance in the world of consumer products. I would bet that just the market for volleyball equipment is like 5x this (hehe). We can all commiserate with the sad state of young peoples' interest in astronomy or the lack of math and science teaching/students in the USA... but the point is simple, its practically impossible to be a successful public company of any scale or size in amateur astronomy today.

I have no idea what Sunny has in its business plan for Meade... but I am confident that in the global marketplace there is tremendous potential for amateur astronomy in many emerging markets like China for instance. With growing disposable income and greater interest in science and math, perhaps Sunny sees its home market as a potential growth engine for weary Meade and its suite of products and innovation. I hope so, as global growth in interest for amateur astronomy can produce greater demand for products and for higher sales in general.

Lastly, I am solidly in the pro-technology camp for amateur astronomy. Lets face it our hobby insofar as its a science/technology subfield is really lame in terms of keeping up with basic advances in current technology. Heck, no wifi for remote control of scopes without buying specific accessories. How about more advanced equipment like photometry or spectrographs, why so expensive? easy, because there is like no demand apart from a very specialized few... BUT the technology and production cost to produce very high-end equipment is easy and readily available. Yet, without end-user demand the cost curve will just stay prohibitively higher. Hence, I sincerely hope that Sunny plans to roll out a major marketing campaign in China and greatly expand its new Meade brand into new markets with greater potential for growth.

As for the romantic and relaxed attitude of just star hopping and casual eyepiece observing... sure there is plenty of appeal to do it among the older set of amateurs out there, and just like afficionados of horse drawn buggies, i am sure there is a small niche market of dire-hard consumers who only buy genuine Amish leather to retrofit their circa 1840 carriage... alas, i bet that market is probably smaller than $100mn in global sales too, also I could be wrong and it may be larger. Yet, like our hobby its not really growing and if we want there to be greater innovation and lower prices in the future, well we really need just alot more consumers and generally much more interest. If this does not originate from apriori interest in math and science from an early age, or from some new NASA Mars mission or blockbuster PBS COSMOS series... well then, it means the business guys need to spark consumers to buy and be interested in their products. This means greater market penetration which I sincerely hope Sunny can achieve. If not then another venerable brand in our hobby will bite the dust and we will all have less choice and probably higher costs in the future... Sadly at this rate, in another 30 to 40 years there will be nothing left but a vintage market...

Al


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Spacetravelerx
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 12/23/12

Loc: New Mexico
Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: tim53]
      #5986524 - 07/23/13 05:46 PM

Quote:

Quote:

I can't understand where the conception of Go-To setups costing five times the amount of a manual setup costs comes from .




Just referring to SCTs (though it's true of other optical configurations as well), a new SCT with the basic bells and whistles these days costs at least 5 times what I've paid for my used SCTs with AC drives.

If you could buy a modern SCT with a simple synchronous motor drive, it would still be less expensive than the goto version, and the goto plus starlock version, etc. Though I wasn't suggesting that it would be a fifth the cost (though it might be, now that I think of it).

There are still a lot of fully-functional vintage SCTs out there.

-Tim.




Well of course most older used systems will be cheaper than new (except for a used Questar?).

But you raised a point I have harped on in this thread.

My 10" LX200 from the early 90s works perfectly fine. It does not have the sophistication of StarLock, nor the great f/8 ACF optics, or a GPS, or Crayford Focuser, etc.

BUT, for most of the population it is perfectly adequate. And I did not make another major telescope purchase for 21 years. I was perfectly happy with it.

How does a company survive with a small pool of astronomers, with many just hanging on to their old scope for a looong time, or just buying used?

Meade has a TON of used LX200's out there. They are competing with themselves too.


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Spacetravelerx
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 12/23/12

Loc: New Mexico
Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: Spacetravelerx]
      #5986555 - 07/23/13 06:17 PM

Well reading this loooong thread on the fate of Meade, I decided to follow another long thread...

...Meade's announcement and release of the LX800 on CN.

This was an amazing and very fascinating read, and really follows Meade's current trajectory. It also took almost the whole night to read!

The highlights:
* When the LX800 was announced there was MASSIVE buzz over the system. Good, bad, curious, technical comments, however either way everyone was excited in one way or the other.
* Based on the buzz Meade actually did seem to be addressing a need. There WAS great interest in the LX800.
* Some were worried about issues ala RCX400, but why would Meade repeat that event?
* There seemed to be negative comments about Celestron, and hope Meade would do better on their end high end.
* As a corollary, folks were excited with the LX800 as it would drive competition (i.e. Celestron) on its development cycle.
* Some complaints the mount seemed to be a direct copy of the Mach1.
* As the release was delayed folks were genuinely ticked at Meade and the industry's tactic of EARLY EARLY announcements.
* When the LX800 began to ship the excitement was huge.
* Then the train wreck...first reports showed problems right out the gate. VERY first reports. These first telescopes HAD TO BE PERFECT, or at least worked as advertised. They did not.
* Then it got worse
* Some folks were sort of happy, defending the overall system.
* And then more problems
* PP PEC 20 arcseconds???? YIKES! HOPING STARLOCK WOULD HIDE ALL THE MECHANICAL PROBLEMS?!?!?! DOUBLE YIKES!!!!!!
* And then more problems (all this in a month!)

And then...the "Recall"

Very wise of Meade for certain. And an admission they screwed up. And they did right a wrong...

But...

So many people were so excited, happy and then crushed it was like an atom bomb went off. Massive negative buzz. Meade was walking in the desert for months.

Then came the LX850. This is EXACTLY what should have been delivered. EVERYTHING was done as it should have been. IT truly is a great system and works as advertised.

But...

So many people were burned and the LX800 drama so intense, significant PR damage was done. Yes there are other problems (such as the Walmart Scope issue, going public, etc), but this really seemed to be the pinnacle moment. You could see and feel it online. Not just on CN, but everywhere.

Add to this the early LX80 issues and now I think the blunder of stopping sales of the LXD75 (in my book), and it all adds up.

I do feel the LX850, LX600, their eyepieces, optics and those 6000 Series APOs are quite good amongst other things at Meade. But too much damage was done in such a small market place.

A fascinating read...


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Jon Isaacs
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Reged: 06/16/04

Loc: San Diego and Boulevard, CA
Re: The plot thickens (Meade takeover) [Re: csrlice12]
      #5986572 - 07/23/13 06:28 PM

Quote:

...and the person who invents a cheap, aftermarket GoTo kit for various models/weights/types of scopes will make a fortune...the key being easy to install and affordable; if it will be stable enough for AP would be a big bonus (maybe a more expensive, better geared unit).




Mel Bartels provided inexpensive computerized telescope control systems to the amateur community for some years...

BBAstro Designs

I think he kept his day job.

Jon


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