By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
HD-Radio developer iBiquity Digital hopes to push its digital-radio technology into battery-powered portable devices this year with the Internatonial CES introduction of the first low-power, small-size HD-Radio chipset.
At CES, iBiquity demonstrated the chipset in a working engineering sample of an MP3 player of its own design. The Samsung-made chipset is intended for use in MP3 players, cellphones, personal navigation devices (PNDs) and boomboxes. The chipset's small size and lower price, however, will also help drive penetration into more home and car SKUs, iBiquity believes.
Samsung is sampling the chip.
HD Radio's entry into the portable-device market would follow a year of strong hardware progress in the home and car, said iBiquity president Robert Struble. The number of home and aftermarket car HD-Radio SKUs grew to more than 60 from 32 brands at the end of 2007 compared to only 20 SKUs at the end of 2006, when only one national retailer, RadioShack, offered the technology, he said.
In 2007, the number of HD-Radio-carrying national retailers grew to include Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City, BJ's and Sharper Image. A year ago, only one SKU carried a retail price of less than $200, but today, opening prices are down to $99, he said. (See Jan. 7 TWICE, pg. 1, for home and car HD Radio introductions at CES.)
For portable devices, the Samsung chipset will reduce power consumption to less than 200 milliwatts from other chipsets' approximate 3 watts, Struble said. With the chipset, iBiquity's objective is to deliver 24 hours of HD Radio reception from a portable device's embedded rechargeable battery, added engineering VP Gene Parella.
With the Samsung solution, chipset size shrinks from a cellphone-size module to one that is about 25mm by 30mm (roughly 1 inch by 1.2 inches) and a few millimeters deep. Price also shrinks "a lot," said Struble without getting specific.
The chipset will be the first to support "conditional access" without the addition of a peripheral chip, iBiquity said. Conditional access would allow for subscription-based reception of premium content such as live concerts, reading services for the blind, and data services, including traffic updates and points of interest (POI) updates to PNDs and installed car navigation systems, Struble said. Traffic data delivered via HD Radio will download faster than it can via analog Radio's FM RDS (Radio Data System) technology, enabling downloads of traffic information for an entire region before a driver shifts a vehicle into drive, he noted.
HD Radios currently on the market don't support conditional access, but the first will be available this year, he noted.
The Samsung chipset will also enable consumer electronics suppliers to load additional software onto it and onto a device's applications processor to time shift HD-Radio broadcasts. Current chipsets also support time shifting, but the feature hasn't been implemented yet by suppliers, iBiquity said.
CE suppliers could also use the chipset "conceivably" to create an MP3 player that time-shifts HD-Radio programming and "disaggregates" the content for sorting and playback by song title, artist name or album name, but iBiquity isn't promoting that concept.
At CES, iBiquity demonstrated an engineering sample of a portable MP3 player/HD Radio that's about the size of a Microsoft Zune MP3 player. The technology could potentially appear this year in MP3 players, cellphones, and PNDs, Struble said. In cellphones, it could appear in models that are not Motorola Razr-thin, Struble noted.
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