By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Satellite radio is reaching consumers in ways that weren’t available when satellite-radio service launched in 2001, largely as a mobile-audio service for vehicles.
Today, XM and Sirius radio channels reach on-the-go consumers via wearable headphone portables. AT&T cellphones stream select XM channels to listeners over the cellular network. Sirius XM also launched a free iPhone/iPod Touch app that streams the Sirius or XM Internet radio service to the handheld devices via Wi-Fi (and to the iPhone via 3G cellular) when users subscribe to either service.
In battery-operated boomboxes for on-the-go consumers, the XMBB1 is available for use with all Xpress plug-and-play tuners, the Delphi RoadyXT plug-and-play tuner and the headphone-type wearable SkyFi3, said Sirius/XM distributor Audiovox. The Sirius SUBX2 boombox, in contrast, works with several Sirius plug-and-play tuners.
At home, consumers receive the Sirius and XM Internet services via the PC or from a growing number of networked home audio products with built-in Internet radio capability. Sirius Internet service is available through Integra and Onkyo A/V receivers and several Logitech-offered networked media players and digital media adapters. Networked tabletop radios from Grace Digital and a Sirius-branded model, which is due in the fall, also stream the Sirius Internet service via the Internet.
XM and Sirius tuners are also available as optional slide-in tuner modules for custom-installed multi-room-audio systems, and many A/V receivers and home theater in a box systems are equipped with connections to control tiny outboard Sirius or XM satellite tuners. In a growing number of cases, home A/V receivers sport inputs for both tuners.
The new Sirius XM SkyDock is among the newest avenues for bringing satellite-radio service into the car, and it is creating the most excitement among retailers at the moment. It is due in stores Oct. 18, according to market sources.
The new $119 XM SkyDock features built-in XM tuner that is controlled from the user interface of a docked iPod Touch or iPhone after an app is installed. The SkyDock will not only play back Sirius XM programming through its embedded satellite tuner but will also play iPhone-streamed Internet Radio applications as well as Touch- and iPhone-stored music. Programming enters the car’s sound system via the SkyDock’s built-in FM modulator or aux-out connection.
The device could turn the iPhone into a vehicle’s main car audio head unit much like in-dash CD players, retailers said.
Said Car Toys senior merchandising VP Dan Jeancola, “This product cannot be ignored. With the popularity of the iPhone, this should be a very viable product for the holiday season.”
Al & Ed’s Autosound product manager John Haynes noted that the SkyDock plus iPhone allows streaming radio from Pandora, Slacker and other iPhone apps. “Plus it is Bluetooth-capable. I now have Bluetooth, music, streaming radio and satellite radio all in an iPhone dock … How cool is that?”
One caveat, said Sirius XM, is that the dock will require that users sign onto the Sirius XM app initially and view a quick promo before they may switch to another app. But users need not be a Sirius XM subscriber to play other apps through the dock, it said.
The SkyDock is part two of Sirius XM’s plan to leverage the iPhone. In June, the company launched its first iPhone app, which hit 1 million downloads after two weeks on the market, and iSuppli estimated the app has now reached 2 million downloads, based on the performances of other apps.
Suppliers have long stated that a low-cost, user-friendly Internet Radio device for the car could be a homerun product, but few such products have reached consumers. Mitek and Blaupunkt have shown prototypes that have yet to be offered.
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