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XM Slates Tuners For Home, Car

1/06/2001 02:00:00 AM Eastern

LAS VEGAS -Even though the first of its two satellites was not scheduled to launch until Jan. 8, XM Satellite Radio will nonetheless beam live broadcasts from its Washington, D.C. studios to working prototype tuners during CES.

For the demos, XM plans to lease satellite time to transmit live broadcasts to its Las Vegas-area terrestrial-repeater network, which will deliver the signal to in-building repeaters to working prototype tuners that Alpine, Pioneer and Sony expect to demonstrate. Their products are due in the second and third quarters.

Alpine and Sony will demonstrate car tuners, but Sony will show a transportable tuner that docks with home and car audio systems. Delphi might also demonstrate a car model, said Stephen Cook, XM's senior VP of sales and marketing.

"Commercial quantities of ST Microelectronics chipsets will be available in late Q1 or early Q2 so [aftermarket] products can be on retail shelves for late Q2," he said. The rollout will take place market by market starting in late Q2. "Over a two-month period, the plan is to have full nationwide [product] availability," Cook said.

XM's second satellite will have lifted off in late February or early March.

The first OEM XM tuner will be available in limited quantities in the second and third quarter in the Cadillac Seville as a factory-installed model, "but realistic consumer quantities at Cadillac dealers will begin in [model-year] 2002," Cook said. So far, GM has announced availability on 2002 Sevilles and Devilles and hasn't announced additional models, he said.

For the aftermarket, Alpine, Pioneer and Sony will be first to market, Cook said.

Here's what the three suppliers said they'll ship and when:

Alpine: The XM lineup will include five XM-ready CD-receivers and one XM-ready in-dash Multimedia Station, which is an AM/FM tuner/controller/ LCD monitor. These source units will control a hideaway XM tuner that's small enough to fit behind the dash or under a seat.

"Our current plan is to have the XM tuner module available in the third quarter, but that is tied to chipset availability from XM," said marketing VP Stephen Witt. If XM hits its targeted chipset prices, the Alpine module will retail for a targeted suggested retail of $200-$250, he said.

The CD-receivers, all featuring larger displays than in past lines, will start at less than a suggested $300 and will ship in February through April. The Multimedia Station is due in May at around a suggested $1,000.

Initially, antennas for use with Alpine's hideaway tuner might be a small-mast or mouse-like antenna mounted near the middle of the roof, either on a magnet-mount base or permanently installed, said Witt. On-glass antennas tested to date haven't performed well enough in reception tests using XM's repeater network, he said.

Pioneer: The company will unveil a trio of products. One is a hideaway XM tuner that can be controlled by new XM-Ready head units and by previously available changer-controlling Pioneer head units.

The second product is a CD-receiver packaged with a hideaway XM tuner, and the third is a tuner with FM modulator and wired controller.

All three could be available as early as late Q1, said assistant brand manager Ted Cardenas, but Pioneer will distribute the device to coincide with commercial XM service.

The hideaway tuner, small enough to fit behind the dash or under a seat, is targeted to retail for $250 to $300, depending on chipset prices from XM. It will be controlled from 14 new XM-ready source units-11 CD-receivers, one double-DIN AM/FM/CD/cassette, and two cassette-receivers-all with an XM-Ready logo. Prices of the XM-Ready head units start at a suggested $220 for a CD-receiver and $220 for a cassette-receiver.

With limitations, the tuner can also be controlled from any Pioneer CD-changer-controlling head unit available since 1994 and bearing a model number with the letter "P," Cardenas said. Users, however, would be able to search up or down sequentially to a desired channel, precluding a search by format. Some of those head units also won't display station names.

Prices on the tuner/FM modulator package and the tuner/CD-receiver package weren't available.

Pioneer will make its own 4-inch-tall rubberized mast antenna with a diameter of about 1 or 2 inches. The company is leaning toward a rooftop magnet-mount version that might be packaged with a bracket-mount capability, Cardenas said.

Once XM launches its satellites, however, the company will field-test an on-glass version that might be available at launch if testing is successful, another spokesman said.

Sony: The company will give consumers the opportunity to hear XM broadcasts through car and home stereos when it ships what it calls an "optional transportable plug-and-play XM satellite receiver." Here's how it works:

A tuner that's smaller than a headphone CD player slides into a docking cradle that swivels on its attached pedestal. The cradle/pedestal, in turn, connects to an existing home or car audio system. A tuner bundled with a home cradle will retail for an expected everyday $300.

A do-it-yourself car bundle will also retail for an everyday $300 and will include a cigarette-lighter adapter, cassette adapter, IR remote, and magnet-mount roof-top antenna that will also come with hardware for permanent mounting. The docking-cradle/pedestal can be mounted with screws or two-sided adhesive tape in the car.

For a more permanent install, a car bundle due at an expected everyday $400 will come with FM modulator. Although the cradle isn't DIN-size, Sony expects many installers will custom-fit it into the dash or into a center console. It will also come with optional magnet-mount or bolt-on roof-top antenna, which is shaped like a pen stuck into a hockey puck.

The tuner itself features two-line, 20-character per line blue backlit LCD display, which scrolls to display channel name, song titles and music genre. It also features five station presets, volume control, and bass and treble controls.

The home cradle uses an analog RCA output to feed signal to a stereo system. "An analog output connects to the largest number of devices," said Sony personal audio VP Bob Nell. But he also admitted that "we take into consideration the rights of artists in all our products."

Consumers who buy a car bundle can pay about $130 for a home cradle without tuner. Consumers who buy a home bundle can pay an extra $130 for a do-it-yourself car kit without tuner.

Everything is due in late Q2.

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