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Samsung, Dell Postpone XM/MP3 Portables

New York — Although the RIAA hopes Congress will act this year to grant digital radio copy-protection authority to the FCC, the music industry’s stepped-up lobbying effort may already have had an impact on the products that consumers can buy.

Samsung and Dell confirmed that they’re postponing the launch of MP3 portables that store blocks of time-shifted XM Satellite Radio programming and allow users to select individual XM songs for playback. Shipments were pushed back to the first quarter of 2006 from the fourth quarter of 2005.

Sirius also announced plans for a similar device due later this month.

Dell and Samsung used almost identical language in explaining the delay. A Dell spokeswoman said her company “has decided to extend its development cycle.” A Samsung email to employees from Thomas Rhee, new business development VP, said the company “extended the development period” of its two planned devices. Neither company offered additional comment.

XM’s VP Brian Shea, however, said the planned Samsung devices “fall within [regulatory] guidelines,” and that the music industry hadn’t expressed concerns about them or current XM2go headphone stereos, which also time-shift blocks of satellite-radio programming and allow selection of stored XM songs by title. The Samsung and XM2go devices don’t use removable memory. In addition, the time-shifted content in XM2go devices is overwritten on a first-in, first-out basis, he said. It wasn’t clear whether the Samsung devices would have offered the same capability.

The Samsung devices, however, would offer internal storage of 512MB and 1GB, while the XM2go devices store up to five hours of XM programming on 128MB of memory. With such storage capacity, the music industry might be concerned about when temporary storage can effectively be permanent.

The Dell XM/MP3 player will feature built-in memory and will allow users to store MP3 songs and temporarily store XM programming. The XM programming is not loaded into permanent storage, but is saved in a buffer that will erase once more programming is added. Also, like the Samsung player, the Dell unit will dock in a computer cradle to allow downloading of XM and MP3 songs via the XM + Napster Web site. The XM songs can be tagged so that, upon docking, the songs may be purchased via XM + Napster. The XM + Napster service will be free to XM subscribers.

Siirus Satellite Radio said it still plans to ship its S50 radio headset for storing a mix of Sirius/MP3/WMA files this month. The expected suggested retail price is $359.99.  — Additional reporting by Amy Gilroy