XM Building Base For Wider Adoption

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XM Satellite Radio is broadening its features and selection in portable, home and car audio offerings here at International CES this week.

At the show, consumer electronics suppliers plan to:

  • Embed XM Satellite Radio controls in a wider range of XM-ready home audio products, which are designed to control low-cost Connect-And-Play XM antenna/tuner combinations;
  • Introduce the first XM-ready portable audio products. They include at least one boombox, due from Audiovox, and at least one headphone MP3 player, due from Samsung. The MP3 player, which controls XM-tuner-equipped home and car docking stations, time-shifts XM broadcasts for later playback; and
  • launch next-generation XM2go headphone stereos. Like their predecessors, they'll play live XM broadcasts when worn by consumers, and they'll time-shift XM programs. The new models, however, will offer expanded memory and the ability to store MP3 and WMA music files transferred from a PC. At press time, XM hadn't identified the suppliers of the next-generation X2go devices.

Dealers will also find a greater selection of car stereo head units that are both XM- and Sirius-ready.

In another development, XM plans to outline a next-generation Connect-And-Play program said to make it easier for consumers to listen to satellite radio through multiple products but pay for only one monthly subscription. It revolves around a transportable 9-volt-battery-size XM tuner that slips directly into an A/V receiver, HTiB, stereo system, boombox, TV, car audio system, or home and car docking station.

Under the first-generation Connect-And-Play program, XM-ready devices such as A/V receivers and home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) systems control a $49.95-suggested outboard XM tuner/antenna combination, which is compact enough to carry from one XM-ready product to another to make multiple subscriptions unnecessary.

In the second-generation program, the tuner gets tinier and separated from the antenna. A $29.99-suggested Passport tuner module slips directly into an A/V receiver, HTiB, stereo system, boombox, TV, car audio system, or home and car docking station. The systems connect to a standard tuner-less XM antenna. Consumers still have to transport the tuner from one device to the other, but now they can leave the indoor antenna in its optimum reception location.

The new program also extends Connect-And-Play capability to the car for the first time, enabling consumers to plug their Passport tuner directly into an XM-ready car audio system. In contrast, consumers who want to transport XM tuners from home to car must invest in a larger and slightly pricier control-button-equipped “plug-and-play” tuner that plugs into a home and car docking station. Plug-and-play satellite radios generally start at $49.99. Some come bundled with home and car docking stations that, when sold separately, cost $49.99, XM said.

At press time, it was confirmed that at least one product — a home docking station for Samsung's XM time-shifting neXus MP3 player — would come with the slot. Major home audio suppliers contacted by TWICE did not plan to show devices with Passport slots.

Nonetheless, the selection of first-generation Connect-And-Play products for the home will expand significantly, and these devices will control new $29.99-suggested home and car docking stations with Passport slot and outboard antenna.

In XM-ready products here, dealers will find:

  • the first XM-ready home audio products from Audiovox, Crosley, Harman Kardon, LG Electronics, Samsung and Sherwood, and the first in Pioneer's mainstream series;
  • an expanded selection of XM-ready home products from Denon, Onkyo, and Yamaha;
  • a greater selection of more affordable XM-ready home products, with XM-ready A/V receivers priced down to a suggested $299 from Onkyo and Pioneer, HTiBs priced down to $399 from Samsung and $299 from Audiovox, and compact music systems down to a suggested $129 and $99 from Audiovox and GPX, respectively. Yamaha previously introduced an XM-ready stereo receiver at a suggested $299;
  • the first XM-ready TV, a Samsung LCD model with built-in DirecTV box at a suggested $499; and
  • the first XM-ready stereo shelf systems. They're from Audiovox and GPX.

One of the first XM-time-shifting MP3 players will be Samsung's neXus, which the company claims will be the first flash-based XM-ready MP3 player when it ships in the first quarter at an unannounced price in 512MB and 1GB versions. Either version will play MP3 and protected-WMA files (purchased and rented), store time-shifted XM programs, and let users permanently store or delete individual time-shifted XM music tracks.

They time-shift XM programming when docked with a home or car docking station that accepts the new Passport XM module.

Songs in MP3, WMA and XM formats can be mixed into custom playlists, and the XM tracks remain on the device for as long as an XM subscription is current. The XM songs will expire within 90 days of a lapsed subscription.

Samsung's devices differ from current XM2go headphone stereos from Pioneer, Tao, and Delphi. These models incorporate XM tuner for live satellite reception and only 128MB of embedded memory, which can nonetheless store up to five hours of time-shifted XM content that's automatically overwritten on a first-in, first-out basis. The XM2go devices don't store MP3 or WMA music files transferred from a PC, nor do they allow users to select stored XM songs individually by title.

Next-generation XM2go products, however, will store MP3 and WMA music files transferred from a PC, store time-shifted XM programs and let users permanently store or delete individual time-shifted XM music tracks. Songs in MP3, WMA and XM formats could be mixed into custom playlists.

Additional details of next-generation XM2go portables, and the brands offering them, were unavailable at press time.

In other XM developments at CES, Altec Lansing plans to show the XM4021, which could be the first in-home amplified-speaker dock to reproduce content from plugged-in XM Satellite Radio plug-and-play tuners. The $149-suggested device, which also docks with XM2go headphone portables, will ship in April or May.

Altec already offers two home-based amplified-speaker docks for XM2go headphone portables.

An XM antenna and cable-management system are included.

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