HD Radio at CES and Products You'll See Later This Year

I go to the CES show in person and see the new digital receivers first-hand, before broadcasters see them at the April NAB. I thought I'd share some of my impressions as well as comments from radio engineers and transmission manufacturer reps I ran into in the exhibit halls at the big show, which recently wrapped up.
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I go to the CES show in person and see the new digital receivers first-hand, before broadcasters see them at the April NAB. I thought I'd share some of my impressions as well as comments from radio engineers and transmission manufacturer reps I ran into in the exhibit halls at the big show, which recently wrapped up.

And I do mean halls, plural. With more than 2,500 exhibitors, 1.8 million net square feet of exhibit space and 140,000 attendees, this show has become the largest in Las Vegas.

Some 2,000-registered press cover CES … and you can imagine the tempers flaring over the limited amount of computers available at certain times of day in the press room. One day, a guy accidentally kicked a cable on the floor and a whole row of us lost our Internet access — on deadline.

I remember the days at CES when you had to hunt for HD Radio products on the show floor. Not so much now. Amidst the audio products, flat-screen TVs, iPods and cell phones, plus all their associated accessories, HD Radio also was featured in nearly 20 booths. Ibiquity printed up a handy card that could be used as a roadmap for attendees showing all the booth locations that had their products.

Ibiquity also had a huge shelf system in its booth to display the many home HD-R receivers coming onto the market this year. This was in addition to the Jaguar — a $133,000 car, according to the nice British-accented Jaguar folks — and BMWs displaying in-dash HD-Radios.

Ibiquity had demos showing future capabilities such store and replay, Electronic Program Guide and NDS provided a demo of conditional access, which we first reported on after the fall NAB Radio Show.

Several engineers told me they were impressed with the Visteon Jump, the dockable and transportable HD Radio product for the home and car. In addition to a booth display, Visteon had the Jump mounted next to the dash — because there were so many other products crammed into the dash in this display, including a dock to allow you to charge two iPods in the dash, and another option to light up the console, speakers and cup holders with LEDs in 23 color choices.

Mike Starling of NPR singled out the power-efficient SiPort Module as an interesting HD-R product. NPR had good talks with receiver manufacturers, he said, and several manufacturers offered sneak peeks of other product launches to come in the months ahead.

Milford Smith of Greater Media told me he liked the Dice HD-R car converter that interfaces with OEM radios. It plugs into the CD changer port.

He had a chuckle at Apple's announcement about its iPhone. It was all the buzz at CES, but as Smitty pointed out, the announcement came out of the competing MacWorld show in San Francisco. He characterizes the product as basically a cell phone with an iPod, and finds it interesting that it doesn't have the ability to download music via the phone; the user has to do that from a PC.

Alliance honcho Peter Ferrara said awareness of HD Radio is up dramatically compared to last year at this show. He said manufacturers and retailers came up to him saying they heard ads on the radio about HD Radio and asked him how they can get involved in the promotion effort.

HD Radio proponents are “aggressively pursuing interfaces with radio, iPods, iTunes and Zune,” to name a few, he told me.

Satellite radio, which used to have lavish press conferences at this show, had a more muted presence this year. While Sirius had a booth (it didn't last year), I didn't see much activity there beyond the mobile video demo.

XM had several displays, including its new Sure Connect system and Delphi SkyFi 3. Those folks were excited about one of their programming stars, Cal Ripken Jr., being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame the day I dropped by their booth.

I'll have more about HD-R and satellite radio product announcements, plus photos, in an upcoming edition of Radio World.

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