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XM, Sirius Expand Product Lines

Looking Beyond Boomboxes to In-Car Video, Wireless Distribution

Looking Beyond Boomboxes to In-Car Video, Wireless Distribution

LAS VEGAS Satellite radio companies Sirius and XM and their manufacturing partners are introducing a variety of products this year.

Sirius likes to create buzz with future concept demos at conventions, and this year’s CES was no exception. Last year, Sirius demonstrated rear-seat live video – in-car mobile video transmission over a satellite radio network. Now it says it is perfecting the system with Delphi and hopes to have it ready for automakers in 18 months. The video feature was demonstrated at a press conference and showcased in moving vehicles in Las Vegas.

According to Sirius, video reception would not require that the consumer install another antenna; the delivery uses the satellite radio antennas available at retailers and car dealerships.

FCC questions Sirius

The FCC has asked Sirius for details about its plans to add “multiple” video channels to its offerings.

Commission spokesman David Fiske told Radio World the agency is trying to determine whether the video offering would qualify as an ancillary service, which would be consistent with the satcaster’s spectrum authorization.

If not, Sirius may need to make a formal request to add the service. This would mean the service would require a ruling from the commission. “We’re posing those questions,” said Fiske.

The service rules for satellite digital audio radio services were passed in 1997.

Pending are separate rules to govern how Sirius and XM will use their terrestrial repeaters.

Delphi, meanwhile, was awarded a contract from Ford to provide radios for Sirius, joining eight other vehicle makers that have chosen Delphi’s satellite radios.

A turning point for the receiver maker’s aftermarket business came last year when it introduced the Delphi XM SkyFi radio. Delphi’s president of its Electrical, Electronics and Safety sector David Wohleen said the company has sold more than 750,000 satellite radio systems.

Among the basic new satellite radio products consumers will see in stores this year: Sirius struck agreements with Alpine and Blaupunkt to release Sirius-ready products in 2004. Alpine will develop aftermarket Sirius-compatible head units; Alpine becomes the first XM receiver partner to cross over and build receivers for both satcasters.

Blaupunkt plans to release a Sirius plug-and-play radio and a Sirius-ready in-dash tuner this spring. The tuner can be connected with Blaupunkt’s Chicago IVDM-7002 in-dash audio/video system. It includes a DVD/CD/MP3 player, and 5.1 Dolby Digital Theatre System.

JVC, Audiovox and Antex came to the Sirius stable of partners in 2003, joining the original partners Clarion, Jensen, Kenwood and Panasonic.

JVC has developed a plug-and-play radio for Sirius. The JVC KT-SR1000 Sirius Satellite radio is available at retailers and retails for $99.95. The JVC plug-and-play resembles a handheld PC device and allows subscribers to use the same Sirius receiver in their car, home, office, boat and RV.

New in February

Sirius begins an ad campaign this month; plug-and-play buyers will receive three months of Sirius service free when they sign up for a year’s worth of service. While Sirius President/CEO Joe Clayton didn’t release the cost of the ad campaign, he told Radio World it would include terrestrial radio ads as part of the buy.

Sirius and its partners introduced two boombox units that are compatible with its 10 new plug-and-play models.

The Audiovox SIRBB1 Portable Boombox Audio System for Sirius is available for $99.99 retail. The new boombox component works with Audiovox S.R.S. plug-and-play receivers.

Commercial truck dealers and truck stops now have the Pana-pacific Streamer, a transportable Sirius receiver that connects with any in-dash radio or home stereo. The Streamer boombox retails for $99.95.

Crestron and Nile Audio are developing in-home Sirius radios. Niles plans to incorporate Sirius technology into its next generation of multi-zone receivers and preamplifiers for release later this year. Tivoli is crafting a hand-held device for late ’04 release.

Sanyo is developing a Sirius model for early spring release.

Kenwood is shipping the Sirius Home Tuner (DT-7000S), which lists at $299.

Also a new partner for Sirius, Eclipse will manufacture Sirius-ready head units for release this year.

At last year’s CES, Sirius showed a multi-zone satellite radio, designed either for very large homes or shopping centers. In January, Antex Electronics began shipping to retailers the SRX-3 Triple Play, a satellite radio receiver designed to bring Sirius radio service to multi-room and multi-zone distributed audio systems.

The product consolidates multiple tuners into a single component with single antenna and consolidated control scheme, allowing listeners in different rooms to play different Sirius streams simultaneously over a multi source (or zone) distributed audio system.

Sirius is testing a wireless signal distribution system for interior environments. If it is approved by the FCC, Sirius subscribers could receive their service in their homes, offices or stores with one wireless repeater. The satcaster says the system allows single or multiple users to receive its signal without indoor wiring and without needing to place the second antenna by the window.

XM’s new products

While rival satcaster XM had a concept car for the first time at CES, its executives said they prefer to stress products actually coming out in the next 12 months.

XM introduced wireless FM audio adaptors for its Delphi XM SkyFi and Roady product lines. The SkyFi and Roady audio adaptors retail at $29.99 each. They deliver XM service to any car with an FM radio system.

The adapters plug into the vehicle’s cigarette lighter. They wirelessly transmit XM to a vehicle’s FM radio and provide power to the receiver.

For the home, XM has introduced the Roady home adapter, which retails at $39.99. The home adapter connects the Roady to a home stereo or a set of powered speakers.

Delphi has introduced the Delphi CD Audio System, the first AM, FM, XM, CD and MP3-capable boom box. It lists at $179.99. This product delivers XM programming through the Delphi XM SkyFi receiver that was introduced in 2002 and lists for $99.99.

XM recently introduced the aftermarket product XM Commander, an XM radio that works with any AM/FM car stereo, regardless of the brand. Terk Technologies distributes XM Commander.

In December, Alpine Electronics introduced the first in-dash stereo head unit with an integrated XM radio, along with AM, FM, and CD functions. The receiver eliminates the need for a separate XM tuner box.

The new XM Direct device features a universal tuner that connects to the car stereo system using a digital adapter cable for $99.99. Once the XM Direct is connected, users can listen to XM on the in-dash car stereo using the existing stereo controls.

Blitzsafe introduced the XM Direct adapter cable for BMW and Mini automobiles last fall. Blitzsafe is expected to introduce adapter cables for Alpine and Sony head units in the first quarter of this year. In addition, Terk Technologies is introducing XM Direct adapter cables for Kenwood and Pioneer head units.

And what was in XM’s demo of future car technologies? Its advanced technologies group in Boca Raton, Fla., had Delphi make a pre-production in-dash receiver displaying how XM might integrate with a navigation system.

The rear seat unit displayed and played stored audio clips, real-time weather reports and music videos sent over the air and displayed when the user wishes. XM Advanced Applications SVP Neil Eastman said the satcaster is working on these concepts.