XM Squelches Combo-iPod Rumors; Leaves Door Open

LAS VEGAS, NV -- XM Satellite Radio has had discussions about a combination portable media device and XM receiver with a number of major manufacturers, including Apple, but no formal partnership has been formed and there are no plans for an imminent announcement, the company has told The Mac Observer.

XM Director of Product Marketing, Phil Whitworth said that while the company is very interested in developing a MP3-like device that includes XMis service, it is not as high of a priority right now compared to expanding its reach into home entertainment devices, such as stereo systems and alike.

"Generally, are current focus is on home entertainment," Mr. Whitworth told TMO. "We working with a number of companies to make sure XM technology is embedded in home stereo systems, boomboxes, and more."

Mr. Whitworth said XM has talked to a number of major players in the digital media device market, such as Apple and Microsoft, but said, "they have no been active discussions. They have been more along the lines of introducing our technology and discussions of possible ways of bringing a digital music player together with XMis service."

Chance Patterson, XM company spokesman, cautioned that talks with Apple do not mean an agreement for a iPod-like product with XM service built in is a done deal.

"We talk with a lot of companies," Mr. Patterson said. "That doesnit mean they have committed to building in our chip or our service. That doesnit mean it couldnit happen in the future, but it doesnit mean itis happening sometime soon. We have no imminent announcement."

This week at the International Consumer Electronics Show, XM is aggressively pushing its "Connect-and-Play" technology. For a low relative incremental cost, manufacturers of popular consumer electronics products are being enticed to add a small circuit the size of a fingernail to their products that would add XM service. Many companyis have already bit at the chance, including Grundig with its Grundig Satellite 900 portable radio (see photo below), Pioneer, Denon, GPX, Eton and Thomson/RCA.

While the current push is to get XM into more traditional radio devices, Mr. Whitworth emphasized that working with digital media device makers will be more of a focus in 2005 and beyond.

"There is no reason why we canit embed the XM iConnect-and-Playi technology into MP3 players, like the iPod," he said. "There are no limitations to making XM technology a part of small, digital media products. Weire excited about exploring those possibilities with manufacturers and those discussions are on-going."

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Shortwave radio maker Grundig announced the Satellite 900
at CES this week that includes XM Satellite Radio access.
(Click the image for a larger version)

Emphasizing again the push to get XM technology into home entertainment products, Mr. Whitworth said itis too early to say when and with whom XM could partner with on a portable device like an iPod, iRiver, RCA or Samsung player.

"We canit leap ahead of ourselves," Mr. Whitworth commented. "Itis too early to set a time line on a XM ending up in digital devices, but itis on our radar."

XM is the only satellite radio provider to currently offer a handheld receiver, in the form of the XM2go, which retails for US$349.99. Itis competitor, Sirius does not currently offer a handheld satellite receiver.

An apple spokesperson did not return repeated phone calls from TMO for comment. Appleis standard policy has been to not comment on unannounced products.

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