The first Internet radio for cars unveiled by Blaupunkt at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week suggests that Sirius XM satellite radio could have more trouble ahead in the form of new competition.
According to an account by VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi, the in-dash car stereo can play 20,000 conventional AM/FM as well as Internet radio stations streamed in real time via a Bluetooth connection from the radio to your 3G cell phone. Rather than endlessly browsing by genre, station or keyword, the radio can be programmed with preset stations selected on a Web portal. Potential early drawbacks include spotty domestic 3G coverage and the need for speedy drivers to bulk up on extra bandwidth to assure unbroken radio reception. While economics remain fuzzy, it appears Blaupunkt and partner miRoamer will sell the Internet car radio option for just under $400 domestically the second half of 2009, perhaps with some subscription options.
What it means:
It is an example of how alternative technology is an ever-present check on self-ascribed industry leaders. It may take a few tries to get mainstream in-car Internet radio right, but fears about the recently merged Sirius XM satellite radio monopolizing the market could soon be thwarted. Sirius XM continues to sift through the financial rubble of its protracted merger at a time when automotive sales are expected to remain at record lows in an economically depressed year. About $1 billion in refinancing remains uncertain and merger synergies must be demonstrated as debt-strapped Sirius XM works to post improved performance. What the company—like so many other dominant sector players—may not have been betting on is rigorous competition. The new Internet radio once again demonstrates the point: There always is the prospect of a better, cheaper alternative courtesy of an entrepreneurial tech community that never sleeps…even during a recession.