CES 2006 Profile: XM Satellite Radio

XM Satellite Radio, in conjunction with various hardware partners, had a number of exciting new products unveiled at CES 2006. This new line up includes several portable handheld satellite radio MP3 players, a sports focused satellite radio receiver and a tuner module to provide greater plug and play flexibility.

The news by far drawing the most attention for XM was their portable satellite radio with MP3 capability devices. Pioneer and Samsung were the first announced manufacturers who are developing these converged solutions which will allow users to play digital audio stored on the player as well as listen to and record for later offline use XM channels.

Pioneer’s new player is known as the Inno. Features of this XM2go device, as well as the new Samsung Helix XM/MP3/WMA player, will include a weight of around 4.5 ounces and dimensions of 3.7” x 2.2” x 0.6”, a built-in satellite radio antenna, flash memory for storing MP3s, WMAs and up to 50 hours of recorded XM content, bookmarking of songs heard on XM for later Internet purchasing of that song from the XM + Napster online service, a full color 180 x 180 TFT display, personal playlists which mix XM content and MP3/WMA files, a built-in FM transmitter to broadcast content over a FM radio, on screen stock and sports score tickers, a category list for saving and playing favorite XM channels and an alert function when a favorite artist or song is being played on any XM channel. Both the Inno and the Helix will be priced at $399.99 when they become available in the first quarter.

Joining Samsung’s Helix player will be the Nexus line. Models capable of storing 25 hours ($199.99) and 50 hours ($249.99) of XM recorded content will be available. These players, unlike the Helix, will only be able to receive live XM content when connected to an external satellite radio antenna via a home docking station or car dock. Both will be available in the first quarter and offering features include playback of recorded XM content as well as MP3 and WMA files, bookmarking of XM played music for later online purchase through the XM + Napster service and mixed XM/MP3/WMA playlist creation.

Another interesting XM receiver joining the 2006 line up is AGT’s Sportscaster. Set for a spring debut at $59.99, this player is, as the name implies, targeted towards sports fans. It has a two line display with orange backlight and features a black glossy finish and compact size. Features include pre-programmed presets for XM’s sports channels and a special channel which provides continuously updated text about when and where to find live sports broadcasts on XM.

XM’s other large announcement at CES 2006 was regarding the new mini satellite radio tuner known as the XM Passport. This tiny 1.3” x 1.65” x .44” cartridge contains the entire XM radio tuner needed to deliver the satellite radio service to a variety of XM Ready products. It is inserted either into a docking station connected to this product or a built-in port offered by the manufacturer. It is approximately 40 times smaller than the original trunk mount XM radio tuners introduced four years ago. The XM Passport will allow portable flexibility as it can be transferred from XM Ready to XM Ready device with one subscription only. It will be available in the spring for $29.99 and will also come bundled with Samsung’s Nexus MP3/XM players.