Armchair technologists love to predict The Next Big Thing. Getting that right, however, requires a look to the past. Two prevailing technology trends of the last decade that are still influencing trends today are portability and multi-purpose devices.
This week, XM Satellite Radio Chairman Gary Parsons told an audience at a Banc of America Securities investor’s conference in New York City that his company’s future includes delivering its service to a host of gadgets – a move that incorporates both these trends.
“We would see the ability for consumer electronics manufacturers to perpetuate the availability of XM’s service down to clock radios and DVD players,” says Parsons, according to a Reuters report of the meeting.
It’s a pretty compelling scenario, and one that makes sense for XM and its competitor, Sirius Satellite Radio, both of which are in a race to grow their subscriber rolls and subsequent profits. XM Radio currently has 3.2 million subscribers; Sirius 1.2 million. However, neither company is profitable today.
Currently, XM sells a portable satellite radio player, MyFi, that allows subscribers to listen to XM while on the go, but it’s a standalone device. Sirius has no comparable offering at this time, but expects to enter into the mobile market soon.
“We plan to offer a portable, wearable device by the end of the year,” says Jim Collins, spokesperson for Sirius. Collins couldn’t speak specifically to Sirius’s plans for device compatibility, but says “What Mr. Parsons was saying is something that’s of interest to us as well. We’re both exploring this.”
So what would happen if a satellite radio option started popping up on DVD players and cell phones? The inclusion of satellite radio capabilities onto portable devices would likely spur subscriber growth for the satellite radio industry, and may alter consumer purchasing behavior with regards to digital music downloads.
Here’s one shakeup scenario: If consumers could get satellite radio on an MP3 player, the argument goes, would they download fewer songs? And if satellite radio were available as an additional feature on MP3 players, cell phones, DVD players, and other devices, would people be more likely to subscribe to the service?
When designing an embedded system choosing which tools to use often comes down to building a custom solution or buying off-the-shelf tools.