Based on the responses from analysts and manufacturers interviewed for this article, the prevailing answers are yes and yes.
But people shouldn’t hold off on buying a digital music player or cell phone to wait for satellite radio capabilities – it’s a long ways coming, with significant technological hurdles remaining. What’s more, the satellite industry has yet to convince the various gadget makers that it’s in their best interest to add the feature.
“From the point of view of manufacturers, it’s not such a valuable proposition for them,” says Phil Leigh, principal analyst with Inside Digital Media. “For three reasons: It costs money, it’s of limited usability to the consumer, and it means the consumer will pay an additional incremental fee.”
According to Phil O’Shaughnessy, a spokesperson for Creative Labs, maker of the Rio MP3 player, including satellite radio is not currently an “area of focus” for Creative. Representatives from Apple and Dell didn’t respond to TechnologyReview.com’s request for comment by press time
In addition to the battle to convince device manufacturers of the economic benefits of including satellite radio, XM and Sirius need to overcome technological impediments. With XM’s MyFi device (manufactured by Delphi), many Internet review sites call attention to the unit’s spotty reception.
The main problem is attributed to the size of the antenna shipped inside the unit, which isn’t strong enough to consistently pick up the signal, according to these reviews. But there is a secondary issue as well. For satellite radio to work, the user must be in a line of sight to the satellites or near a repeater. Portable devices, by their nature, will be move around and that means it’s likely people will find themselves out of satellite sight or repeater vicinity.
Despite these hurdles, the last 10 years of technological innovation proves that people are interested in more features when it comes to gadgetry and media consumption. Look at the runaway success of camera phones, a market that grew 200 percent last year in the United States, or the growing interest in satellite radio. XM Radio had 1.2 million subscribers in 2003; today it has almost three times that. .
While it’s a foolish bet to think satellite radio everywhere will happen soon, it’s equally questionable to bet against it entirely.