As RealNetworks awaits the fate of its Rhapsody iPhone application, yet another music-oriented company is looking to tap into the iPhone's popularity. SIRIUS Satellite Radio has introduced a $120 dock that transforms an iPhone or iPod touch into a satellite radio.
Dubbed the XM Skydock, the product will be on store shelves this fall. The Skydock powers up through a vehicle's power outlet and pushes audio through the vehicle's speakers using SIRIUS' PowerConnect technology.
When an iPhone is placed in the Skydock, a user interface pops up on the iPhone screen that lets users change the channels. Of course, Skydock users need a $12.95-a-month satellite radio subscription to listen to the service.
Skydock Offers New Options
Michael Gartenberg, a vice president at Interpret, said the Skydock is a nice feature for SIRIUS XM subscribers that offers a convenient way to interact with content in a vehicle. But he sees obstacles for SIRIUS on the iPhone.
"The Skydock is definitely a value-add in the short term for customers that are already in the SIRIUS ecosystem through the iPhone app and don't want to buy a satellite radio for their car," Gartenberg said. "With the Skydock, they don't have to buy a full satellite radio subscription or a radio."
However, Gartenberg added, the SIRIUS iPhone app hasn't received strong reviews. Typical complaints include a limited amount of content at a fairly high subscription cost. SIRIUS may need to rethink its iPhone strategy, he said, if it wants to drive Skydock sales.
A Serious Compromise?
SIRIUS launched its iPhone app in June to deliver exclusive sports, entertainment, comedy and commercial-free music channels to iPhone and iPod touch users. Users who download the SIRIUS app get access to exclusive, Internet-only showcase channels. Those include SIRIUS XM Bootlegs, SIRIUS XM Talk Showcase, SIRIUS XM Music Showcase, and SIRIUS XM Comedy Showcase.
Exclusive programming from the SIRIUS radio service, such as Here's Barbara with Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey's Soul Series, The Jamie Foxx Show, specials from Raw Dog Comedy, selections from the Artist Confidential series, and selections from exclusive live SIRIUS XM music performances will also be available.
Some select programming, including MLB Play-by-Play, NFL Play-by-Play, SIRIUS NASCAR Radio, and Howard Stern, is not available through the iPhone. Listeners have to access that programming through the other platforms.
"If you are willing to compromise on the number of channels you get, the Skydock is a great solution. But there are some fundamental issues with the app SIRIUS XM is going to have to deal with if they want to drive new subscribers," Gartenberg said. "At the end of the day they want to drive new subscribers, not be in the hardware dock business. Introducing a dock is not something that's going to cause people to sign up for XM."