Microsoft loses Apple retail guru to electric cars
Tesla Motors scored a coup for its dealerships on Thursday as it hired George Blankenship to head up its dealership strategy. The executive is best known for creating Apple's core retail strategy in its early years and was just recently contracted by Microsoft for its own retail stores. Tesla hopes to "revolutionize" how cars are sold and hired Blankenship because he has a reputation for being "on time and on budget," the electric automaker's CEO Elon Musk said.
Patent application backs earlier reports
Apple could be preparing to add HD Radio support to new handheld models, a newly-published patent application hints. Titled Digital Radio Tagging Using an RF Tuner Accessory, the document suggests that future iPods and iPhones could be used to scan through all available radio stations, or only those with better-quality digital audio. Critically, data from digital stations could used as search fodder, for instance to locate a particular song or genre.
Pioneer AVIC-Z120BT uses iPhone for 3G radio
Pioneer today brought out the AVIC-Z120BT, a new flagship navigation head-end unit with a unique Apple tie-in. Those with both the in-car GPS and a new PioneerLink for Pandora iPhone app can both stream Pandora Internet radio over the smartphone's 3G connection and move the service's controls over to the AVIC's 7-inch touchscreen. The approach supports the usual thumbs up and thumbs down controls as well as changing stations and Quickmixes.
Zune HD radio suit could affect iPod too
Microsoft late last week was sued for allegedly infringing on patents with the Zune HD's radio app. Illinois-based Edward Yavitz has claimed that the buy-from-radio feature, which lets users tag identified songs on FM or HD Radio and buy them from the Zune Marketplace, copies similar technology that Yavitz patented in 2002. He purportedly contacted Microsoft unsuccessfully about licensing the technology early and billed it as a way of preempting Apple.
Linked with HD Radio receivers
Some Ford cars shipping next year will support iTunes Tagging, the automaker has announced. In vehicles equipped with HD Radio receivers, people will be able to push "Tag" buttons on their displays, automatically saving the track data from on-air music. Once an iPod is docked with a car via Ford Sync, up to 100 tags will be transferable for later display in iTunes.
iBuqity outs HD Radio tuner, app for iPhone
Gigaware and iBiquity Digital have unveiled a new app and peripheral combination for the iPod touch and iPhone that endows the devices with HD Radio tuning support. The wired Gigaware HD Radio receiver mates with both the user's headphones and a free iPhone app to provide the digital-only radio format. The add-on lets listeners pick up local, analog FM radio stations as well as HD Radio stations, including sub-channels.
Zune HD reviewed with iPod in mind
For awhile, many had thought the iPod touch had dealt blow to the Zune that Microsoft didn't have an answer for: the 2008 Zune update was just a mild refresh, and even the software team was mostly quiet for the next year. The Zune HD, then, is Microsoft's return salvo. It promises not only to put the Zune level in terms of features like multi-touch input and Internet access but to have features Apple lacks, such as 720p support, HD Radio and an OLED screen. We plan to discover just whether or not Microsoft's return to form is enough to quiet Apple's guns in our complete review.
Zune HD at FCC
The FCC has likely spoiled Microsoft's launch plans by posting test info for the player's wireless behavior. While the NVIDIA Tegra processor, Wi-Fi and Windows CE foundations are all public information, the filing specifically shows models with 16GB and 32GB of storage and confirms at least one rumor regarding Microsoft's strategy for the touchscreen media player. The company has previously acknowledged the Zune HD would replace flash players but has never specified how much storage they would have.
Zune HD Browser Experience
The web browser for the Zune HD will be one of the highlights of Microsoft's media player when it ships, a hands-on with the devices show. Testing with the player by CNET reveals that the browser, although made by the Internet Explorer team, is directly comparable to Safari for the iPhone and can do nearly everything Apple's software can, including multi-touch commands and the on-screen keyboard. It only lacks recognition of embedded video.
Zune HD UI Image Leak
A handful of images have leaked today of the Zune HD ahead of a more official announcement for the device expected later today. Aside from confirming a black color in addition to the known silver, the shots also show that the music player has a significantly reworked music interface that lets users browse content more visually than on current Zunes, which only show a very small thumbnail. They also show the interface for HD Radio's sub-channels and replace early shots' "more" menu item with an "Internet" item, hinting that all non-Marketplace features, like web browsing, will go into that category.
Insignia portable HD Radio
Best Buy's in-house brand Insignia has recently released its first HD Radio device, the NS-HD01. The device picks up both analog and digital stations on the FM band and has 10 user-programmable presets. Power comes from a sealed lithium-ion battery that is recharged by a standard mini-USB connection and an included cable. On a full charge, the device is said to be good for 10 hours of playback, and the screen automatically dims to save energy.
MS Confirms Zune HD
Microsoft tonight confirmed the existence of the Zune HD, its first-ever touchscreen media player. The company readily acknowledges that the player is meant to compete against the iPod touch and will have a 3.3-inch, 480x272 OLED screen with a multi-touch interface. It earns its name through the first inclusion of a portable HD Radio tuner for digital broadcasts as well as HD video playback through a special dock. For the first time on a Zune, the HD will also use its Wi-Fi to browse the web and should come with a special version of Internet Explorer designed for touch.
Alpine W404 Ships
Alpine this afternoon said it has started shipping the iXA-W404, its first touchscreen media head-end for cars to occupy 2 DIN slots. The device centers on a 4.3-inch touchscreen that lets users navigate the media content of any dockable iPhone or iPod, including through quick skipping tricks for larger collections. It can also play video when the vehicle isn't moving.
TEAC HD Radio receiver
TEAC on Thursday announced the release of its first tabletop dock radio with HD Radio support. Besides improved audio quality, HD Radio support gives listeners on-screen artist and title information from the roughly 2,000 stations in the air. The HD-1 also sports a dock for charging and playing music content from iPods and iPhones. The artist and song information also enables the iTunes Tagging feature, which lets users save the information of a song they like and find the track the next time the Apple device syncs with iTunes.
Sirius XM Near Bankruptcy
People aware of the situation have told the New York Times that satellite radio provider Sirius XM is readying itself for the possibility it may declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Although still solvent, the company is believed talking with experts in bankruptcy cases and restructuring and has made enough progress in the necessary documents that it could make its declaration "within days." No official signals have been given regarding a potential collapse.
HD Radio portable player
At the 2009 CES in the HD Radio display, there was a demonstration of the smallest application of an HD Radio chip in the form of the KRI Armband Portable HD Radio Receiver. What is basically a portable HD Radio device with MP3 playback capabilities shows the evolution of HD Radio as it can be packaged into ever smaller devices.
iHD171 iLuv HD radio dock
iLuv has unveiled its latest audio device, the iHD171 HD Radio that integrates a dock for an iPod or iPhone. The device features TV connection capabilities for watching videos and iTunes tagging that will save HD radio song information on the mobile device. Station, song title, band and frequency information is displayed on the front LCD panel. The clock automatically syncs to match the time on the docked device, while users can choose to wake or sleep to the iPod, iPhone, AM/FM radio or buzzer. Standard analog AM and FM signals are also supported and can be assigned to 30 available presets.
Bill Requires HD Radio
Democratic Congressman Edward Markey on Monday submitted a bill that would potentially require all satellite radios to also include a competing standard. The Radio All Digital Channel Receiver Act (PDF) would require that Sirius XM and any other satellite radio provider also providing AM/FM tuning also support at least some form of land-based digital radio, effectively mandating the use of iBiquity Digital's HD Radio format. The move would attempt to reinsert a clause ruled out of the FCC's Sirius XM merger approval which would have asked for a similar provision before the merger could be approved.
Sony iPhone Dock Quartet
Sony lived up to promises and today launched four separate iPhone- and iPod-supporting speaker docks. The S10HDiP is Sony's first iPhone-capable audio system to support HD Radio with iTunes Tagging, which flags tracks on supporting radio stations so that they can be purchased the next time an iPod docks with its host computer. It also claims an AM/FM radio with 20 presets for each band and an aux-in jack for outside sources. Sony ships the S10iP this month for $180.
Sony Xplod 630 430 330
Sony today revamped its Xplod car stereo head-end units with its first truly iPod-aware models. The GT630UI, GT430IP, GT330 and GT130 all have a USB connection that allows iPods and (for the GT630UI) iPhones to be controlled and charged through the stereo's own interface rather than the player itself. The same support also allows other MP3 players to be recognized through the digital link.
Sirius XM on FCC Slate
The Federal Communications Commission has quietly put the proposed merger between Sirius and XM on its Items on Circulation list. The move indicates that at least a draft proposal for the satellite radio union will be discussed by the FCC and that a final decision on the merger could be made shortly after FCC commissioners discuss the draft. The government agency recently hinted at increased progress earlier this week when it proposed approval of the deal as long as conditions are honored for a-la-carte pricing and channels dedicated to certain public interest groups.
FCC Staff Say Sirius XM OK
The Federal Communications Commission's staff today tentatively proposed that the US government agency approve the long-delayed merger between satellite radio providers Sirius and XM. The move potentially leads to a completed approval in as soon as three weeks and has received the early blessing of FCC chair Kevin Martin, who states that the union would be "in the public interest" as long as the unified company continues to voluntarily abide by certain conditions.
FCC Acts Soon on Sirius XM
Federal Communications Commission chief Kevin Martin on Thursday told CNBC that his agency is nearing approval of the long-delayed Sirius and XM merger. While declining to give a timetable for any decision, Martin says the FCC hopes to make its choice "soon" and that the two satellite radio providers have agreed to make changes to their price structure to clear legal hurdles, including an option for subscribers to order individual channels rather than complete bundles and to specifically exclude channels with objectionable content.
iLuv HD Radios
iLuv today branched out of its comfortable field of iPod-focused stereos with its first HD Radio-capable systems. The i169 represents the flagship and includes both a top-mounted iPod dock as well as the newer digital radio feature, which improves on the quality of AM and FM stations, adds multiple stations to the same frequency, and allows for basic data such as weather. The i169 also serves as a dual alarm clock and will wake up either to an attached iPod, a radio station, or a simple buzzer. An aux-in jack for non-iPod devices will also be standard when iLuv ships the radio at the start of May for $170.
Pioneer AVIC F900 and F700
Pioneer has started the week today with introductions for three high-end AVIC navigators. The DVD-equipped F900BT and Premier F90BT, as well as the CD-only F700BT, all offer in-dash mapping on a 5.8-inch wide touchscreen and support comparatively advanced GPS features such as Traffic Message Channel and support, an advanced voice command system, and text-to-speech to read out street names. Each, however, is built just as much for media playback: any can read discs with DivX, and MPEG-4 video as well as AAC, MP3, and WMA audio, while 2GB of built-in memory as well as slots for both SD cards and USB that provide both audio and video support from flash storage. Both connect to most iPods and support not just playback but also direct control of the Apple players.
Clear Channel Radio says it is now offering more than 340 of its primary HD stations with the iTunes "tagging" function, capable of transferring a song heard on the radio to an Apple iPod (after purchase). "Radio continues to be the number one way that people discover new music, and the HD Radio iTunes tagging capability lets listeners add songs to their iPod playlists with just a push of the button," said John Hogan, president and CEO of Clear Channel Radio. "With the vast majority of our HD primary stations now offering this exciting feature, we're demonstrating how radio's collaboration with the iPod benefits consumers."
DOJ Approves Sirius XM
The proposed merger between Sirius and XM took a major step forward today with tentative approval by Department of Justice. The government agency's ruling notes that the threat of a monopoly isn't likely as their satellite radio services compete against many other formats besides themselves, including iPods and HD Radio. A combined entity would have no chance in the market if it tried to raise prices, the Department said. The statement also dismisses claims by HD Radio that a merged Sirius and XM would exclude competing technology from car stereos and other equipment.
Analyst on Sirius XM
The Federal Communications Commission is in the midst of producing the approval for the long-delayed merger between Sirius and XM, says analyst Blair Levin of the financial group Stifel Nicolaus. Levin cites "rumblings" within the FCC which point to the US government body already in the midst of writing an approval for the union of the two satellite radio providers. No clues are given as to the proximity of a deal or whether there will be conditions attached, though Levin warns that a combined company may be required to lease access to other companies to avoid monopoly concerns.
Apple/Polk, NWU, Tessera
In brief: Apple stores are now selling Polk Audio products, students at Northwestern University are using Facebook and the iPhone to perform a statistical analysis, and Tessera Technologies is in the process of acquiring FotoNation. Starting in March 2008, Apple's US retail outlets will sell the I-Sonic ES2 sound system, which features iTunes tagging for HD radio, allowing users to bookmark songs. Once songs are tagged, users can attach the iPod to their computer, and preview, buy, and download the tagged tracks.
Sirius and XM Deal Soon
The FCC should reach a decision as to whether or not it will approve the Sirius and XM merger before the end of March, the organization's chair Kevin Martin says in a new update. Without committing to a set date, the official says the FCC is most likely to reveal its opinion in the first quarter of the year and would end anxieties about the tie-in between the two satellite radio providers, both of whom hoped to finish the deal by the end of 2007. Settling the merger will still need approval from the Department of Justice, but the FCC will not necessarily wait for this to make its decision known, Martin says.
Sony iPod-ready stereos
Sony's CES announcements are continuing with several new sound systems, most of which are in some fashion compatible with the iPod. The first two are shelf-based stereos, the CMT-BX20i and the CMT-BX50BTi. These feature docks inlaid directly into the main body, which in addition to piping out audio and recharging the battery, allow distant control of an iPod via the included remote control. The BX20i has an AM/FM radio and a single-disc, MP3-compatible CD player, which displays ID3 tags when available; total RMS power is 50W. It will be ready in February for $130.
Alpine iTunes Tag Stereo
Alpine will soon release a trio of new head-end units for vehicles geared primarily around the iPod, the company has unintentionally revealed through a brochure (PDF) posted online. The iDA-X100, based on the earlier X001, will be one of the first car stereos to support iTunes Tagging. When listening to specific HD Radio stations through the X100, listeners will be able to flag songs and use an attached iPod to sync this information with a computer, creating a playlist of songs to be bought through the iTunes Store. It can also play audio directly from newer iPods through a USB connection, including the iPod touch.
iBiquity Fights Sirius-XM
The FCC should not allow the proposed Sirius/XM satellite radio merger to go ahead unless it includes special exceptions to give HD Radio a boost in the market, the latter standard's creator iBiquity Digital has argued in a newly discovered complaint. The electronics firm claims that a union of the two satellite providers would harm its ability to launch HD Radio, which relies on traditional ground-based broadcasts. A merger should include a clause that forces devices using the combined network to include an HD Radio receiver at the same time, iBiquity writes in its FCC letter.
Apple HD Radio Plans
Efforts by Apple will have a slew of iPod speaker docks with HD Radio debuting at next month's Macworld show, according to one report. The device maker is allegedly very supportive of the iTunes Tagging feature that launched along with the Polk iSonic ES2 in the fall and wants to see it widespread in the accessory market, with many AM/FM radio docks gaining both HD Radio support and the ability to embed tags in the digital stream. The reason behind the maneuver is not explicitly mentioned but is likely an effort to drive iTunes sales through the accessory business, encouraging listeners to tag songs heard on the radio for a future download once an iPod in a radio dock syncs back with its host computer.