XM Radio to Expand Service

Beginning next year, XM Satellite Radio won't merely offer 100 channels of news, sports, talk shows, and the entire spectrum of music nationwide. Thanks to a partnership announced May 30 with Command Audio Corporation, XM will allow listeners to personalize their radio programming.

Using Command Audio's technology, XM subscribers will be able to select any programming via handheld remote controls—ostensibly, not while driving—or via the Internet. Command Audio capabilities will be built into the next generation of XM Radio receivers. How they will be implemented is still to be determined, but XM Radio expects they will be integrated into the service's offerings by spring 2003. "The Command Audio technology will enable XM to provide subscribers enhanced national information services that are currently in the early development phase dedicated to rural [regions], trucking, and other markets," the announcement stated.

Founded as a data communications technology company in 1995, Command Audio owns what it calls "a portfolio of intellectual properties" related to on-demand audio playback and interactive audio systems. Heavily backed by Macrovision, Motorola, and Texas Instruments, Command Audio conducted market testing of its information retrieval system in Denver and Phoenix in spring of 2000.

An investor backlash against technology startups halted further development of Command Audio's independent business, but a willing partner was found in XM Radio. "XM responded very enthusiastically," said Command Audio CEO Don Bogue. "Command Audio's technology is a natural complement to XM's 100 channels of revolutionary satellite-delivered programming." Bogue characterized the agreement as "an important validation of our leading intellectual property position in the field of on-demand interactive media."

XM Radio won a "Best of CES" award in the automotive category at the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show. General Motors now includes factory-installed Delphi-Delco XM radios in its Cadillac DeVille and Seville models, and this spring will expand to Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac models. XM receivers will also be available as options this coming fall in some Infiniti and Nissan models, according to the announcement.

Satellite radio appears to be taking off in a big way. On the same day that XM Satellite Radio announced its partnership with Command Audio, its competitor Sirius Satellite Radio announced that it has expanded its service to 9 additional states and the District of Columbia. Sirius now serves 37 states, and plans to reach almost all 50 US states by July 1, except Alaska and Hawaii.