Sunday, June 05, 2005

Sirius and Satellite

Sirius Boombox
Originally uploaded by /k.

While Kelly and Rachelle were out touring pig farms in Northern Iowa, they let me test out Rachelle's Sirius tuner and boombox. While my results were somewhat mixed, I can see how this will be quite popular with some people.

Sirius provides digital satellite radio service with technology very similar to DirecTV television service. They compete directly with another satellite radio service called XM. With an antenna pointing to the southern skies (I think), your proprietary tuner accesses 500 or so channels of digital sound. The sound quality is great, at least as good as my MP3 collection, maybe better. And like my iPod, the Sirius receiver announces song on its display as the song plays.

Just like on DirecTV's 500 channels, inevitably you gravitate to only a handful of choices. I spent my entire week listening to Alt Nation, which is a lot like the old MTV 120 Minutes (if they still broadcasted it ?) and Faction, which is kinda punk. This is of course different from First Wave, which appears to spin tunes from Kelly's iPod collection.

While the technology and music are cool, there are several drawbacks to the system. First and foremost, a view of the southern skies can sometimes be hard to come by. Like in my living room. Or my den. Or anywhere indoors. Secondly, someone else is still programming your music. Although the channels are much closer to the narrowcasting than broadcasting, you still get the repetition -- I heard Oasis' Layla four times in the past two days. Finally, I am not sure how many more $10/month services I want. Tivo, DirecTV, DSL, Mobilephone, etc start to add up after a while.

Overall, this is another entry into the increasingly crowded "music by subscription" market. This offering is slightly different, in that it includes live entertainment like sporting events, but fundamental similar to Rhapsody or Napster. Pay your money and get all you can listen to music for the month, cancel and you have nothing. I think I am still in the traditional "buy my music" / iTunes camp.

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