XM reaches new subscriber mark, receives high stock marks

| Friday, January 06, 2006

XM Satellite Radio has reached a record-breaking 6 million subscribers, and company officials are predicting they’ll hit the 9-million mark by the end of this year.

XM officials expect many new subscribers to be attracted by a product that was unveiled this week, according to a press release. It’s a portable, handheld unit that receives and can record live satellite programming, and is capable of playing MP3 music files.

Meanwhile, Forbesreports that Bank of America Securities prefers XM’s stock to that of its biggest competitor, Sirius Satellite Radio. The securities firm repeated its “buy” recommendation on XM stock – while recommending a “sell” on the competitor.

XM also announced this week its XM Advanced Services vehicle, which will feature in-car video, voice command, weather alerts and a parking space locator, at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Jan. 5-8,

In addition to its normal satellite radio lineup, the Advanced Services vehicle will be the first to showcase satellite-delivered in-car video, which uses XM’s existing network of satellites and ground repeaters for delivery. The video content can be either streamed live or stored for later playback.

In addition to in-car video, the vehicle will be installed with a voice command system, developed by VoiceBox Technologies. The VoiceBox system lets the driver use conversational speech to control the XM radio. For instance, the driver can ask to hear a certain kind of music, such as jazz, and VoiceBox will ask which of XM’s five jazz channels the driver would like to hear.

The vehicle also offers a demonstration of XM WeatherLink, a system that delivers advanced warning of weather-related driving conditions in real time. Using the same technology as XM’s current WX Satellite Weather service for marine and aviation, WeatherLink alerts drivers to weather conditions on the road ahead.

Another innovation found inside the XM Advanced Services vehicle will help drivers locate parking spaces. ParkingLink builds on the XM NavTraffic service, which displays real-time traffic information on vehicle navigation maps. XM NavTraffic informs the driver how fast traffic is moving on major highways in major metro areas, and pinpoints the locations of current traffic jams, accident sites and road closures.

According to Newsday, the parking system, which is not quite ready for the market, relies on special sensors, many of which are already in use in parking structures for other tracking purposes. The system shows the actual number of spaces available at designated parking facilities on the vehicle navigation map, and uses color-keyed icons to indicate the percentage availability of each facility.

“When you start thinking about what drivers need, the three things on top of the list are traffic, weather and parking,” Roderick MacKenzie, XM vice president of advance applications and services, told Newsday. “Those are kind of natural areas to focus on.”

Although the program will initially be aimed at parking garages and lots in shopping areas, David Butler, a spokesperson for XM, told Land Line the program would be easily adaptable to truck stops and rest areas, if those businesses invested in the necessary sensors.

Butler added that the trucking market is key to XM’s success, since the concept of a coast-to-coast radio network is very appealing to long-haul truckers.

“Truck drivers are among the most passionate and loyal XM customers,” Butler said. “Listeners tune in to Open Road for long stretches of time. As a result, it is one of a select group of channels that attract the longest-term listening.”

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