Friday's debut of the new website of Sirius XM Radio, provided a glimpse into a new direction that the company is forging. I say a glimpse, because there are several new clues associated with the soft launch of the new website that can easily be overlooked, yet combined with other information that was previously available but unexplained, are of the utmost importance. To begin with, the company is finally embracing social media, including Facebook & Twitter, by including links to both on its new online player.
Take a look at recent press releases from Sirius XM for example. At the bottom of every press release since December 20, 2010, Sirius XM began referring to its new twitter feed and facebook page. The very first Tweet occurred on the same date, and all press releases began, including links to the social media networks, on January 14, 2011. Moreover, the company is actively networking on its Facebook page, with customer service directly responding to subscribers on unresolved issues. Needless to say the terrestrial radio moles and Internet radio wannabes are having a field day, at the expense of Sirius XM's representatives, in using the platform for their own purposes. Still, the effort made by Sirius XM is worthy of applause.
There are several other items of extreme importance to investors and subscribers alike. One comes from a recent patent update that, once reviewed, didn't make sense as the product described is already available. The release of the new online player with iTunes and Amazon (AMZN) purchase capabilities however, indicates that a current aftermarket radio available through Sirius XM will soon provide the same feature. This same patent along with clues from the new website, also indicate that Sirius XM has come up with a way to better Pandora. Another clue signals the end of Sirius Satellite Radio, and the first steps towards moving towards the XM Radio platform, as a single distribution source for Satellite Radio.
Visit the new online store at the new Sirius XM website, and you will notice that something is missing. In fact, you may notice a lot of things are missing. I'm specifically referring to any and all Sirius-specific aftermarket receivers. The only units offered are XM receivers. Two days ago, I received a holiday offer from Sirius for Valentines Day, which links to Sirius-specific radios on the new website. This would seem to indicate a clearance of Sirius receivers is now underway.
If one radio could be considered the flagship radio of Sirius XM, it would have to be the XMP3i. This is not meant to be a commercial for this unit, and I receive no compensation whatsoever for highlighting it. I offer the following description so that the new patent update can be clarified. Take a look at some of the features listed:
- Enjoy over 170 channels of commercial-free music, plus sports, exclusive entertainment and talk, news and weather.
- Pause, rewind and replay up to 30 minutes of live radio.
- Store your favorite XM channels as preset for fast access.
- Set alerts with TuneSelect so that you don't miss your favorite artists or songs when they are playing on live radio.
- Get alerts when your favorite sports teams are on any XM channel with GameSelect.
- Keep track of selected sports scores and stocks with Info Extras.
- Enjoy superior in-vehicle performance with the revolutionary SiriusXM XMp3i PowerConnect Vehicle Kit that enhances audio quality through your vehicle's radio with easy do-it-yourself installation. (XMp3i™ PowerConnect vehicle kit, sold separately)
- More ways than ever to record up to 100 hours of your favorite XM programs.
- Record up to 5 channels at the same time.
- One-Touch Recording of up to 10 hours of individual songs.
- Schedule Recordings of up to 75 hours of your favorite XM programs.
- Automatic Recording of your favorite XM channels.
- Enjoy your personal music collection (MP3 and WMA files) with the microSD card slot.
- Compatible with standard or high capacity microSD cards, the XMp3i™ radio is microSDHC compliant.
I highlighted the features above for a specific reason. These features are a direct answer to Pandora and other jukebox style Internet Radio offerings, and may be included in the SATRAD 2.0 introduction. Pandora users that are all too familiar with the "skip" feature, may find these appealing. More importantly, this particular radio can be updated through software updates, meaning that new features can be added automatically -- and by that I mean NOW!
About a week ago, Rod Gunsauley forwarded me a new XM patent application filed on January 27, 2010. The patent was being expeditiously sought and Sirius XM paid an extra fee to have this occur. Confusion followed, as the application was an update to earlier patents for the existing XMP3i. One key feature, is that the updated application seeks to include song purchase capabilities:
We'll pretend we don't even see the reference to video at this time. The inclusion of the Amazon MP3 and iTunes purchase buttons on the new online player, combined with the above, make clear that Sirius XM has forged new strategic partnerships with Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), and subsequent revenue sharing opportunities should benefit all three.
Until now, song purchases could only occur through the Internet, yet it is estimated that most music listening occurs in vehicles. The opportunities for song purchases directly from the driver's seat are compelling, to say the least.
Disclosure: I am long SIRI.