Ma il giornale finanziario titola che il sistema digitale sta ancora spingendo il suo sasso in salita e cita uno studio J. D. Power secondo cui solo il 10% degli americani si dicono interessati.
JUNE 22, 2009
HD Radio Still ‘Pushing the Rock Up the Hill’
Microsoft made a splash in May when it said it will include HD radio in the next version of the Zune. IBiquity Digital Corp., the company that created HD Radio and licenses the technology, is also slated to release its own version of the portable HD radio in the coming months.
IBiquity developed the technology in the early 2000s, with the first HD radio receiver entering the market in 2005 for about $500. It’s come a long way since then - according to Lauren Goode’s review on WSJ.com Monday. Tabletop receivers now cost as little as $50, and HD radio technology will soon be available in more than 70 car models.
Ms. Goode spoke with Robert Struble, iBiquity’s chief executive, about the transition to digital radio from analog, the faltering auto industry’s impact on iBiquity’s business, relationships with Apple and Microsoft, and the future of HD radio.
The Wall Street Journal: How do you explain HD radio to someone you’ve just met at a party?
Mr. Struble: Ah, yes, the cocktail party conversation. I’d say it’s not unlike the television upgrade from analog to digital. It’s the digital upgrade to AM and FM radio — all the same thing.
WSJ: Speaking of the television upgrade, consumer electronics has seen a slew of analog-to-digital transitions — cellphones, television — why do you think digital radio receivers, which first came onto the market in 2005, haven’t become the standard?
Mr. Struble: Mass market transitions just take a while. The addition of FM to AM took several years. When black-and-white TV transitioned to color — similar numbers. Today, even with a government mandate, it’s taken 15 years for television to completely transition from analog to digital.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re working harder to make the whole process go more quickly. But right now we have all the major markets covered and we’re pleased with the progress.
WSJ: You mention the automobile as a great market for HD radio. But in J.D. Power’s 2009 “Automotive Emerging Technologies Studio,” nearly two-thirds of the consumers Power surveyed said they want to listen to their own iPod through their car’s sound system. And although HD radio was one of the cheapest car “extras,” estimated at $200, definite consumer interest ranked at only 10%. Have you had to change your strategy because of the current sentiment toward automobile gadgets?
Mr. Struble: We’ve seen the J.D. Power study and we actually haven’t changed our business strategy. We feel that out of any part of the business, auto is the one where we’re not completely done pushing the rock up the hill.
We’ve taken a look at our progress over the past 12 to 18 months, in terms of which auto makers are offering the technology, and we’ve seen growth in that area. There are currently 13 different auto makers, and 70 different models, that have made the announcement to carry HD radio right now. There’s even more activity going on behind the scenes. And with that a competitive dynamic takes off, so if Mercedes and Volvo are offering it, other auto makers will need to compete with those folks, so despite all of the auto industry woes, we’ve seen four or five times the amount of unit sales.
And when you factor in other competitors for drivers’ time, money and attention, such as cellphone technologies, iPods, DVD players, it’s a stronger motivation for us to improve HD radio.
WSJ: HD radio receivers are particularly Apple-friendly, with features like iTunes tagging and the ability to listen to music and stream videos from an iPod or iPhone dock into external devices. Explain your partnership with Apple.
Mr. Struble: Our relationship with Apple is broad. They had an interest in our technology, and we had an interest in their product, and we got together and said let’s make a music service. It’s an important relationship because of its ability to bring out a value in radio and also because of its ability to drive sales through the medium. Eventually we’d love to see the product built directly into iPods — for example, while now you have a dock with the iTunes tagging feature, it makes even more sense to just have it within the product itself — so that’s our long-term objective.
But it’s a multi-step process. The first step is to get the application up and running, then build the device itself. Apple has done a lot of work on their side in terms of software, hardware and firmware, and they like how the rollout has gone.
WSJ: Last month Microsoft announced that it will include HD radio in the new Zune. IBiquity is also slated to come out with its own version of the portable HD radio player in the next few months. Wouldn’t an iBiquity portable essentially be competing with its customer, Microsoft?
Mr. Struble: I don’t believe there’s a competition there. The Zune just shows that the HD radio technology is at a point that it can be incorporated with these devices, and it’s important to have that incorporation with an entity like Microsoft.
I like to say radio is an ubiquitous medium, and in order for this transition to fully happen, radio needs to be on those devices. So we fit in by saying, great, we’re the digital option.
There are something like a billion radios out there, averaging seven per family, between car stereos and boom boxes…there comes a point when all of those radios will become HD, so we’re not competing with ourselves with the portable. Eventually there has to be an upgrade. There is obviously some constraint with cost, and the market’s going to do what the market’s going to do, but just because you might get HD radio on say, your cellphone, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get rid of your clock radio next to your bed. People are still buying tabletop radios.
WSJ: What’s next for HD Radio?
Mr. Struble: The next thing for us is real-time traffic reporting, the ability to transmit traffic data as its happening. Both car buffs and people just listening to the radio will want to use this. Also, we’re looking at addressability — things like targeted content, so a station can send content to a certain listening area and not another, which is one of the great things about multicast. And lastly, image support. With all these radios you’ve got great screens, especially in cars, so you’ll be able to see station logos, album art, maybe even sports scores. When you’re on a digital platform, you can just continue to grow and grow.