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What’s in store for radio at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show

The annual Consumer Electronics Show kicks off this Thursday in Las Vegas. While all the biggest buzz around the show is in anticipation of new tablet competitors for Apple’s iPad, we can still expect to hear announcements of new radio gadgets across the spectrum, from analog broadcast and HD Radio to satellite and internet radio. Some companies have already started with their press releases, while we’re left guessing what will be up in other segments of the industry.

None other than Clear Channel Communications has announced its intent to “have a vital presence” at CES, touting its iheartradio mobile app. The app, which is available for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7, allows the user to tune in the web streams of 750 Clear Channel-owned terrestrial stations. In addition to a deal for iheartradio to become available in some Toyota vehicles, Clear Channel promises that “numerous vendors” will display “iheartradio-capable” products… whatever that means. I’m not sure I really get the attractiveness of tuning a distant Clear Channel station via the internet in your car when there are likely plenty of stations with nearly the same playlist on the local FM dial. But I guess I’m not the target market.

We should expect plenty of home internet radios to be announced from companies like iHome, which made a name with iPod docking radios, and Grace Digital Audio, which was an early player in standalone radios able to tune in internet audio streams. Also expect more car stereos and add-on kits that make it easier to listen to internet radio on the road via an attached smartphone. Pioneer tried to make a splash at last year’s CES with a car receiver designed to play Pandora streams via an iPhone, integrated so that the driver can control the Pandora channel via the receiver instead of the smartphone. I didn’t hear much more about it once CES was over, though the receiver garnered respectable reviews.

iBiquity is still stuck at CES 2010

On the satellite radio and HD Radio fronts things have been quiet for the pre-show period. I expect we’ll hear about some more factory-installed Sirius and XM capable car radios, especially since a rebounding auto industry this year is something Sirius/XM is depending heavily upon. I’m anticipating something similar from HD Radio, and I won’t be surprised to hear iBiquity–HD Radio’s parent company–trot our their not-so-new deal with Ford again. In fact, it doesn’t seem like iBiquity is even ready for CES this year, since their press release site is still touting a special section to highlight HD Radio at the 2010 CES from twelve months ago. Regardless of HD Radio’s tardiness, it seems as though mobile in-vehicle electronics will be a significant focus of the show, with keynotes from Ford’s CEO and Audi’s chairman of the board.

For us policy geeks there’s a “one-on-one” with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Friday afternoon. I’m not sure much of that session will be radio-specific, but he is likely to talk quite a bit about wireless spectrum, which certainly affects internet radio, especially mobile. I wonder if anyone in the industry will take him to task over the Commission’s failure to implement any real network neutrality for mobile broadband. I reckon the electronics industry stands to lose quite a bit if consumers’ wallets are penalized for streaming radio and video on the go.

Unfortunately, the Radio Survivor 2011 budget doesn’t come close to allowing us to send a correspondent to Vegas to cover the show first-hand. Nevertheless, the deluge of press releases this week should provide plenty of grist for the mill. We’ll do our best to chew it up and try to digest what it means for the state of radio in the forthcoming year.

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2 Responses to What’s in store for radio at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show

  1. Mike Adams January 11, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    HD Radio was a total DUD at CES this year. I imagine the reason they are still touting CES 2010 on their website, is that they have nothing new since CES 2010. I went to CES and visited the HD Radio booth both this year, and last year. I can tell you first-hand that there really was nothing new. Nada, zip, zero. Everything that was shown last year was tweeked and put out again! Same lame portable devices. Same car demos, just different cars…The VW was probably the only thing in the entire booth that was interesting. That car did have some features that aren’t available in other cars yet. But they are the features we’ve already seen and heard about last year.

    The Best Buy radio, the second-generation Insignia, is a flop. In fact, I can’t believe they had the gull to even show it, considering even Best Buy knows it DOES NOT WORK. Best Buy is giving customers a $40 gift card if you call and complain about the FACT that it doesn’t work! $40! And you can bet iBiquity is footing the bill for that screw-up. So they showed the “new” Insignia (it’s been out for months…isn’t CES to show everyone what is up and coming???) and they showed “The Mighty Red”. The Mighty Red is the SAME EXACT radio as the Insignia painted red, and was sold to broadcasters at a discounted price. A guy in the booth confided that they didn’t work either, and that they had to open each radio and fix it before sending them out! Basically, the radios were rigged to work in the booth, but in real life, you can fuhgettaboutit!

    So what’s going on at iBiquity? Nothing to show for an entire year’s work? What are they doing over there anyway? The other thing they were boasting was artist experience, where images of the artist’s CD cover is displayed on the radio as a song from that CD plays on the radio. This is available on that Insignia that has been out for a year or so…but where are the stations that actually broadcast the pictures with the song? There aren’t any at this point!! So you have a radio that doesn’t get HD Radio reception, and broadcasts images but no stations are actually broadcasting them!

    Listen, I have sung the praises of HD Radio for quite awhile. But it really seems this technology could die unless another company buys iBiquity and takes this thing to the next level. The fact that they didn’t issue a press release until late in the game for this year’s CES, and can’t even add anything new on their CES page just goes to further prove my view that there was nothing new to even talk about this year. The whole booth was old news….it looked as if they didn’t even make an effort. Even the booth ITSELF looked SHABBY and old.

    These guys need to get it together.

  2. Mike Adams January 11, 2011 at 6:13 am #

    PS…and you think having only 2010 CES news on iBiquity’s site is bad? The CEO still has a column on the NAB Show on the front page of their site. Wasn’t NAB months ago???

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