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Media, Communications

Moto Blasts iRadio


Motorola on Tuesday unveiled more details of its plan to take on two hot industries with one product: its iRadio cell phone-based radio service.

on Tuesday unveiled more details of its plan to take on two hot industries with one product: its iRadio cell phone-based radio service.

With iRadio, the world’s second-largest cell phone maker will challenge the rapidly changing radio industry, along with the booming market for MP3 players led by Apple’s iPod device and its iTunes music catalog.

This is not Motorola’s first attempt at taking a chunk of the portable digital market. Back in September, the Schaumberg, Illinois-based company launched its iTunes-enabled ROKR cell phone in conjunction with MP3 market leader Apple Computer.

Apple Computer

The iTunes-enabled ROKR met with only modest market success despite a high-profile launch. The Motorola/Apple relationship seemed to fizzle in the face of less-than-stellar reviews of the product (see ROKR Marriage Rocky).

ROKR Marriage Rocky

But with 700 million cell phones sold worldwide in 2005, portable music remains very attractive to Motorola. At the International Consumer Electronics Show this week in Las Vegas, Motorola will demonstrate its iRadio service on a number of cell phones, including the recently announced ROKR E2.

Shares of Motorola climbed $0.27 to $22.86 in recent trading.

A Giant Musical Step

“We’ve taken a giant leap beyond traditional and Internet-delivered radio by introducing a single service that incorporates incredible choice, the discovery of new music, impulse acquisition, and seamless portability,” said Mike Gaumond, vice president and general manager of Motorola Digital Media Services.

Motorola’s iRadio will look a lot like a fit for the MP3 market with the ability to download songs off the Internet for later play. But with 435 commercial-free radio channels and a monthly subscription fee, iRadio also looks a lot more like satellite radio.

And with the emergence of high-definition radio, which adds multiple digital channels to traditional terrestrial radio, iRadio can be compared to traditional radio.

Like satellite radio subscribers, iRadio subscribers can listen to radio programs on their home stereos and car stereos using iRadio and Bluetooth wireless technology. When the phone receives a call, the music automatically pauses, resuming only after the call has been completed.

Motorola offers optional Bluetooth accessories for home stereos and a wireless compatible kit for car stereos from manufacturers such as Pioneer, Alpine, Sony, and Kenwood.

Sony

No-Fuss Music

All the digital music distributors are targeting this kind of continuous, no-fuss entertainment experience. Subscribers to iRadio will also be able to take stored entertainment with them to listen on their cell phones.

Motorola has aggregated hundreds of channels of content through agreements with major labels and other producers, including Universal Music Group, with which it signed a deal in October (see Moto Tunes to iRadio).

There are drawbacks, however. Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin wonders what happens when a potential subscriber insists on using a non-Motorola music-enabled phone.

Forrester Research

Motorola also will need cooperation from competitors such as Nokia and from various carriers such as Cingular, with which it has a good relationship, and Verizon Wireless, with which it reportedly has a less-than-spectacular business relationship.

Verizon

“iRadio is not going to be warmly embraced by Cingular, Verizon, or T-Mobile if it’s only available to their customers with Motorola phones,” said Mr. Golvin.

Motorola did not announce its all-important subscription price, which the company has hinted in the past will be less than $10.00 a month for the service. The fee heard most often is $7.99.