Sirius Unveils iPod-Like Portable Player

Delivering on promises first made at CES 2005 in January, Sirius Satellite Radio announced that it would launch its first portable satellite radio in October. To compete with larger rival XM, Sirius has taken a cue from Apple’s iPod and designed its player to be sleek and small.

Like portable players from XM, the Sirius S50 will be able to record scheduled programming. But Sirius is also attempting to differentiate itself from other players by adding unique features. For example, the S50 will record content automatically from the user’s three most commonly listened to stations, as well as allow playback of MP3 and WMA files. The unit is also much smaller than competing players, coming in at 1.9 by 3.9 inches and only 0.7 inches thick. The S50 will also include a color screen and voice-assisted navigation.

“This small satellite radio is full of exciting, easy to navigate features for everyone from the least to the most tech savvy consumer,” Jim Meyer, Sirius’ president of operations and sales said.

However, there is one major drawback to Sirius’ offering: the S50 can only receive satellite signal when plugged into its docking station. This means that users cannot actually listen to satellite radio while on the go; content must be recorded from the service beforehand.

The S50 will retail for $359.99 USD, $60 more than competing players from XM. But with a feature list that far outweighs any player currently available by its competitor, the device could help Sirius swing a few early adopters its way in the battle for subscribers.

Sirius has struggled against XM, even with what some see as superior programming. Its rival currently counts 4.4 million subscribers and is heading toward profitability. Sirius, meanwhile, touts only 1.8 million subscribers and slim prospects for profitability anytime soon.

Analysts note that Sirius still could make a comeback with shock-jock Howard Stern joining the service in 2006. If all goes well, the move could possibly bring millions of new listeners to Sirius.

Sirius says more information on the S50 player will be released on its Web site in mid-September ahead of the product’s launch.

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