dab digital radio

Crossed Wires or Groundbreaking Announcement?


my new ipod nano by baston @ flickr

My attention was drawn to this report that Apple will be announcing iPods with Digital Radio functionality this week. In summary it says that Apple will announce an iPod with “digital radio” and a “buy now” function to download and buy tracks (from iTunes) as they are being played.

I’ll admit that I’m bemused and intruiged.

This might be a re-heat of the news of a DAB Digital Radio plug-in for the iPod that kind of leaked out earlier in the year. But that’s strictly a DAB Digital Radio “sidecar” that clips to the bottom of the device. It’s a long extrapolation from that to the kind of device talked about in the report.

I still find it unlikely that Apple would add DAB Digital Radio functionality to the iPod for the size of markets that exist now. Whilst the UK, Denmark and Switzerland are doing very nicely, I can’t see how they would be sufficiently big enough markets to influence Apple’s global (or even European) strategy. Adding DAB technology still comes with a price that throws about £30 (US$60) onto the price of a unit. Would Apple add that price?

Most unlikely is that anyone has found a business model for downloading music via DAB Digital Radio capacity. If they have, I take my hats off to them. There is a model there somewhere, but tying up over the air data capacity to speculatively send a song never seems to add up to me. As far as I am aware, only UBC’s Cliq service has developed the pre-requisite technology framework to make this happen, and have been the only people talking to broadcasters about whether they want to transmit it or not.

Apparently we only have to wait until Wednesday for an answer. Then we’ll presumably get the truth. (Actually, the main reason for my scepticism is that Apple haven’t been furiously denying it for weeks, which is the most sure sign that something is true).

I still have high hopes for iRiver’s B20 device, which co-incidentally has also got some coverage this week here, here and here. It’s a great device, which is very well converged and the implementation of DAB Digital Radio is one of the best I’ve used. I’m also tremendously pleased to see the inclusion of a proper EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) and support for Slideshow visuals. It’s a bit pricey, but hopefully it will still be a big seller.

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