Suppose you’re the person responsible for managing an automaker’s infotainment strategy. Let’s say you currently offer SiriusXM satellite radio, AM/FM, and HD. When and how do you add Internet radio?
Ford is offering Pandora and Stitcher (music and news programming respectively), Toyota recently announced a partnership with Clear Channel’s iheartradio (750+ stations). Is now the time to make a move, or does it make sense to wait and see what happens with the content providers? Keep in mind that there is no easy (well-accepted industry standard) way to integrate an Internet radio service into a vehicle, so decisions cannot be made lightly.
“The listening experience that customers expect in the car is different from what they may expect on other devices,” suggests Jim Cady, CEO of Slacker Radio. “They may spend upwards of 80% of their time listening to music, but still want access to news or sports scores without having to shift to AM or FM.”
Slacker offers personalized music from a 2.5 million-song library but also offers ABC News Radio and lets users skip from one news story to the next as easily as they can move from one music selection to another. “You will see us bring on brand name content providers in sports and other areas,” Cady promises.
Slacker lets smart phone users cache the stations they like so they can listen to music whether or not they have a clear signals. “Station caching gets more interesting when you connect that mobile device with an automobile that has mass storage,” Cady says. “We can tie the memory to the mobile phone to offload a lot of content.”
“Automakers are moving to one of two approaches,” Cady continues. “One is to let customers connect a mobile phone and use the data pipe they are already paying for. We’re working with a number of car companies and head unit manufacturers to integrate the functionality we have in the mobile phone and transfer the appropriate bits to the car, which could mean upsizing the artwork to fit the dashboard screen or controlling the experience from the steering wheel. Virtually every automaker is going down that path. The other option is syncing content to the car from a home system, and Wi-Fi is a better way of doing that. We can take advantage of that, as well.”
Cady says Slacker is planning for demos in early 2011 with deployment to follow shortly thereafter. Do you include them in your infotainment strategy – or pass?