Let’s handicap the Christmas shopping season with two products that relate to radio.
Say you have a product that few know or care about, which features a medium in desperate need of reinvention and revitalization? Do you really believe that it’s on anyone’s Christmas wish list?
A recently released survey of 4,225 U.S. consumers by Changewave, a research network that spots budding trends and technologies, show that twelve percent plan to buy a smartphone in the next ninety days.
Last Christmas, iPhone owned the smartphone market. This year, iPhone’s 3G S is up against real competition from the Droid, the new Blackberry Storm2, a new Palm Pixi/Pre, Motorola’s CLIQ, and the HTC Hero.
I’m saying Steve Jobs has little to be concerned with on that front. His iPhone remains the superior product. It enjoys a two and a half year head start -and is numero uno in Brand Keys’ annual survey - with a 74 percent of satisfaction rating versus only 43 percent for Blackberry owners.
It’s true that most of the time the pioneers get the arrows. But Jobs has the unique ability of taking roads less traveled, which turn out to be the shortest distance between two points.
Sure, Google is great, Google is good. Let us thank them for our search - and our e-mail, maps, social networking, video sharing, and advertising - but can they make a go of it in the smartphone biz with the Droid?
The iPhone’s not invulnerable. It has its Achilles’ heel. AT&T.
Of all the iPhone users you know - is there one that has not complained about AT&T?
It remains to be seen what becomes of the iPhone-Droid rivalry. My guess is that Jobs will deal with iPhone’s AT&T exclusivity. He doesn’t really have much of a choice when his two chief rivals, Motorola’s Droid and Blackberry’s Storm2, are tied to Verizon.
Advantages? iPhone has over 100,000 apps - ten times the amount of Android, its nearest competitor. Then, again, what product apps will translate into dollars? For example, name one radio station app that will increase its listenership and sales.
This is strictly empirical. Roughly half the smartphone users I know connect to Internet radio - and none via an app. Of those that do, most listen to out-of-town terrestrial, NPR national, or Internet-only stations.
We’ll revisit this topic in next quarter.
Both Apple’s iPhone 3G S and Motorola’s Droid retail for $200 and offer an average $1,500/yr. plan.
Like Mac users, iPhone users are loyalists. If anything, I’d bet on the Droid cutting wide and deep into Blackberry’s Storm2 sales. It limped out of the box with a soft launch compared to Droid’s $100 million-plus campaign. Compared to both iPhone and Droid, Blackberry’s dated design negates any positives on the product’s attributes. Storm2 comes in $20 cheaper than the iPhone and Droid - and that sends a cheaper isn’t better message to consumers.
To some Sprint is a pariah best to be avoided. That translates to a limited market for Palm Pixi/Pre. It’s cheaper - $99 for the Pixi; $150 for the Pre - with an average $1,200/yr. plan. It’ll attract newbies and those in fear of being outsmarted by their phone. Beyond that? Not much.
The same holds true for the HTC Hero. Sprint is the carrier. Hero was the top-selling Sprint product prior to the Palm Pixi/Pre hitting retail. HTC claims it’ll have the heaviest promotional campaign of all smartphones, with its “You” campaign, pushing the Hero's personalization and customization abilities.
It’ll be a Christmas in the red for Motorola’s CLIQ. It’ll do well with the T-Mobile loyalists and young demos - don’t expect much beyond that. It has a boxed-in following, which will attract, at best, a few new consumers into their fold.
There’s also the Samsung Moment - but it’s hitting the market too late to make much of an impact during the Christmas season.
Now, we dumb down to a product that most in the radio industry have chosen to link with - HD Radio.
The only smartness connected with HD Radio comes from the crooked and crookeder Bob “Booble” Struble, whose iBiquity stuck radio with an investment they can’t get out of.
It’s a low-tech 21st century version of Rebel Without A Cause. We have the major radio chains - and other investors - nervously eyeing one another, and continuing to play chicken with their properties while wondering whom their Buzz Gunderson will be.
By committing to HD Radio, the radio industry bought an apple for an orchard.
It’s perplexing. The economics of the radio industry are remorseless, but it’s still alarming to witness this continued cannibalism.
We don’t need more radio stations and formats - we need better radio stations and formats.
Ask anyone with Sirius XM or an Internet radio fan. They listen to the same two, three, four, five - and no more than six stations - that’s it. Most have a favorite and a second favorite. Offering more choice - especially when they're even worse than the conventional terrestrial fare - will not draw consumers to HD Radio.
Struble doesn’t always tell a Struble, which is synonym for not telling the truth. Sometimes he just talks out of both sides of his mouth.
Just a couple of weeks ago Struble released another torrent of press releases announcing new HD radio models, apps, and adapters and predictions on how well HD Radio will do at retail this Christmas. More lies - more Strubles.
The latest misadventure occurred when Struble tried to perfume his HD Radio hog with a new app and attachment.
We live in a compact, wireless world, Bob. Why would you sign off on an HD Radio iPhone app that requires one to go to a participating Radio Shack, and pay $79.95 plus tax for this bulky add-on HD Radio tuner, which you have to attach by wire to your iPhone? And, Bob, it can’t work with a car’s docking system because the iPhone’s 30-pint port connects to only one device at a time. Brilliant.
Please explain this to me. There isn’t a shred of evidence that this is HD Radio’s year at retail. If anything, you’ll sell fewer HD Radios this season than you did last - and that's even less than you did the year before and the year before that. Prove me wrong.
The time has come to recognize and own up to HD Radio as a major blunder. It’s not happening. It hasn’t in the past, it isn’t now, and it never will. DAB radio is a failure in Europe, too.
What’s taking place is simply not working.
I think you look at it a different way. Why work when you’ve forced radio to do all the heavy lifting for you?
After all, robbing isn’t the toughest part of heisting. The getaway is. That's what separates the pros from the cons.