By Kenneth Li
Fans of U.S. satellite radio have been waiting eagerly for nearly a
year to get XM or Sirius on to their cell phones.
But as the two satellite radio providers carefully ponder their mobile
strategies and chew over business plans, a small group of technically
savvy devotees are taking matters into their own hands.
Grassroots software and Web developers have found ways to tap into XM
Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.'s Web
sites to stream music channels on to Windows-powered smartphones and
Most have given their work away for free to other fans since late last
year -- running into conflict with the wireless business strategies of
the satellite radio providers.
"I'm not always near a PC, but I already have a cell phone," said
David Bressler, who wrote a piece of software to listen to Sirius in
his office, which blocks satellite radio signals.
"I like Sirius, I promote Sirius to everyone I talk to," he said in a
phone interview, adding it took him about an hour last December to
write the software, SiriusWM5.
XM, the top U.S. satellite radio service provider with about 6 million
subscribers, and Sirius, which serves about 4 million, have both said
that going mobile was an important part of their business expansion.
But so far, only a few of Sirius' channels are available on one
wireless provider's network, Sprint Nextel.
Meanwhile, XM has threatened to take legal action. In early February,
a law firm representing the company sent a cease and desist letter to
a developer, citing infringement of its trademark.
A spokesman for Sirius said its lawyers are also pursuing the
issue. "Our lawyers are diligently pursuing this," a Sirius spokesman
"We've indicated time and again, we expect our service and technology
to be widely available in portable products and we continue to explore
opportunities to do that," said XM spokesman Chance Patterson. "These
incidents don't have any impact on those plans.
To be sure, the addressable market is tiny. Users have to own
relatively new Microsoft Windows Mobile-powered smartphones or
PocketPC handheld devices and troll online message boards to locate
the software or Web site links.
As a service to paying subscribers, XM and Sirius offer only a limited
selection of their music channels on the Web. Sirius' hugely popular
shows by ribald radio host Howard Stern, for example, are not
available on its Web site.
Nonetheless, marginal competitive distractions, have a way of haunting
technology companies. Consider how the dorm room and garage passions
of Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates and Apple Computer Inc. Chief
Executive Officer Steve Jobs, dropouts from Harvard University and
Reed College, respectively, took on IBM and now own the personal
"We don't want to get into any trouble," said Wayne, the developer of
PocketXM Radio, who declined to give his full name for fear of
retribution. He said his software, subsequently renamed Pocket
Satellite Radio, is no longer for sale.
It had been sold at http://www.eBooksoftwarehouse.com, which is
registered to Wayne Jiang, based in Texas.
The potential legal quagmire such workarounds represent has not shaken
the resolve of new developers, some of whom would rather continue to
quietly tinker without disturbance.
"I have not been contacted. I do not wish to be contacted by XM," said
Younes Oughla, who created the Web site http://MiniXM.com over four
weekends in his home office in West New York, New Jersey.
"I make sure that people know I'm not affiliated with XM to avoid
confusion," Oughla said, pointing to a disclaimer on his site,
Another developer, whose programing allows Windows Mobile phone users
to easily link to XM radio Web casts, said he wrote the software to
cut down on clutter. His programing was widely distributed off his
"I prefer to carry one device," Nick Krewson, one of the earliest
developers of software that connected to XM, said.
On Internet message boards, such as http://HowardForums.com, where
tech and phone geeks converge, Bressler has turned down offers to
accept fees for his software.
"If Sirius wants the application and wants to develop it further, it's
all theirs," he said.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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