Sirius XM Takes It to the Next Level

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After several quarters of hype, Sirius XM 2.0 is finally here.

Sirius XM Radio (NAS: SIRI) officially introduced its new platform yesterday, rolling out its first Sirius XM 2.0 receiver and fleshing out the new stations that will take advantage of the new format's ability to add 25% more content than existing receivers.

The portable receiver itself -- the $139 Sirius XM Edge -- is a bit of a letdown.

Its design is slick, but it certainly doesn't seem to be the bar-raising receiver that we were promised. Outside of the ability to play nearly two dozen more channels, it's not all that different from the retail systems that Sirius XM has been selling for years.

There were some rumblings earlier this year about features that just aren't available on the Edge. CNET reported that the new receivers would provide instant on-demand access to some of its more popular shows, transforming radio the way TiVo (NAS: TIVO) revolutionized the way we consume television. Well, that's not on the Edge's features list. Short of the TiVo-like ability to pause, rewind, and replay up to 30 minutes of live satellite radio -- something that Sirius XM portable receivers have been offering for ages -- this isn't the game changer it could have been.

In its present form, Sirius XM 2.0 isn't revolutionary. It's barely evolutionary.

Applause for more content
There's nothing bad about incremental content, and the Edge does play new channels beyond the already impressive slate of content available to current subscribers. There are seven new music channels, three new comedy stations, and drivers can now hear a simulcast of Disney's (NYS: DIS) ESPN SportsCenter.

There's no denying the real emphasis of the greater broadcasting spectrum. More than half of the new channels are devoted to Spanish-language stations, largely commercial-free music but with a couple of talk options in the mix.

In a logical -- but still business-smart -- move, all of the new channels are now available through Sirius XM's Internet and mobile streaming service. The satellite radio giant sells these features as pricey stand-alone offerings or as deeply discounted add-ons to receiver-based subscribers.  

Competitors are getting smarter
"The launch of new programming is the first phase of SiriusXM 2.0, a major upgrade and evolution of SiriusXM's satellite and Internet delivered service that will ultimately span hardware, software, audio, and data services," yesterday's press release states.

In other words, the best is yet to come. Sirius XM 2.0 will be more than new channels and the ho-hum Edge retail receiver.

Investors better hope so. Rivals are starting to heat up the dashboard.

The new Camry commercials play up Toyota's (NYS: TM) new Entune infotainment systems. Six shiny icons are prominent on the touchscreen interface, and two of them just happen to be Pandora (NYS: P) and Clear Channel's (OTC: CCMO) iHeartRadio. Anyone with a smartphone can access free Pandora and iHeartRadio music streaming as seamlessly as they can terrestrial or satellite radio.

General Motors (NYS: GM) -- a tech laggard in the past -- introduced a new infotainment platform that will soon begin rolling out in select Cadillac models. It offers easy access to Pandora as well as the podcast-friendly Stitcher (for those who need more than streamed music).

Along with a price hike that Sirius XM plans to roll out in three months, Sirius XM can't afford to tap the snooze bar here. It needs to get better. The "ultimately span hardware, software, audio, and data services" component of Sirius XM 2.0 better not disappoint the way the Edge placeholder has this week.

Life's too short to begin hoping for Sirius XM 3.0 if this doesn't do the trick.  

If you want to see how Sirius XM stands up to the stream teams addSirius XM Radioto My Watchlist.

At the time this article was published Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of General Motors and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for Disney. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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