Monday, November 24, 2008

Holiday Blunder - Sirius / XM - UPDATE

I talk a lot about 'early adopters' in this space, usually referring to those users that sign-up for a brand-new web-based product early, and give it the test run for everyone else.  If they like it, many become FREE evangelists spreading the word quickly across the web and tech communities.

The phrase 'early adopter' can be easy ported to almost anything.  I was an early adopter of DirecTv about two weeks after launch. I also (with a similar satellite fascination) was an early adopter of XM Radio.  (I suppose the Wankel Engine qualifies here as well as I literally couldn't help myself when the first Mazda RX-7s appeared in the early 80's.  That was one cool car :)

While many people I knew were moving to iPods and other portable devices for their mobile entertainment, I continued to use XM for my daily take on news and information.  In rural areas, the TV and Radio stations can be spotty and XM filled that void for me for several years.

Early this year, I discontinued that subscription .... and have been missing it ever since.

It's hardly a secret to investors, but XM and Sirius satellite radio got a green light from regulators to merge a few months ago.  It was apparently 'make or break financial survival'.  At the time, there was lots of talk about new radios, new price plans and more. I expected to see them before the all-important holiday selling season.

XM did come out with an a la carte pricing package which, at last check, is just $3 / month less than the full programming package?

A news and info package, or 'basic' music package could have been a hit at the $7.95 price point, maybe even $8.95.  They probably would have seen people pre-pay 6 or 12 months.  Instead they chose the issue prepaid cards for gift buyers.  Huh?

That wasn't what finally stopped me from buying a shiny new receiver yesterday.

The new receivers are few and far between in retailers.  The price point is HIGHER that when I originally subscribed and most of the less expensive units (I have no need for a color screen for XM?) are land-locked to the original price package ...... and have almost no features.

While my original receiver had remote control and a full car kit for under $50, those products apparently were held up by the merger, or possibly by the fact that Delphi appears to be gone from the hardware mix.

I realize this company has had problems but they also have an educated buying audience and this stuff is just wrong.  Subsidize the box. More importantly, get them into the stores?  The aftermarket is still HUGE.

Relying on car manufacturers and built-ins (that may not get renewed), isn't enough.

While buyers in the FOUR stores I visited were lined up 10 and 20 deep for the Verizon Storm (which was sold out at all), the XM / Sirius areas were empty.  So were the shelves.  Maybe I'm missing something here but ....

Where's the buzz ??

Correction and Update November 27:  Delphi IS still manufacturing numerous units for XM.  Since we first posted this piece, numerous discounts and rebates for the holiday selling season have been posted online and by numerous Sirius and XM retailers.