Just a few days after the iTunes variable pricing scale was introduced, Apple rumors are flying again -- but this time, they've got nothing to do with how much it'll cost you to download Lady GaGa. The latest buzz surrounds major potential upgrades to the iPhone and iPod touch that could leave satellite radio gasping for its last breath.
Computer World blogger Mike Elgan hypothesized that the death of not-long-ago merged Sirius XM will begin this summer, when Apple is rumored to introduce a new iPhone and iPod touch containing a new Broadcom BCM4329 chip that would give them 802.11n wireless. This would allow the devices to broadcast music to any car stereo using FM radio waves. This, in addition to a second rumor which has both the iPhone and the iPod touch being equipped with Bluetooth capabilities for audio streaming, could provide the final, fatal blow to a satellite radio system that relies on subscribers who may now see the service as superfluous.
Elgan said Sirius XM's subscriber numbers have already been on the decline, and in the face of a struggling economy where few people are buying new cars (and thus few people are choosing to add the satellite radio feature) it only looks to worsen. And though the iPhone/iPod users might not be playing legally purchased $1.29 downloads on their car radios -- the pricing scale has been called a "PR nightmare" by some in the industry -- they can use that handy wireless feature to access online streaming music sites like Pandora, a stream far more specific to user tastes than satellite radio could hope to be.
Though this technology has been available in the past -- typically as an add-on dock for the iPod -- Elgan said this time it will be different.
My argument is that because the iPhone is so dominant (by far the largest-selling single cell phone model ever), and its user base so active (half of all mobile Web traffic, for example, comes from iPhones), that it's the addition of one convenience feature (wireless audio streaming) combined with another cultural shift that has already happened (cell phone-based audio) that will change the culture.