Last week there was lots of industry buzz about Microsoft’s Zune adding HD Radio technology. Broadcasters saw this move as 1) an indication of growing interest in HD Radio technology, and 2) as a move that would help raise awareness and build audience for HD Radio. While the move may very well build audience, the Microsoft Zune isn’t exactly flying off the shelves and it won’t be the savior for digital radio. As I wrote in an article last week, Zune and HD Radio are kind of made for each other – both are weakish technologies that aren’t cutting it against competing alternatives.
This week’s big news is that Apple will not follow Microsoft’s lead and put an FM radio in the new iPhone. Why would they? Apple is all about the Internet. They sell music via the Internet, and watched a streaming radio app (Pandora) reach the top position as the most popular iPhone app last year. Pandora’s iPhone app is selling lots of music downloads as well.
I doubt that Apple’s wireless partner AT&T, and soon other carriers are very interested in FM Radio capabilities. They want people loving their mobile broadband connectivity. This new iPhone will have faster connections, a video camera, and – my favorite – a fingerprint resistant case.
I worry that the stories reporting that Apple’s not building FM radio into the new iPhone are indicators of the kind of blind, wishful thinking that broadcasters have engaged in for too long already. Getting HD Radio onto Microsoft’s Zune was a nice win, but I don’t think it’s an indicator that digital radio is about to take off.
Apple isn’t about to put an FM tuner on the iPhone, HD Radio isn’t about to take off, and Internet radio is where it’s at. Broadcasters that can focus on that fact are the ones that will flourish.