Interview With Dave Ulmer of Motorola

Dave Ulmer, Sr. Director of Marketing for Motorola Media Solutions, was recently interviewed by Steve Gordon, an entertainment attorney specializing in digital transmission of entertainment content, about the upcoming Motorola iRadio music service. You can check out the full recording (~35 min) here.

It’s a nice wrap-up of Motorola's current iRadio plans for the 2006 launch. I’m including an outlined summary of some of the main points covered below.

iRadio's Big Idea:
* Motorola iRadio lets you carry commercial-free, internet radio along with your personal music collection, in an iRadio-enabled cell phone. Adding a twist, your phone communicates with your car or home stereo via Bluetooth so you can listen to the music in your car or at home.

Cell Phone Support:
* Dave explained that cell phone manufacturers have committed to providing iRadio-ready phones containing 2 GB of memory, Wi-Fi, and 3D speakers to support iRadio. There will be a large number of cell phones offering CD-quality potential sound.
(They didn’t discuss the cost of such phones. I’m assuming my tiny LG won’t suffice…I’m sure manufacturers are itching to get a piece of the mobile music pie…)

iRadio Subscription:
* The iRadio subscription service will cost about $7 per month.
* 200 internet radio channels will be available immediately, to grow to 400 soon after.
(Dave pointed out that the service will cost less than and offer more radio stations than satellite radio. No satellites = reduced costs = lower prices for consumers…)

Music Licensing:
* Steve asked about how Motorola licenses music for iRadio services. Dave discussed the recent Universal deal, Sound Exchange licenses (used for webcasting services), and direct licenses with independent artists through the Get Heard Network.
(Look for Warner, Sony, and BMG to follow soon...)

Get Heard Network:
* Independent artists, labels, and webcasters will be able to create their own “radio programs” through the iRadio Get Heard Network, which recently launched. Indies are already signing up in growing numbers.
(As I mentioned earlier, they’re killing two birds with one stone – generating additional content at no cost, and creating a word-of-mouth buzz campaign akin to MySpace’s music promotion tool program… An excellent strategy.)

iRadio Installation:
* Installation requirements will depend on the car. However, the car stereo will indeed need to be removed to make it iRadio-compatable, so some knowledge is required. A network of professional installers has been trained nationwide to assist customers as necessary. The total cost, including hardware and installation, will be about $150. (In comparison, Sirius satellite radio requires full radio replacement, which can cost about $300.)
* Pre-Installation in cars would be ideal, but the auto manufacturing industry moves slowly. Current pre-installation discussions apply to cars manufactured in 2009..!

iRadio Subscriber Potential:
* Dave said Motorola sold 15,000,000 phones last month. Compare that to 10,000,000 total satellite radio subscribers.
(It’s going to be an interesting challenge for Motorola to lure away iPod, XM, and Sirius users. Fans of internet radio may be the best niche target segment for iRadio…or cell phone customers that want less electronic crap to carry around…)

Music Delivery:
* Most music will be delivered via PC. Some will be delivered over air. An intelligent combination of caching and “side loading” (PC delivery to portable device) enables CD-quality audio via phones and car stereos.
* Some phones already exist that can carry 10 hours of music. Future phones will carry 5x that amount.
(How important is CD-quality to most people? Mp3 files satisfy most users. But, once you’ve heard hi-fi, can you go back? :) )

iPod Killer:
* Dave emphasized that Motorola does not see iRadio as an iPod killer, but as an iPod complimentor. Motorola promotes consumer choice, which iRadio facilitates; iRadio is a service, not a device.
(And of course, who could possibly “kill” the iPod?)

iRadio VIDEO:
* Yes, Motorola does see a video component in iRadio’s future. They’re using a “watch and wait” strategy to see what kind of market develops for video content.
(iTunes’ recent boon with video sales represents market validation to me...!)

There you have it. Click here to listen to Steve Gordan’s interview with Dave Ulmer.

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