April 28, 2003 1:24 PM PDT

XM Satellite Radio comes to the PC

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XM Satellite Radio made its 101 channels available to personal computers Monday, unleashing new competition for the recording industry, which is now streaming music into millions of homes via the Web.

The world's largest satellite-radio provider began selling the XM PC Receiver, which connects to most PCs and lets them access broadcasts from XM's two satellites, said XM spokesman Chance Patterson. The device is available for $70 at PC Connection or directly from XM. Access to XM's programming costs an additional $10 per month.

XM's programming faces enormous competition as it becomes available on the personal computer. Downloading music has become a staple for homes, thanks to free file-swapping software from Napster and now Kazaa. Also, major record labels have launched their own download services, while PC makers like Apple plan to make streaming music a regular part of their offerings.

But all those services use the Internet and are thus prone to slowing down as the data highways get crowded, said XM President Hugh Panero. XM's satellite-beamed programming never goes near the Web or its "buffering delays or slow channel searches," he said.

"It is well known that Internet streaming places a terrible burden on a computer's connections and resources," Panero said in a statement. "The XM PC receiver makes no such demands."

The new XM receiver is the third variety of radio receiver that XM sells. SkyFi, meant to be a portable boom box, was introduced last September. The first XM radio receivers ever sold were designed to replace the traditional radio receiver found inside a car's dashboard.

After having spent themselves into huge debts building and launching their networks, satellite-radio companies XM and competitor Sirius have been struggling to achieve the breakout success that many predicted.

Earlier this month, XM said it had 500,000 subscribers and was on track for one million subscribers by the end of this year. Sirius has about 30,000 subscribers, but believes that it will have more than a quarter million by the end of the year.

 

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