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It's easy to be unimpressed with Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI ) these days. Shares of the satellite radio giant fell yesterday after posting a mixed quarterly report on a day when the market just wasn't feeling it in general.
There was also last month's ho-hum Sirius XM 2.0 announcement. We already knew that most of the nearly two dozen new stations would be earmarked for Sirius XM's underserved Spanish-speaking market. However, it was the new receiver -- the Sirius XM Edge -- that left me sorely disappointed.
"Its design is slick, but it certainly doesn't seem to be the bar-raising receiver that we were promised," I wrote at the time about the $139 gadget. "Outside of the ability to play nearly two dozen more channels, it's not all that different from the retail systems that Sirius XM has been selling for years."
Thankfully there may be a cure for the satellite radio blues.
The magical elixir has a name. One word: Lynx.
This receiver will make you a believer
CEO Mel Karmazin promised back in August that there would be not one but two Sirius XM 2.0 receivers on the market in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the official Sirius XM 2.0 press release only mentioned the Edge two weeks ago.
Well, the Lynx became extremely real yesterday.
The premium receiver was leaked in a Best Buy (Nasdaq: BBY ) ad last month, but the consumer electronics retailer pulled the premature product page. We only had a few details. The receiver runs a modified version of Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android, has a touchscreen, and a memory card slot. However, Best Buy never tagged the radio kit with a release date.
Karmazin had some more details during yesterday's conference call.
The plug-and-play Lynx will naturally access satellite radio, but it will also have hook-up with Sirius XM's online streams through Wi-Fi. It's also Bluetooth-compatible, so it can play through newer home stereo systems without having to be physically connected. There is also time-shifting and up to 200 hours of content storage.
"We expect to add more functionality through software upgrades in the future," Karmazin concludes. This doesn't necessarily mean that folks will be playing Angry Birds or streaming rival Pandora (NYSE: P ) anytime soon, but it does mean that it will be able to keep up with Google's platform enhancements through software upgrades.
Dusting off retail
Lynx will make retail exciting again. Old-school satellite radio subscribers probably remember when folks actually went to Best Buy and Circuit City to pick out their first Sirius or XM receivers. Only a few cars came with factory-installed receivers, and who wanted to buy a new car just for the sake of satellite radio?
Retail has lost its allure over the years. Sirius XM is down to relying on the ups and downs of new car sales to smoke out new accounts.
Lynx may change that. This isn't just about the access to a dozen Latino stations and a few extra comedy channels. The Edge can scratch that itch. Lynx can raise the bar if it can use its Android-fueled platform and the high-resolution color touchscreen to be more than just a satellite radio receiver.
It may look more like a Garmin (Nasdaq: GRMN ) GPS than a pocket-sized tablet, but it's the first time in ages that Sirius XM may intrigue gadgetry enthusiasts. Sirius XM has been making plug-and-play receivers that can go from cars to home docking systems for years, but what if this little guy can also stream movies or let smartphone owners surf on slightly larger screens?
Because of the future software upgrades, we really don't know where the ceiling is here.
The missing Lynx
One slick gadget won't transform Sirius XM into a tech leader. However, we did see how Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN ) Kindle has transformed a retail leader into a tech tastemaker.
Sirius XM already has the attention of more than 21.3 million subscribers. It has celebrity endorsers behind most of its studio doors.
The Lynx won't be a hit right away. The likely $250 price point and the unproven platform will keep skeptics on the fence this holiday season. However, as the Lynx software evolves, it will make it that much easier to embrace. Another welcome byproduct of a sticky receiver is that it will also improve churn since it will make it harder to cancel.
So forget last month's uninspiring Edge receiver news or the few shortcomings in yesterday's report. Sirius XM has something in its arsenal that will make it cool again -- and it's now just weeks away from hitting the market.
If you want to see how Sirius XM stands up to the stream teams, add Sirius XM Radio to My Watchlist.