A Sirius Threat to the iPod?

Is the Stiletto in? That's the question of the day among the tech chic. But it's not shoes with sticks -- as my three-year-old daughter calls them -- that are the rage, it's radio. Wired News reports that Sirius Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI  ) is on the verge of introducing the Stiletto 100, a portable music player that boasts both a satellite receiver and built-in Wi-Fi.

Naturally, the news is being billed as another blow to Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPod franchise. But is it really? I'm not so sure -- though, like iTunes and the iPod, the Sirius combo offers zero friction between device and programming. That's an improvement over the newest Sansa offering from SanDisk (Nasdaq: SNDK  ) and more like Inside Value pick Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) forthcoming Zune player, which has the investor in me mildly worried.

Nevertheless, Sirius' primary advantage in this market -- a built-in satellite tuner -- is also its largest weakness. Indeed, the Web has become just as relevant a medium for delivering content as orbital space or the terrestrial airwaves. What other reason is there for Sirius offering its service via the Web and then, in turn, to Stiletto customers? Answer: There is no other reason.

And that leaves the door open for Apple. No one really believes it's going to be difficult for the Mac maker to add Wi-Fi to its forthcoming iPod models. And most believe that Apple will focus on creating new movie players, with downloadable flicks added to the iTunes library. What no one seems to consider is that iTunes streams Internet radio today. Do you really believe that Apple couldn't add subscription streams from XM Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: XMSR  ) to the iTunes service? I don't.

Remember, the Apple-iPod formula isn't simply about programming or the device. It's about the entire experience of making it easy to listen to, buy, store, and organize digital media in concert with a portable device. Right now, iTunes and the iPod together do that better than any of the alternatives. I don't see Sirius -- or, frankly, anyone outside of Microsoft -- changing that any time soon.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers owns LEAP options in Apple, and a new MacBook Pro, which he occasionally uses to run Windows. Get the skinny on all of the stocks in Tim's portfolio by checking his Fool profile. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy rocks.


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