One seemingly natural feature that has long been missing from Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPods is an AM/FM receiver, so that the popular little gadgets can be used to listen to the radio. This doesn't seem to have hurt the iPod's popularity, even though competitors -- like the SanDisk (NASDAQ:SNDK) e200 series of MP3 players -- do have FM (but not AM) receivers.

Only Apple insiders know why radio capability isn't included; my guess is that including it would increase the iPods' size, which the styling wizards at Apple won't allow.

Perhaps this will change, now that Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation Silicon Labs (NASDAQ:SLAB) has introduced a product that will make it easier for any device manufacturer to add AM/FM radio to small handheld devices. Silicon Labs is the first company to introduce an integrated AM/FM receiver on a single chip. The new Si473x chip follows the 4702 and 4703 products, which provided only FM capabilities.

According to the press release, the new chip requires only two external components, compared with 50 for FM-only chips. Building so much functionality into a single chip means that individual chips can be made very small, power consumption is reduced, and it's easy to manufacture in huge quantities for minimal cost.

Pricing for the two available versions is around $5 per chip in quantities of 10,000. With Silicon Labs' quarterly revenue around $115 million last year, this chip could meaningfully boost the company's results if its sales reach a few million or so per year.

It's a fact of life in the semiconductor industry that successful chips are mimicked by others, and some much larger competitors would likely become interested if the Si473x sells well. Time will tell whether the market decides that AM functionality is no less important than FM. At least Silicon Labs has this corner of the market all to itself for now.

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Fool contributor Dan Bloom doesn't own shares in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can send him your comments.