It’s been a week since the Consumer Electronics Show wrapped up in Las Vegas, and I apologize to Radio Survivor readers for not having kept closer track this year. Warm Las Vegas certainly seemed like it would have been a nicer place to be than bone-chilling snowy Chicago, where I’m writing this post. But as it turns out we didn’t miss much. There wasn’t much new or revelatory in general at CES this year, although radio was a bright spot.
2010 saw car audio systems making the leap into internet radio with smartphone connectivity and integration with services like Pandora. Last year’s CES moved a few steps forward on that track, with more manufacturers and radio apps joining the fray.
This year’s big radio announcement came from Ford which added much broader device and apps upport to its Sync AppLink system. Now a Ford vehicle with Sync will work with Apple iOS, Android and Blackberry devices and apps like iHeartRadio, Slacker Radio, NPR News and Tune In Radio, allowing drivers to control the app through the car’s interface, patching the audio into the vehicle’s sound system.
GM also finally debuted its own smartphone sync systems called MyLink in Chevys and CUE in Cadillacs. AM/FM radio is still standard, but CD players are optional, causing some commentators to declare this is yet another indicator of the inevitable death of the compact disc (a topic I will take up at a later date). Subara announced that it would be offering Harman’s Aha Radio platform in some 2013 vehicles.
Slacker radio announced a new Verizon 4G optimized app for Android tablets as well as new content deals. Slacker, which provides free and subscription channels of music and news content via smartphone apps, internet radios and the web, will offer ESPN Audio, which includes live streaming ESPN Radio coverage of games. The company also announced a deal with American Public Media to provide free access to programs like Marketplace, as well as music from Minneapolis AAA station The Current. Finally, Slacker will be adding content from the Weather Channel, featuring local and national forecasts.
In terms of actual radios, the French electronics company Archos had the most exciting product on display with its “>Archos 35 Home Connect clock radio. The device runs the Android operating system and features a touch screen to navigate internet radio, weather reports and other apps. Blackberry announced that its 7.1 OS release will activate the FM radio chip inside its BlackBerry Curve 9360 and 9380 smartphones.
The bright side of CES 2012 is that radio was no more lackluster than any other sector. In fact, one might argue that the radio announcements were some of the highlights.