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At CES, the Future of Radio Is Now

By Yuki Noguchi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 8, 2005; 8:46 AM

At XM Satellite Radio's booth, a white Scion and yellow Corvette sported the Washington company's new MyFi, the portable satellite radio receiver that launched in December.

"Oh, cool," a guy behind me said of the gadget that's about the size of handheld. And he wasn't talking about the cars. At this show, cars are merely accessories to show off radio and sound systems, not the other way around

The MyFi, which normally sells for $349, was offered at a special price of $199 to convention-goers. With a notable lack of good swag on the floor (compared with previous years, I'm told), the MyFi deal qualified as one of the biggest scores of the show.

The cars used at the show, by the way, had to be driven in through the back door of the convention hall, with next to no gas in them, according to Vicki Stearn, spokeswoman for iBiquity. The Columbia company rolled a BMW, a Toyota SUV and a Scion into its display in the hectic days before the show. "It was such an unbelievable nightmare," Stearn said.

But after all the hassles, conventioneers had a chance to test the quality of conventional AM/FM radio against iBiquity's digitized version. The effect? CD quality sound. The company is selling its software to broadcasters upgrading their systems to compete with all the other digital music offerings out there. So far, 21 of the 25 biggest radio broadcasting companies agreed to do such an upgrade, according to Stearn. But the changes won't be immediate. Give the broadcasters a couple of years, she said.

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