The Dash puts smartphone directly in the dashboard, completely replacing your car stereo

Tuesday, January 24, 2012 - 9:00am

Instead of connecting your smartphone to your car's existing stereo system, a new product under development replaces the stereo with your smartphone.

The Dash is a two-part system. A standardized "Body" is installed in the car dashboard after removing the stereo. It is the power and brains of the system, feeding the audio to the speakers, and charging the phone. The other part, the "Faceplate," houses the smartphone itself, and will be interchangeable to accommodate different types of phones (the first one is made for the iPhone and iPod). The faceplate only has a volume control; all other controls are via apps on the phone itself.

The product isn't yet available, but there's a Kickstarter campaign to get it up and running. H/T to Eliot Van Buskirk at


Pandora listening growth and alliances attract attention from media and critics alike

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 - 11:00am

Pandora has been enjoying some attention from business and mainstream media lately. The webcaster took the opportunity of the International Consumer Electronic Show last week to show off not only their latest audience numbers, but their growing set of automotive- and consumer electronics-alliances.

[According to Pandora's own reporting of their audience, they now have more than 125 million registered users (which comes down to about 40 million "active" users), who listen for an average of 18 hours each month. The Triton Digital Webcast Metrics report for November (here) credits Pandora with its highest-ever share of measured Internet radio listening, 68%.
And for the record, more than 450 different electronics devices, from smartphones to DVD players to Dish Network receivers, now deploy Pandora (several of these were announced at CES, see our coverage here, here, and here). With the new alliances with Kia and Acura, Pandora has deals with 16 automotive brands and 7 aftermarket manufacturers.]
Jefferson Graham of USA Today interviewed Pandora founder Tim Westergren (with video, here), who said growth still takes precedence over profitability for Pandora (which has had just a single profitable quarter so far). "The opportunity for us is global," Westergren said. "That's the big vision."
That won't come at traditional radio's expense, insists Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman. "Radio is doing very well. It's in every car and most homes. It's embedded in the world. If you want personalized radio, you have to be online, and not everybody can always be online."
Currently, Pandora is U.S.-only, because of prohibitive complexities in securing the necessary licensing deals with record labels country-by-country. And Westergren is far from satisfied even with the arrangements here in the U.S., which last year cost the company more than half its gross revenues. "That compares to satellite radio, which pays 7.5% or 8% of gross revenue, and broadcast radio, which is completely exempt from it," he told Fast Company last week (here). 
SoundExchange president Michael Huppe told the magazine he finds the comparison unfair. After all, Pandora is focused on growing listening, not profitability, right? "It's a bit disingenuous to simply look at percentage of revenue as a marker that you judge everything by. It's no secret that Pandora's focus over the last five years has not been on generating revenue. They've been trying to work on their product, their brand, and building a huge following. I salute that. But it's not unusual for companies in the early stages to focus on things other than cash flow."
Again, you can find the USA Today coverage here; the Fast Company article here.

Automakers, developers, content providers present solutions "where the bits meet the road" for CES

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 11:55am

After the second offical day of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we could probably have enough news to cover in RAIN for the next few months. So we'll try to throw a wide net here, and let you decide where you want to read more.

And connecting the car to the Internet is really where the action has been. In fact, a record number of automakers are exhibiting (see RAIN here), with six of the top-10 automakers present. Like Inside Radio wrote today, "From a keynote speech by the head of Mercedes Benz to the prominent presence of numerous other automakers, the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show took the digital dashboard for a test drive yesterday in Las Vegas."

Ford debuted its concept car, the Internet-connected Evos, at CES. "By the time you get behind the wheel, the car will have analyzed the morning’s traffic and weather and calculated the best route to get you to the office on time," writes The Boston Globe (here). "You won’t even have to touch the radio - it’s already playing the same station you were listening to in the house. And as you pull away, it will shut the garage door and turn off the lights."

While that's a little ways down the road, Ford announced the newly-updated TuneIn (the Internet radio tuning provider and aggregator) smartphone app (see RAIN coverage here) supports Ford's SYNC AppLink, giving drivers voice-command access to thousands of AM, FM, HD and Internet radio stations. Read more in Engadget here.

And just today, Ford announced it will be the first automobile company to enable in-car, voice-controlled access to Clear Channel Radio's iHeartRadio app through the SYNC AppLink system (there's more on this here).

Audi, also exhibiting a connected car, likes the idea of linking to devices consumers already own and use. "Customers want to bring their own devices into the vehicle, not buy devices from the car maker," Anupam Malhotra, a senior strategist at Audi, told Variety (here). "By having broadband in the vehicle for audio and in some cases video streaming, we can leverage that to create a flexible entertainment medium." Chrysler and Kia also showed Internet-connected cars.

Harman’s interactive platform Aha Radio had lots to announce: the tech will be built in to some 2013 Subaru and Honda models, giving customers on-road access to MOG, NPR, Shoutcast, Rhapsody, Slacker, plus CBS Radio's 129 broadcast station streams (but not online-only streams or The Aha Radio platform will also be available on select aftermarket receivers from Kenwood and Pioneer. Read more in Inside Radio or Engadget (here).

Not surprisingly, it's Pandora leading the way among webcasters in making a presence in new in-car devices. Two new Alpine receivers announced at CES sport SiriusXM and HD Radio support; one, the INE-Z928HD in-car DVD receiver, allows creation and control of Pandora stations with a smartphone (more here). You can also listen to Pandora via AppRadio2, Pioneer's new smartphone powered in-vehicle audio system, showcased at CES (here); and on two new Clarion units (that's a Clarion unit pictured -- see more from here). Finally, Pandora and "middleware" company Jungo announced a partnership at CES that "pre-integrates" Pandora’s proprietary automotive API, Pandora Link, with Jungo’s MediaCore automotive middleware. Instead of needing to create their own interface, automakers or aftermarket stereo manufacturers can use MediaCore to connect Pandora to the car audio system and stream and control Pandora stations via smartphone, as well as display station and track info on an audio system screen. Read more here.

News from CES: Clear Channel opens iHeart API; FM on Blackberry; NPR on Ford's AppLink; and new partners for Pandora, Slacker

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - 9:00am

Here's more news from the Consumer Electronics Show happening now in Las Vegas:

Clear Channel Radio is making available its iHeartRadio API (application programming interface). The Developer Program will enable anyone to develop web pages and applications that integrate iHeartRadio content and services. The iHeartRadio API includes access to live broadcast and digital-only stations, the Custom Stations feature, and social media integration. Developers can learn more about the Developer Program here.

Blackberry maker Research In Motion will add FM radio capability to two current BlackBerry models, the Curve 9360 or 9380. Owners simply need to download a new app to be able to tune to local FM.

Ford has added voice-control of NPR's mobile app to its Sync AppLink. Listeners will be able to create playlists of stories and programs to listen to later, or select from topics and then call them up via voice command.

Pandora announced new partnerships in the automotive sector with Acura, Kia, and Audiovox; plus another partner for in-home entertainment, satellite television provider Dish Network. Pandora says its service is now available on more than 450 consumer electronic devices, and they have partnerships with 16 automotive OEM brands and 7 aftermarket manufacturers.

Net radio provider Slacker announced content partnerships with American Public Media and The Weather Channel. Slacker will now offer programs from APM like "Marketplace" and "The Current," as well as customizable weater forecasts and updates.

1/25: RAIN offers handy guide to in-car dashboard web radio systems

Friday, December 23, 2011 - 11:00am

Whew! It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for in-car Internet radio. Nearly every major car maker (and a slew of third-party retailers) has introduced some sort of dashboard Net radio system. And frankly, it’s tough to keep track of it all. That’s why today RAIN presents a round-up of in-car Internet radio... (read more here)

Audi Connect music app enable in-car streaming, no smartphone required

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 11:10am

Audi interiorA new app for the Audi Connect system streams Internet radio in the car without the need of a connected smartphone.

Audi Connect (details here) uses a SIM card that's actually installed in the car (thus, no need to attach a phone) to connect to the Internet. (Other onboard Internet radio solutions require using your smartphone's connection.) The new Audi Music Stream app provides the tuning, channel navigation, and can store "favorite" channels.

This latest update to Audi Connect enables the navigation function access to 360-degree imagery from Google Street View. Read more here. Read more on Audi Connect in RAIN here.

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