As I pen this I find myself at Logan Airport waiting for a flight because I missed my scheduled flight. This situation has me spending an additional couple of hours on a holiday in an airport lounge simply waiting. With nothing else really pending, and every sane person taking some time off, I decided to hop on the net via a WiFi hot-spot created from my Droid 2 Verizon cell phone. The hot spot feature costs $20 per month, and allows me to connect up to five devices.
As I began surfing it occurred to me that perhaps I could log onto my Sirius XM account and catch some of the continents best radio. Just for the heck of it I figured I would see if Howard Stern would stream. Howards channels are available on Sirius XM Internet Radio, but not through their their apps, or on “mobile devices”. To my surprise I was able to tune in and listen to Howard. Thus, the show is available when I stream my internet through my mobile device, but not on the mobile device itself. Interesting dynamic.
If you think about it the “mobile Internet” is not really any different from the standard Internet. The distinction is in the devices that stream the content. What exactly qualifies as a mobile device. My laptop computer can stream Stern, but my iPod touch or cell phone can not. I wonder if an iPad qualifies as a mobile device? Search as I might, I can not find anything that establishes a definition for what qualifies as a mobile device as it relates to audio content. This got me thinking. Does the NFL define a mobile device differently than CNBC or Stern? Obviously, in the case of Howard Stern “mobile” would seem to be defined by the end product being used to listen to his show. Today my cell is providing the stream, but it is the computer playing the content.
My next step was to use the same hot spot through my cell phone to attempt to listen to the on line service via an iPod Touch. The source of the Internet was identical, but try as I might, I could not get Howard or any other channel to stream. Thus, the answer is that certain end user devices must be considered “mobile” while others are not. This presents an interesting dynamic. Why is “mobile” being separated out, and if I am paying for content what business is it of anyone on which device I choose to listen. Do they want to control my home listening as well. Is a Yamaha receiver okay but a Sony something different? Why does my Stiletto or XMP3 get Stern, but my iPod can not? Don’t the Stiletto and XMP3 qualify as mobile? Is it because Sirius XM made them that they are an exception? Didn’t Sirius XM also make the apps that run the service on other mobile devices?
I am all for a company having the ability to choose and make their own rules, but this issue about “mobile” seems to be a moving target. This dynamic is not unique to Sirius XM. Some content providers separated out “digital” from standard long ago. The intent and reason for that was clear. Streaming over the net differed from traditional delivery methods. Who made the decision to separate the devices though? Why is it okay for me to get my content on a device as small as a netbook, but to put it on an iPod Touch is suddenly taboo?
Something tells me that this issue will become a hot button topic with consumer activists groups over the coming year. There may be a huge push for net neutrality, but now the devices are not neutral. When will this lunacy stop? The fact is that computers are getting smaller and as things stand now consumers will get punished for progress. This backward thinking makes no sense. The fact is that consumers by the content. That is their choice. Now companies (not just Sirius XM) want to control what devices you can use the content you already paid for on. The fact is that there is no real difference between the Internet and the “mobile Internet”. Big business is trying to make a distinction, and consumers are footing the bill.
Position – Long Sirius XM Radio