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XM eyes TiVo, iTunes functions

New patent application filed by satellite radio leader details plans for recording and other capabilities.

XM Satellite Radio may add TiVo-like functions to its service, according to a patent application recently filed by company executives.

U.S. Patent application 20040266336 describes several methods for adding recording functions to the XM service and compatible devices. Subscribers could use the technology to record live programming for later playback or purchase downloadable content, the application states.

The application was filed Dec. 30 by a group of five XM employees, including Paul Marko, senior vice president of subscriber technology, and Stell Patsiokas, executive vice president of technology and engineering.

XM and competitor Sirius emerged on the market about three years ago with similar technologies and business plans. Both charge a monthly fee to let subscribers access dozens of channels of original audio programming beamed directly by satellite to special receivers in cars and home stereo systems.

XM introduced the first portable satellite radio receiver late last year. The Delphi XM MyFi has limited recording capabilities, but the patent application describes a much broader set of functions.

Several types of memory
The application primarily discusses "time shifting," the TiVo-like practice of recording live programs as you consume them so programming can be resumed if your listening gets interrupted. The application describes using a bank of "temporary memory" in an XM device to perform such functions.

"The temporary memory...generally is used to store broadcast content as the user listens to a live broadcast," according to the application. "In this way, a user has the ability to pause, rewind, skip forward or backward and fast-forward."

The application goes on to describe several other types of memory options, including permanent storage capacity for songs and other content a subscriber might purchase through an XM-related service. Devices would be equipped with a "buy" button and the ability to temporarily store content ID information on songs being broadcast. If users like a song an XM channel is playing, they press "buy" to be connected to a music store that can download the track to the player.

"The vendor-specific data associated with each song facilitates the user acquiring an authorized copy of a particular selected song," according to the application. "Thus, for instance, if a given song is available on the iTunes Music Store, the software application could launch the iTunes application and navigate to the selected song so that the user simply needs to perform a 'purchase' action within the iTunes software."

An XM representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but company executives have previously said they expect to expand on the MyFi by possibly integrating satellite radio capability into cell phones and high-capacity portable music players such as Apple's iPod.