Pandora Courts Aftermarket Radio Makers

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Update: It appears Alpine got a little over-exuberant during the Pandora keynote yesterday, and exagerrated a bit. It had said Tuesday that it will offer Pandora radio control in ALL of its 2011 lineup, but then issued a statement of correction that Pandora will be in MOST Alpine radios. We can understand a little over-enthusiasm. And it’s still great news that Pandora will be in most of its lineup.

Pandora wants to be in every car radio on the road. It’s aggressively courting aftermarket as well as OEM radio makers to include Pandora control over smartphones and it told attendees at the KnowledgeFest show “You are the game changer. Aftermarket is the game changer for integration in vehicles.”

In a keynote delivered by Pandora’s SVP of business development Jessica Steel, Alpine’ Steve Brown came on stage and stated Alpine will extend Pandora control to ALL its car radio models next year (if you own an iPhone or iPod touch). [Alpine later retracted the statement and said Pandora will be in most of its 2011 radios.]

AND Pandora said that it now permits integration with Android and BlackBerry phones and so it hopes to see Pandora car radios that work with these phones next year. (Pandora opened up its PandoraLink platform to Android and BlackBerry phones this spring).

We talked to Steel after the presentation and she explained that expanding into the automobile is the number one goal for Pandora’s business development team. “Nothing is more important to us than being integrated into the car.” Already 40 million people have Pandora on their phones (out of the 65 million total Pandora listeners).

And while Pandora is very intent on getting car makers to include it’s free service in their radios, it knows that will “not happen overnight,” says Steel, hence Pandora’s focus on the aftermarket.

It’s true users can just plug a smartphone into the aux-in jack on many radios but that’s not really a car safe option because you’re using the tiny controls of the phone while driving. As Steel says, “It’s just awkward and it’s not a behavior we want to endorse or encourage. We can’t really tell an automotive story until it’s a seamless experience in the car.”

Pandora will soon be available in Ford and GM cars and Mercedes Benz recently stated that it is offering a dealer option that permits Pandora control on its radios. To help get the car companies on board, Pandora hired a former Sirius veteran George Lynch as VP Automotive.

Source: CEoutlook

Photo: Pandora SVP of business development Jessica Steel gives KnowledgeFest address

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