Monday, June 18, 2007

Slacker PC radio will work with no PC

Internet radio, which can draw on vast collections of music from around the world and customize playlists to personal tastes, has 29 million listeners a week, up from 20 million three years ago; while ratings for traditional radio broadcasters have been stagnant.

Even so, the nascent industry has yet to capture the biggest prize -- portability.

Some halfway solutions exist, such as music devices that allow people to stream Internet radio on speakers, or software that allows access to Internet radio from cellphones. Results can be unreliable, expensive and violate cellphone contracts.

Several companies are jockeying for position in mobile Internet radio, in a race that could rearrange the music broadcasting business.

Slacker, Inc. announced the creation of "Personal Radio," which enables consumers to customize their own radio stations and listen to them wherever they happen to be. The Slacker Personal Radio experience is available now in beta for PC streaming at and later this year on Slacker Portable Radio Players via Wi-Fi and Slacker Satellite Car Kits.

Slacker has acquired rights from content owners, including Sony BMG, Universal Music Group and hundreds of independent labels, that allow truly portable personalized radio for the first time. The service offers Wi-Fi and satellite music distribution, as well as DJ intelligence embedded in portable players. Slacker customers can play highly personalized, continuously refreshed radio stations everywhere they go.

"Personalized radio is a great way to listen to the music you love without having to work at it," said Dennis Mudd, CEO of Slacker. "The only problem is that until now, personalized radio has been stuck on the PC. Slacker solves that problem. Now you can just kick back and listen."

Slacker Personal Radio has millions of songs with the breadth and depth increasing continuously. The extensive Slacker music library is organized into numerous professionally programmed genre and sub-genre stations and over 10,000 stations that are built around specific artists. Personalization options include adjusting your stations to play more popular vs. more eclectic music, newer vs. older, or even to play more tracks you tagged as favorites.

Other features include: log in from any PC or Mac to hear personalized stations in CD quality; playback through web player, jukebox software and portable devices; create stations by combining favorite artists; select favorite tracks/artists to play more often and ban other tracks/artists; click through album cover art, band profiles, reviews and artist photos; easily share stations with friends

For the first time, Slacker Personal Radio Players will enable music lovers to play personalized radio everywhere they go. The new devices include integrated Wi-Fi and an on-board Slacker DJ. The Slacker DJ combined with the new Slacker caching system guarantees personalized CD quality radio stations to be played everywhere, even when not in Wi-Fi range. Slacker customers get deep, personalized radio stations with optimized radio programming sequences, continuously refreshed and updated to include personalized new music.

Additional Slacker device features include: 4" full screen display featuring album art, reviews, artist photos, bios and visualizations; support for MP3, WMA and video as well as "saved" radio tracks; automatically save and refresh personalized stations via Wi-Fi, satellite or USB.

Slacker is currently in discussions to provide Slacker Personal Radio through a broader range of devices in the future.

In the second half of 2007, Slacker device owners in the US will have the option to purchase Slacker satellite car kits that update the Personal Radio Player with new content through a breakthrough satellite broadcast system. Slacker car-top antennas receive high-speed music feeds from satellites throughout the continental United States, while the integrated Slacker DJ ensures favorite stations stay current.

Slacker Basic Radio is advertising-funded and will remain free to use on Slacker software and portable Slacker Personal Radio Players, while Slacker Premium Radio will cost $7.50 per month. Slacker premium service offers: no advertising; unlimited skipping; ability to save radio tracks to library

Slacker Premium Radio was expected to be available by the end of June, and portables in early summer. The satellite car kit will be offered in the second half of 2007. (This is a preview, not a review.) (info from Slacker and The Wall Street Journal)

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