Slackers make iPods obsolete

19 March 2007 No Comment Mike Evans

Slacker PMP and online music service
iPods, Zunes and all you other MP3 players, tremble in your owners’ pockets. New start-up Broadband Instruments has a new offering that makes all existing Personal Media Players look so last century!

Broadband Instruments have launched Slacker, which offers a new take on the PMP market. The Slacker Media Player looks at first glance like yet another PMP. So far so Zune, iPod, Archos and all the rest. But Slacker’s key difference is that it integrates tightly with an Internet radio service that streams music to your PC or to the Slacker PMP via its built-in Wi-Fi.

In other words, Slacker has been designed around streaming media over Wi-Fi right from the start, rather than having Wi-Fi tacked on as DRM-protected after-thought.

More details and pictures of the Slacker Personal Media Player after the jump.

Slacker online music store
The whole Slacker concept is based on the fact that many people don’t have time to compile their own playlists, and would much rather listen to playlists selected for them by experts in the genre they prefer – or DJs as they used to be known! In fact, 51 percent of people update their MP3 player’s tunes once a month or less, citing lack of time as the key reason.

To cater for this market, Slacker provides a Web-based Internet radio service (above) that lets you choose the genre of your choice and have music that you like (but which is selected by DJs) streamed to your PC.

Here’s where the whole concept becomes more interesting, though. As well as streaming your chosen channel to your PC, you can also stream it to the Slacker PMP. This is a Zune-like device with a large 4″ screen that can display videos, album art and information on the tune you’re listening to.

The PMP and Web-based music service are tightly integrated. You can browse detailed artist info on the Web site, and download the same info onto the Slacker PMP. The music streamed to your PC can be streamed to and stored on the Slacker PMP, enabling you to listen to the same channel again and again.

Slacker Personal Media Player and online music service
The Slacker PMP will also update the channel by dowloading more tunes according to your preferences whenever it’s in the presence of a Wi-Fi hotspot. The channels allegedly learn your preferences through a ‘heart’ and ‘ban’ system – you heart a tune you love, and ban a tune you hate (see pic above). Over time, the system adapts, tuning the types of music it streams to you that’s more and more in keeping with your tastes.

Slacker PMP Personal Media Player
Or that’s the theory anyway! Slacker is still in beta, and current reports suggest the tunes that are selected border on random at the moment! is free and doesn’t need the Slacker PMP to use it, though, so give it a go and see for yourself.

The Slacker PMP supports MP3, WMA, AAC Pro v2 and video playback, and comes with 2GB of memory. The online music service has a free version with limitations and ads, and a premium version that should cost $7.50 a month.

Slacker is an interesting take on the portable music market, which seems to be maturing nicely. MP3 players capable of storing 1,000s of tunes and unlimited playlists are all very well if you’ve got the time to organize your files, but for people of, er, a more mature age, time is at a premium. Delegating playlist creation to DJs with a system that adapts to your tastes saves time, makes sense, expands the portable music market to an older and wider audience, and lets you hear tunes you’d probably never have fuond yourself.

If Slacker can pull this off, they just might have a killer service on their hands. Given that the company comprises chief-execs and other top people from companies such as iRiver, MusicMatch and Rio, they’ve certainly got the credentials to give it a good go. One worth watching!

[Source: Crave, Dapreview, Slacker]


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