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A Whole New Paradigm:
I was an early adopter with MP3 players with a 20GB Archos Jukebox followed by an Ipod. I ripped and burned all my CDs and made a favorites list of my all-time favs. Eventually I ruined all my all-time favs by getting tired of them. Then I shuffled my library and eventually got tired of the rest of my music as well. I don't take the time to research new music and find downloading to and syncing with a PC to be an annoyance. I can do it, but am usually too busy. So I end up listening to my Ipod less and less. I don't even use it often enough for it to break.

Then I had an idea for a gadget I wish someone would invent. Suppose we had a "wireless" Ipod-type device that would be programed by someone who knew music. You wouldn't know what they were going to play in advanced and would rely on their expertise to find the right mix. Maybe the device could have different streams or "channels" with different styles of music or even comedy. We could call this device something cool like "radio." How would you pay for it? Commercials would completely destroy the concept, so it would have to be by subscription. $10-12 per month seems about right but only if the sound is CD quality.

But there is still a problem. With this "radio" device you don't know what is playing unless there is an announcer to tell you and that destroys the enjoyment of the music. Maybe there could be a read out of song and artist, just like on my Ipod. But there is even a bigger problem. Unlike the Ipod, you don't get to "save" the new music to make into a favorites. Suppose you could save the stream to memory? Better yet, suppose you could save a song after you start listening to it if you like it, like my Tivo? Alternatively you could record a stream for a period of time for when you cannot receive the wireless signal and when you play it back, saving only the songs you like to your playlists. Maybe you could add your own MP3s from your PC to your favorites and mix them with the music you downloaded from the wireless stream. Wouldn't this be awesome?

But wait! This amazing device and service had already been invented. It is the XM Pioneer Inno, and it is smaller and lighter than my 15GB IPOD or my new Treo 680. It's marketing slogan is "hear it, click it, save it." It also works with music bought on a PC from Napster but I won't be using that feature. Because it is a satellite radio, it does not work indoors without an external antenna (which I have connected to the included home base station attached to my home stereo). But I discovered that in DC (where XM is based) there are lots of ground repeaters so it works inside my pocket when I am outside, as well as inside some airports (e.g. Logan). Plus my subscription gives me free access to XM Radio Online so I can easily listen in my office or home on my PC. The price I paid for all this goodness? $199 after rebate from Amazon.com (now it is $225) + a subscription of course & the cost of a car kit. When in the car dock it has a built-in FM modulator to play through the car audio system.

Check out the on-line demo. It is a great gift for the boomer in your life who likes new music but is too busy to follow the music scene, who does not want to go through the hassle of locating and downloading music, or who resents paying $.99 per song. It's a whole new paradigm.

(civil comments only please. Feel free to post recommendations of other really cool gift ideas that people might not have heard about yet.)
ATL (mail) (www):
You can do all of that with an iPod and podcasts. And even if something's not on podcast, you can record and timeshift streaming audio via Audio Hijack software. The product itself sounds like a nice thing, don't get me wrong. But it's not really a new paradigm, especially considering the costs and limitations of satellite radio.
12.14.2006 4:31pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):
Always glad to learn that I wasn't the only person in the world who once bought one of those Archos bricks. Unbelievably, mine still works, though I only use it as a portable hard drive for my PC to store stuff like taxes, accounting, etc.
12.14.2006 4:35pm
Randy Barnett (mail) (www):
ALT:

I am not knocking podcasting which has the added attraction of lots of diverse programing. But time shifting is not the same thing as live broadcasting. With the Inno I only time shift for when I cannot get a signal (like on an airplane). And can you save individual songs you like to a playlist from a podcast? Being able to do this from either a live feed or a time-shifted recording is a big bonus of the Inno. Finally podcasting requires synching to a PC or Mac. Not a big deal, but I do like the fact that the Inno is PC free.
12.14.2006 4:37pm
Curious:
Very interesting. I suspect this wouldn't work, though, while on a subway (e.g., the DC metro), even with the external antenna, would it?
12.14.2006 4:41pm
Guest44 (mail) (www):
So if you "save" a new song, I assume that it cannot be saved from the device back to your hard-drive. Are there any limits to the number of times you can replay it?
12.14.2006 4:44pm
Dillon (mail):
Actually, I have a better idea: how about an algorithm (user-adjustable, of course) that allows you to say whether you like a song your expert happened to suggest. Something like http://www.pandora.com/ but with more nuance (that could be achieved through increased input from partnerships with satellite radio companies and the like).

Now couple this with a wireless device!


You could interact and say, "hey, I know you're the 'expert' on music and all, but I kind of like this song more than the other songs youve picked on this channel. That's right, you don't get it right 100% of the time, but that 15% is pretty good. Perhaps you could play more of that?" Click----The expert DJ picks something that other users who also liked that song picked.

Like the song? Great, keep em coming (no feedback means satisfaction and status quo). Dont like that song? Give the expert YOUR expert feedback (what, your "radio" DJ didn't care that you don't like Silverchair? Too bad, pick another station for your subscription and hope suits you better and wait to hear something new you like). Like the song the expert picked a little bit? Tell them so! Click on your device and let the algorithm test another song on your wireless device with similar characteristics. Or, keep listening to picks entirely chosen by the DJ. If you want, you can say whether or not you like the song (and perhaps, in the future, what about it you like) and the company will keep track of your input, even though you are continuing to listen to someone else's choice. Efficient.


Of course, if you're not the kind of person who only likes on type of music... you could save the paramaters of a given channel (say, melodic punk or Canadian folk) and create additional streams. Mix your channels! Or enable feedback option and let the service experiment with your channels (and even new channels!!!) thereby satisfying the old lawyer rule of 80% old clients and 20% new!

I'm putting my money on the individuals and machines, not exogenous music pickers and late-arriving feedback via subscription cancelations. Coupling the convenience of wireless devices with this type of technology would bring democracy back to the industry and exposure to bands that just need exposure..... like a good idea (and law students) just needs capital. Did I just say that?
12.14.2006 4:44pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
if I order in the next fifteen minutes do I get the Ginsu Knife AND the Cap Snappler absolutely free along with the XM Pioneer Inno??
12.14.2006 4:48pm
Dillon (mail):
Clarification: The device wouldnt necessarily have to be wireless (today). It could simply record your responses and use that information to update itself when connected to the partner database. Anyway, back to the books, but just thought I'd throw it out there since I think there are positives to be had by both human selection (see Yahoo news) and process selection (see Google news). That is all.
12.14.2006 4:50pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Becoming an old fart has not only greatly improved my sex life (measured as ratio of how much I get to how much I want) it has for similar reasons improved my satisfaction with analog radio. These days it's mostly newsradio and college FM, but it won't be long before it's all elevator music, all the time -- especially as the easy listening stations are playing more and more of the music of my youth.
12.14.2006 4:52pm
Randy Barnett (mail) (www):
I think Pandora is very cool and would love to access it on a wireless device. (But it does have it's own government copyright imposed restrictions on its capabilities.) No the Inno does not work in a subway but you just switch over to your stored content, whether a playlist or a recorded stream.

You cannot shift from the device to your PC. That is what arguably lets it pass government copyright restrictions, though this is not stopping content "owners" from attempting to cut off their noses by suing anyway. Read here.
12.14.2006 4:56pm
Randy Barnett (mail) (www):
David,

I submit that new music today is really good, and very reminiscent of the 60s and 70s, if you can only find it. So is progressive country. Old farts are the untapped market for great new music.
12.14.2006 4:59pm
Kaa:
I thought satellite radio quality was considerably worse than CD quality...

Also, are you sure that the songs you record are yours to have? Will they go away if you terminate your subscription? Or if XM changes its Terms of Service?

Kaa
12.14.2006 5:08pm
Randy Barnett (mail) (www):
Satellite sounds really good to me. The music is only "yours" so long as you subscribe to XM. The device is promoted heavily by XM (Sirius does not yet have one). There is no chance they will change their terms of service unless compelled to by a judge.
12.14.2006 5:21pm
Just an Observer:
Feel free to post recommendations of other really cool gift ideas that people might not have heard about yet.

How about a DVD Rewinder?
12.14.2006 5:26pm
Cameron:
Anyone know of a Pandora equivalent for PC? Also, I'm new to podcasts--any recommendations for good libertarian talk radio?
12.14.2006 5:36pm
Cameron:
Sorry, I meant Audio Hijack for PC, not Pandora.
12.14.2006 5:37pm
Cameron:
I was checking out these XM devices and it says "XM+Napster bookmark songs for easy online purchase." Does XM block you from recording some songs?
12.14.2006 5:56pm
R:
Sirius does have a device like this. It's called the
Stiletto. It's more expensive, but I hear it works indoors most of the time, and if it doesn't it can connect to any wi-fi you have since Sirius webcasts their content. I'm guessing XM does too, but I don't have XM so I wouldn't know. Also you get Howard Stern and all the NFL games.
12.14.2006 6:48pm
coyote (mail) (www):
Not portable, but I listen to pandora (www.pandora.com) over a slimdevices music server at home. I like you have a hard time tuning into the music scene. Pandora lets you enter songs you like and it will stream you songs that are similar
12.14.2006 7:12pm
Actual (mail):
For a PC try this: Replay A/V

I use Replay A/V and it works very well. I schedule multiple stations for recording at the same time and load them them on an MP3 player.

It would be easy save tracks but I just use it for time-shifting.
12.14.2006 7:44pm
Alaska Jack (mail):
Interesting article and comments.

Randy, I have a suggestion for new music which may resonate with some people here.

Lala.com is, essentially a CD trading service. I have been using about six months and am VERY satisfied.

How it works:

First you enter all the CDs you own, choosing them from a large database (the website uses "type ahead" technology and a couple of other tricks to make this a less tedious chore than it sounds). This is your "have" list.

Then, choosing from the same database, you tell it all the CDs you want. This is your "want" list.

If someone out there "wants" one of your "haves", you get a little "request to ship" message. You click "agree," put your CD in a pre-paid mailer Lala.com supplies you with, and drop it in the mail.

Other people do the same. Pretty soon, you are receiving 3-4 CDs a week via the mail.

Like I said, I am a very satisfied customer. I've used it to get rid of a bunch of CDs I didn't care for (I firmly deny buying that "Air Supply Greatest Hits" CD, and you can't prove otherwise), and in exchange put in requests for a whole bunch of artists I was vaguely familar with but never really listened to: Pink Floyd, early Bruce Springsteen, the Who, the Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, etc.

Just a plug in case someone else out there might like this service too.

- Alaska Jack
12.14.2006 8:29pm
Jay Goodman Tamboli (mail) (www):
"Early adopter" with 20 GB? Try 32 MB. *bearded geek grumble*

I agree satellite radio is great, though I personally like Sirius.
12.14.2006 9:37pm
Timon Braun (mail) (www):
You might like the KEXP podcasts, rock is probably the most conservative genre if conservatism means fidelity to the past. The outfits are still monastically copied from the 60's and 70's. There is also an interesting mp3 blog from the Analog Art Ensemble called ANABlog; it has a lot of experimental but also beautiful and eclectic world music.
12.15.2006 12:56am
midatlantan (mail):
Given that this is, for the most part, a group blog on legal topics, I'm kind of amazed that no one has brought up the fact (unless I missed it somewhere) that the recording industry is suing XM over the very same "dream device" Randy describes. The essence of the recording industry claim is that, although XM and Sirius have paid and continue to pay to record labels/composers the royalties owed for satellite broadcasting of music, the recording features included in the Inno make it a distribution system. Therefore XM is no longer just broadcasting/streaming/publcly performing the music, but is now distributing copies.

Without commenting on the merits of the case, it certainly seems like what you (Randy) are after, is something that combines attributes of streaming/broadcasting system with certain other attributes of a "distribution of copies" system. At any rate, from your description and the others I've read, the device sounds pretty cool.
12.15.2006 8:10am
Brant:
Dillon &Randy,

If you can't now, presumeably someone could write a Java application to run software like Pandora on a 3G mobile handset, like the Samsung Blackjack. Of course, you could only run it in areas with data. Unlike satellite radio, however, you can receive signal inside buildings. Not the subway yet, of course.

But it does let you put in a microSD card. That same application could allow you to store an hour or two of music for playback when out of service range.

Also, that same handset lets you receive XM radio. I understand that it is over the 3G data network itself, rather than actually being received from satellites. So, again, you can receive in buildings, but not in areas without 3G coverage.
12.15.2006 8:57am
Connie (mail):
I have had XM radio for a couple years and really like it, including the record feature. But, a few caveats:

1. Not all channels are commercial free. Certainly not the comedy ones, and some music channels are sponsored by (I believe) Clear Channel. They not only contain commercials, the commercials they run are annoying--for Rx drugs, for pc services, and other stuff that must not have much of a market. Also, I consider XM ads on one channel for their own programming on another channel just as annoying as an ad for credit repair services. I am well aware of the MBL and Dylan broadcasts, and don't need to be reminded of them several times a day.

2. I am on my fourth unit in about 30 months, due to various hardware failure issues. Most replacements were covered under warranty, but the replacement process is a hassle.

3. XM is being sued by certain record labels in regard to the recording feature. To say XM won't change their terms of service is just plain wrong; they already have, in terms of ads on music channels, and they will if they are forced to by litigation.
12.15.2006 11:07am
THM (mail):
I've owned the Inno since this summer. I wanted to point out that the half of the storage you can use for uploading your own music to the inno will allow you to store ANY mp3 or wma files you have - not just ones you purchase from Napster. So you can put your favorite songs on the Inno. Also, the songs you buy from Napster can be used on other players (I use MusicMatch for my PC-based music listening and organizing, and the Napster-downloaded files play just fine).

The songs you save live from XM cannot be transferred off the Inno, but with the Home Dock, you can listen to them at home, anyways.
12.15.2006 1:04pm
hilmar:
Another cool toy is the Acoustic Energy Wi-Fi Internet Radio -- it uses a wireless Internet connection (like a wireless router) to access 10,000+ Internet radio stations.
12.15.2006 1:42pm
dAVIDg (mail):
I have been an XM subscriber since the orginal SonyXM radio. Wouldnt trade it for the world. By the way is stock is doing well too. Made about $4.5 a share since October.
12.15.2006 4:01pm
Xrayspec:
Get one before they're enjoined. Since the Inno allows you convert a stream to a copy, record labels are claiming it's an infringement of the exclusive right to distribute under the copyright act. Hate to agree with record labels, but they may have a point.

http://www.eff.org/IP/digitalradio/
12.15.2006 5:20pm
Randy Barnett (mail) (www):
Midatlantan: Early on, I mentioned the lawsuit in my comment of 12.14.2006 4:56pm. above,

Xrayspec: Given that all streamed content must remain on the device and can go no farther, why does the Inno not "time shift" just the way a Tivo does or VCR or casette recorder does? Surely it cannot be because audio is different than video or that one device is portable and the other not. True it is much easier to use than a casette recorder, but that is only relevant if it allows widespread distribution as MP3s do but the Inno is designed to prevent.

I realize that Tivo too has been challenged, but so far unsuccessfully. Then there is the Slingbox that "place-shifts" video received by your TV or Tivo (which is also being challenged).

Media companies will challenge everything that enhances the ability to enjoy audio or video that they do not themselves invent, and they never invent anything until someone else does first (which they then challenge). Oh well.
12.15.2006 6:26pm
Ram:
If you love music and want help discovering it check-out http://pandora.com . You create stations by entering a song, or band, or album - it spits out musically similar songs including album cover and credits and links to buy from Apple or Amazon. No fees, have as many stations as you like. Vote thumbs-up or down for any particular song it picks. This is as good for music as Tivo is for TV. I am in no way affiliated with either but I am a delighted consumer of both.
cheers
12.15.2006 8:17pm
Xrayspec:
Randy: It doesn't matter that you can't move files off the Inno. What matters is that you can convert the broadcast stream into a copy.

That looks analogous to Tivo, but it's not quite. Tivo only controls the device; XM controls the broadcast network AND the device (to the extent that Pioneer &Samsung are essentially OEMs for XM)

The essence of the "time shift" argument in the Betamax case and for Tivo is that time shifting doesn't meaningfullly violate the implied license between TV broadcasters and viewers. (Whether that's as true today as it was in the pre-cable era is an open question.)

XM, otoh, is a "closed system". They're permitted to use songs subject to explicit licenses only for public performance (ie. transmission). When they make &market a device like the Inno, they're arguably inducing users to violate the terms of the license by saving copies. (The slogan is, after all, "Hear It, Click It, Save It")

Why is this a problem? The SCt Grokster case announced a new theory of contributory copyright liability where companies can be held liable if they actively induce their customers' infringements. So, waving the "time shifting" flag will no longer get you off the hook.
12.16.2006 1:16am