The second-generation Slacker personal radio player is smaller, slimmer, and even better than the first. There may be no better way to listen to free music. Slacker announced a new version of its portable radio today, and we’re happy to say the Slacker G2 kicks just as much ass as the original product we reviewed last April.
Here’s Slacker in a nutshell, if you don’t want to re-read our previous review: Slacker radio is much like Pandora or Last.FM in that you can listen to music on the Internet for free (along with an occasional advertisement) while the service analyzes your expressed taste in music and recommends new artists it thinks you’ll enjoy.
The trade-offs are that you can't always choose which songs you want to hear, and you can skip only a limited number of tracks. Slacker also a subscription plan ($7.50 per month if you pay for a year at a time) that eliminates the ads, enables you to call up saved tracks at will (as long as you maintain your subscription), and allows you skip an unlimited number of tracks.
The second-generation Slacker personal radio player is smaller, slimmer, and even better than the first. There may be no better way to listen to free music. Read on for our full review.
And so the Napster saga continues (or, depending on your perspective, it comes to an end). The former peer-to-peer pioneer gone legit music service managed to avoid being gobbled up by an ice cream store owner, but the temptation to sell ultimately proved too strong for investors eager to cash in rather than continue to face stiff competition.
According to The Wall Street Journal, electronics retailer Best Buy has agreed to buy Napster for $121 million, which includes $67 million of cash and short-term investments on Napster's books. The acquisition values the digital music service at $2.65 per share, or almost double the closing price on Friday, which sat at $1.36.
"Best Buy intends to use Napster's capabilities and digital subscriber base to reach new customers with an enhanced experience for exploring and selecting music and otehr digital entertainment products over an increasing array of devices," said Best Buy president and COO Brian Dunn.
Napster's chief executive Chris Gorog is expected to remain in his post, along with the company's other senior executives. Best Buy also said it currently has no plans to relocate the music service's Los Angeles headquarters.
Was this a good move for Best Buy? Hit the jump and let us know your thoughts.
At a glance, the previously struggling Napster appears to have bounced back and is now doing well. As outlined in the company's fiscal first quarter financial report, the music service can boast a positive cash flow for the fifth straight quarter with revenue holding steady at about $30 million. According to Napster's brass, the company is making the right move and is in a good position moving forward. But convincing investors of that is another story altogether.
Despite the positive quarterly financial reports, Napster's stock hit an all-time low in mid-July and today is trading at less than half of what it went for one year ago. Subscribers are down 7 percent from last quarter, and a group of impatient investors have initiated a proxy battle to win seats on the board.
"It's kind of damned if you and damned if you don't," Napster chairman and CEO Chris Gorog laments. "The bottom line is, five years ago we were number 2 or 3 in the this industry, and five years later we're still number 2 or 3 in this industry."
Hit the jump to learn why Napster remains stagnant.
Yahoo isn't the only one facing the threat of a proxy battle. Kavan Singh, a 26-year-old entrepreneur who owns a chain of Cold Stone Creamery ice cream stores, wants to freeze Chris Gorog out of his position as Napster 2.0's CEO, which would end his uninspired reign.
Gorog, the former CEO of Roxio, struck a deal to scoop up the once renowned P2P service for just $5 million in 2002, turned it into a legit paid music subscription service, and promised investors an influx of millions of customers. But instead of music listeners turning out in droves, today only about 760,000 subscribers pay a monthly fee to listen to its library of 6 million songs. Since the relaunch 3.5 years ago, stock has plummeted 69 percent, and the company noted a $16 million loss for this fiscal year. Now Singh wants Gorog to step aside.
Along with two other investors, Singh will fight for a board seat at the company's September 18 annual meeting. All three of them blame Gorog and mismanaged marketing for the company's failure to compete, noting that people still associate Napster with illegal activities. "When you tell people they should get Napster, they say, 'What are you trying to do? Get me arrested?'", complains Thomas Sailors, one of the investors running for a board seat.
Whether the ice cream man and his entourage prove successful remains to be seen, but will it even matter, or does Napster have a shot at turning its fortunes around?
If Apple has a giant target on its back, it's Dell that keeps taking aim. Earlier this week Dell launched its Studio Hybrid desktop, a hip looking miniature sized PC that will do battle with Apple's Mac Mini, and now the company wants to wage a war in the portable music player market too.
According to the Wall Street Journal, several Dell officials have indicated the OEM has been testing a digital music player for the past several months and that it could see the light of day by September, the same time millions of kids will be seen lugging their iPods back to school as dozens of those less fortunate look on in envy with their Zunes. But it's not exactly unchartered territory for Dell, who half a decade ago launched its Dell DJ line, a now defunct music player that never even had a chance to take on the iPod. Now Dell will get that chance.
Dell's new music player will purportedly feature a small navigation screen with basic button scrolls, and will sport a WiFi connection for linking up with online music services. Most surprisingly, the new player is said to be priced at less than $100.
Does Dell have a shot at slicing into Apple's market share with a budget MP3 player, or will it ultimately join the DJ in the gadget graveyard?
How many times have you laid awake late at night trying to figure out why no one has come up with an MP3 player sporting a mosaic keypad? Probably none, but to ensure you never do, Creative just announced its new Zen Mozaic music player, which the company describes as "a striking sight to behold." And striking it is, but you can form your own interpretation on that one.
The Zen Mozaic replaces Creative's Zen V line, and along with a new look, the "trendy and distinctive" music player increases the screen size from 1.5 to 1.8-inches. Other features include:
2GB or 4GB capacities (8GB and 16GB to be available at a later date)
Built-in FM radio with up to 32 preset stations
Up to 32 hours of continuous audio playback
Oh, and it comes with a built-in speaker, so not only can you surprise passerbys with its 'unique' looks, but you can make sure no one dares comes within listening distance by blaring out crummy music if you so desire.
Pricing and Availability
The Zen Mozaic coms in black or pink for the 2GB model at $99, or black, pink, or silver for the 4GB model at $129. Towards the end of August you'll also be able to pick up an 8GB or 16GB model in black for $249. Plan on getting one?
Today, Tom, Will, Gordon, Dave, and Andy bask in the glory that is the first day of spring and all it promises, warm weather and baseball to name two of our favorites. We also chat about AMD layoffs and the possibility of an iTunes subscription service. Later in the show, we find out what has irked Gordon this week and, as always, answer a load of your questions.