In what can only be considered a major victory for the open source gaming scene the fabled Pandora handheld is finally shipping. After almost two years of sneak peeks and disappointing setbacks the first batch of units are finally being massed produced and sent out to paying customers. The end product is the polar opposite of the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP in just about every respect. Rather than trying to make a closed down platform filled with proprietary technologies, the hardware and software architectures are completely open and just begging to be exploited.
The device itself will ship with an ARM Cortex 600Mhz CPU running Linux, with a separate 430Mhz DSP core. That might sound a bit underpowered by today's standards, but the developers assure us this makes it the most powerful dedicated gaming handheld on the market. The display features a resolution of 800x480 and its storage needs will be covered off by two SDHC memory card slots.
Anyone interested in buying from the first batch shown above currently has to make their request at email@example.com, but we expect a proper store page will be in place by the time they reach the second run. The hardware is currently priced around $330 not including taxes or shipping, but we have a hunch you'll probably make that up pretty quick in free games.
It remains to be seen if this can be a serious contender in the handheld gaming space, but it's likely to gain popularity quick with those who are getting increasing frustrated trying to crack DS and PSP firmware.
Europe’s favorite streaming music service, Spotify, is finally on track for a US launch. The expected release should happen in the third quarter of 2010. The Stokholm-based company is in talks with unidentified internet and cell carrier partners about the details for the launch. Spotify’s senior VP said to day that they are already in the process of buying servers space in the US.
Spotify currently has 7 million customers in Europe, about 325,000 of which pay a monthly fee for additional features. In Europe, Spotify allows users to choose specific songs to stream. This is different from US services like Pandora which just stream songs from a particular genre. However, it is currently unclear what form Spotify will take in the US.
Mobile apps already exist for the iPhone, Android, and Symbian. These would presumably be available for US users. Would you be interested in Spotify? What features would you need to see before paying for a premium subscription?
In a recent presentation to music and tech industry executives, NPD Group’s Russ Crupnick had some interesting things to say about music streaming. According to Crupnick, on-demand streaming services like Spotify result in a 13 percent decrease in paid downloads. He went on point out that services that follow the “radio” model, like Pandora, increase sales 41%.
Pandora doesn’t allow users to select specific songs like Spotify, but instead plays music in a chosen genre more or less randomly. The unsurprising conclusion is that people are less likely to buy a song if they can stream it at any time. Perhaps it isn’t that simple; is it possible to draw enough new users to increase overall sales? The key for Spotify may be the effort to convert free users to paid premium users.
This report is just the sort of thing music labels could use to justify keeping Spotify from launching in the US. Warner Music Group Chairman Edgar Bronfman said earlier this month, “Free streaming services are clearly not net positive for the industry.” If Spotify launched stateside, would you ante up for extra features like mobile streaming?
The Internet is such a fun place. It’s both indiscriminate and particular at the same time. Which has made it a boon for advertising--at least for those who’ve figured out how best to use it. Pandora, the Internet radio company, has joined the ranks of those who’ve figured it out. They now offer targeted advertising, through a partnership with AdReady, that will allow advertisers more control over who gets their ads.
The issues is a relatively simple one. Because the Internet is indiscriminate ads can reach anyone and everyone. That’s great if you peddle a product that anyone and everyone might want. But, if your product has a particular appeal, because only a few might want it, or because it’s geographically restricted, the indiscriminate approach is a waste of time and money. Targeting ads to particular users, then, is a better option.
Up to now Pandora was only able to offer the indiscriminate approach. In partnering with AdReady, Pandora can now effectively target advertising to particular audiences, making it more attractive for advertisers with particular needs. Pandora’s initiative includes a dedicated sales team and an ad platform that automates ad creation and serving. According to John Trimble, chief revenue officer for Pandora, “Now we are able to offer broader, multiplatform marketing solutions with deep targeting and campaign optimization to businesses that previously didn't have an affordable advertising solution.”
Pandora's upcoming handheld gaming console is just about ready for retail, but should you be excited? At least one fan forum member is, who was invited by the company to test out a pre-production model and was so impressed that he "considered stealing it."
In a video demo posted to YouTube, one of the developers shows off the handheld's nub controls, which he uses manipulate Mario in Mario 64 through emulation software. The nubs are essentially a pair of low profile thumbsticks, and will probably be a welcome addition to handheld gaming.
Some of the other features a keyboard, touchscreen, a TV-Out port, and plenty more. In short, it's real, it looks pretty awesome, and it's coming soon.
Western Digital has announced the second iteration of its TV connected media player. The new WD TV Live HD takes all that was awesome about the old, and adds some new tricks. The box still has wide codec support for playing files from USB drives, but it now also streams content from Youtube, Pandora, and Flickr. Users can also connect network drives to the new version to view files.
The WD TV Live HD, as the name would suggest, outputs 1080P HD video via a HDMI 1.3 port. Composite and component are also available. If you need to get video off that USB drive and on to your TV, the WD TVs provide an attractive alternative to media center PCs. The new WD TV device has an MSRP of $149.99.
With revenues from music sales declining, many record labels have directed their attention to commercial US radio stations, who pay songwriters, not performers or record labels, for the songs that keep them moving.
And, it would appear, that these labels have Pandora Radio on their side. Pandora’s web model causes them to pay more for their music, which founder Tim Westergren sees as “fundamentally unfair both to Internet radio services like Pandora, which pay higher royalties than other forms of radio, and to musical artists, who receive no compensation at all when their music is played on AM/FM radio.”
Radio stations feel that they’re instead promoters of music, and their goal is to drive interest in artists. In turn, this will lead to more album and ticket sales, as well as more publicity opportunities. Though, one would have to wonder, how does this effect not apply to Pandora, and other forms of Internet radio?
With the threat of streaming rates for Internet radio rising to levels far above what many services could afford to pay, the future of Pandora and other Internet radio outlets remained very much in limbo. That's no longer the case, at least for Pandora, which reached an agreement everyone involved appears to be happy with.
For Pandora, the resolution means a 40-50 percent reduction in the per-song-per-listener rates. In exchange, Pandora will give up either a 25 percent share of its U.S. revenue, or the per-song-per-listener number, whichever is higher.
For Pandora's user base, the resolution means that anyone who uses the service over 40 hours per month will have to cough up $0.99 for unlimited access. The nominal fee is to help offset the royalty agreement, and is expected to only affect 10 percent of Pandora's users.
Despite the 25 percent royalty rate, Conrad remains optimistic that Pandora will reach its stated goal to be profitable by next year.
Chances are good that if you’re a fan of streaming music online, you’ve heard of Pandora. And, apparently users of the service like it so much that they’ve actually been asking about ways to pay the company to guarantee its survival. At long last those (strange) questions have been answered, with the introduction of Pandora One.
Pandora One is a subscription-based model allowing users that shell out $36 a year access to some premium options. First off, premium users will no longer have to put up with ads of any kind (this includes the in-stream audio ads). Secondly, and most notably, they’ll gain access to a Pandora desktop app that includes high quality streaming audio (bumped up to 192 kbps), a personalized look, a mini player, and extended player time outs.
For many of us, the free-to-use service is just fine as is. The ads that are currently keeping it alive aren’t very invasive (even the audio ones), and with apps such as OpenPandora out there it’s admittedly a tough sell. But, for those looking to show their love for their favorite online streaming service, $36/year isn’t too bad a price.
Listen to the mind-numbingly repetitive radio programming on the FM dial long enough, no matter which genre you prefer, and you might conclude that only a handful of recording artists are worth listening to.
Fire up your PC and tune in to Internet radio, on the other hand, and you’ll discover an embarrassment of riches, nearly all of which you can enjoy for free and without—or at least with very little—commercial interruption. In fact, there’s so much music that you might find yourself overwhelmed. That’s where the music discovery services Last.fm, Pandora, and Slacker come in. All three services help you discover new music based on the songs and artists you express a preference for. As interesting as that concept is, what’s even more remarkable is that each service takes a completely different approach to the mission. Let’s take a look at all three.