I’ve long enjoyed the Pandora and Slacker Internet radio services for different reasons and the two companies have taken different paths to get their services playing on non-PC devices. I was really excited for a long time about the concept behind the Slacker Portable — a portable music player that gets loaded up with genre- and artist-driven music stations via Wi-Fi and can then be played practically anywhere with no monthly service fee required. However, the initial hardware execution left me a bit cold.
Pandora, meanwhile, has developed a simple but terrific free iPhone app that has become one of the most popular out of the gate. The main catch, though, is that since Pandora is only a streaming service, it isn’t available if you don’t have coverage. The Slacker service on the iPhone or iPod touch, though, would essentially be the best of all worlds, taking advantage of the device’s Wi-Fi, superior user interface and slim design while utilizing its storage for cached Internet radio stations that work where here is no connectivity.
I’m not sure how this would impact Slacker’s financials (the company pays a much higher licensing fee for the right to cache music locally on the device) or its strategic goals of developing a more cost-effective satellite radio competitor, but broadening device support to Apple’s mobile platform would certainly create a bigger pie from which to drive premium radio subscriptions. And competitive pressure may not provide many alternatives as it seems nearly every other Internet music site is developing some kind of iPhone presence.
Update: Looks like Slacker agrees. Laptop reports on information I’ve also received that a Slacker application is coming to the iPhone and Blackberry. Funny how, despite the success of Windows Mobile here in North America, it’s getting caught in the middle between these two vertically integrated offerings.