Right at this moment, a bunch of music fans are sitting in rows at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's Wattis Theater, eagerly awaiting the fate of Pandora, the cult-hit semi-customizable Internet radio service. What are they about to hear? That Pandora is teaming up with Sprint and Sonos to get into mobile and household gadgets, and is also introducing a new online interface for the free service. Why should you care? Mobile Net radio has been in the non-existent to sucky range, and a lot of people enjoy Pandora in Web form. At least until Slacker's many promises are realized, this is the biggest step in mobilizing Net radio to date.
Sure, lately most people including Giz have made Pandora out to be just a victim of the dreaded Copyright Royalty Board. But clearly the Pandora's people have been doing more than just calling congressmen and woeing their own demise. Here's the whole basket of new Pandora goodies:
• Starting now, five Sprint phones will be Pandora ready, and by the end of June, Pandora says that all Power Vision phones will be good to go. If you have a Pandora.com account, you will get "seamless integration" into your phone. Besides, you will be able to create and fine-tune stations using just the phone. After a 30-day free trial, the ad-free Sprint Pandora service will cost $2.99 per month. Keep in mind, there'd be a Sprint data-service requirement of at least $15 per month on top of that, and there's no word of how good the streaming quality is, but if you already pay for Power Vision, it's probably worth a try. Below are shots of Pandora on the defunct Samsung A900; our opening shot is of the Pandora interface on the new music phone, the UpStage.
• Sonos 2.2 software release, free to all Sonos owners and immediately available, will include a 30-day free trial of Pandora, with a given station streaming simultaneously and in perfect sync to all of your rooms, or up to 32 different Pandora stations streamed to 32 different receivers at the same time. Like the Rhapsody service offered for Sonos, the 30-day trial doesn't require a credit card; unlike Rhapsody, Pandora will cost only $36 for a full-year subscription. (You can't do as much, of course, and some people will probably want both, but it's an interesting option.)
• New Web interface, totally redesigned for "better integration of content and community." Rather than describe it, I'll just toss it in here:
• The final point of Pandora's presentation involves future applications. Wi-Fi-connected players are an obvious point. No, there is no Zune creeping into the picture (yet), but there might be a different Connect-ion: the presentation says that Pandora is showing off a Zing-enabled device. Well, the Sansa Connect is the only one of those we can think of off-hand so, like, sweet!
Product Page [Pandora]