updated 02:05 pm EST, Thu January 31, 2008
Slacker Portable Ships
Slacker today ended months of delays with news that it began shipping the Slacker Portable. True to the original concept, the company's inaugural player is built around the notion of the device as both an online and offline radio station. Although users can still load their own content, the player is built to automatically download and play preset or user-made content channels over Wi-Fi; while users have less control, it provides an effectively unlimited stream of new, relevant music which is still accessible for hours while offline, Slacker says. Each track is accompanied by extended details about the artist.
The initial model is built around a 4-inch LCD with side-mounted controls and loads a user's personal collection over USB; currently, the device can load MP3 and WMA tracks from Windows PCs and supports both Mac OS X and Windows for synchronizing the radio stations over the wireless link. In their finished versions, the players start at $200 for a model with 2GB of storage that holds 15 stations' worth of music (or 1,500) songs and can hold up to 500MB of personal content. A 4GB version at $250 grows the radio content to 2,500 songs while offering 1.5GB for personal media, and a $300 8GB model supplies 4,000 stations while setting aside 4GB for personal content.
Regardless of the player model, the radio service itself is accessible from the web and is split into a Basic version that offers six track skips per hour and inserts periodic ads similar to many Internet radio stations; a Premium subscription provides an ad-free, unlimited-skip cache that also lets users tag songs to play at any time regardless of the current station.