Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Internet Radio finally coming to the iPod and iPhone?

Macworld took place recently, and I was hoping to see an announcement from Steve Jobs explaining how the iPod Touch or iPhone can now play Internet radio streams via WiFi. For some background, I have written in the past about my love hate relationship with my Roku Internet radio. In sum, the Roku is a wonderful device for playing digital music libraries (served via iTunes or Firefly Media Server) and listening to thousands of Internet radio streams. Moreover, the sound quality is excellent. But the Roku suffers from the following big problems:

1/ Reliability. My Roku has died twice in one year. Thankfully it was still under warranty so I could replace it. Other Roku owners were not so lucky, and the Roku newgroups are full of people complaining about their Rokus dying after the warranty ran out.

2/ User Interface. The UI is mediocre at best, and at times terrible. This does not matter too much when selecting my favorite Internet radio station or changing the volume. But the UI is awful for browsing large music collections via the remote control. It is a slow, awkward and painful interaction. The user experience is incomparable to the wonderful album browsing UI available via iTunes.

3/ The wireless connection between the Roku and the MP3 music server is unreliable. It dies all the time, and I must reset it by restarting iTunes or the Firefly Media Server. This could be a networking problem too, and thus not the Roku's fault, strictly speaking.

4/ The Roku cannot play Apple's proprietary music format, so I cannot listen to music purchased at the iTunes store via the Roku.

Because of these problems I have been looking for Roku alternatives, and I have been hoping to see a solution from Apple via the iPod Touch or iPhone. Of course, these devices can play music and video digital content. Until recently, however, there has been nothing to support Internet radio streams.

So this week I have been surfing around the tech news site to see what Steve Jobs had to say at Macworld. Initially, it was looking like I was going to be dissapointed again. But then I stumbled upon flytunes.

I presume the iPod/iPhone platform must have been opened up to third party developers along the way. At any rate, flytunes (or something comparable) may be part of my dream solution of having a reliable device that can play both Internet radio and music libraries with a great user interface. I would also need an auxiliary device like this. Moreover, I would like to see more storage capacity on the iPod Touch or iPhone to hold my entire (20GB+) music collection.

This solution is a lot of money so I won't be giving up the Roku anytime soon (unless, of course it dies again), but it is nice to know that this technology has finally arrived.