Spotlight on Spotify: Facebook Integration, Radio Feature, Impact on Piracy

  • Spotify has been drawing a great deal of media attention this week, more so than the growing number of other streaming music services.
  • Since the company announced its partnership with Facebook at the recent F8 event, Spotify has gained more than one million new users, despite the public outcry from those who question limiting the service’s signup to Facebook users only.
  • In response to concerns regarding Facebook’s media-sharing philosophy, Spotify released a new update that enables users to access the Facebook app without sharing their listening habits, reports Digital Trends. This may be good news for subscribers not happy with the recent announcement regarding Facebook integration — and could potentially serve as a model for how others offer access to services via social networking.
  • In related news from The Hollywood Reporter, Spotify recently released a radio feature in the U.S. that has long been available to European users. Radio will be accessible on the desktop client, but not on the Spotify mobile app. The add-on is reportedly in no way a Pandora killer, due mainly to its lack of mobility and attention to detail.
  • Additionally, Digital Trends reports that Spotify may be having a significant impact on music piracy. Illegal downloads in Sweden have reportedly dropped 25 percent since Spotify launched there in 2009. “Here in the U.S., Spotify isn’t the only option — and it may not even be the best, depending on user preference. Pandora, MOG, Rdio, Grooveshark — the list goes on,” indicates the article. “We don’t yet have numbers to show how these services are affecting music piracy in the U.S. But we’d put our money on them having a similar effect as Spotify is having in Sweden.”

Pandora Embraces HTML5 as Key Enabler for Connected Devices

  • Pandora now claims more than 100 million registered users. CTO and EVP of Product Tom Conrad credits the success of his company’s Internet radio service with the decision to embrace both Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile operating system. Conrad spoke at this week’s GigaOM Mobilize conference.
  • However, Pandora had a rocky start regarding growth on mobile platforms until the iPhone came along to help turn things around. And at one point, Conrad had little interest in Android. Pandora shipped its app through the iTunes store and watched its user base explode from 13 million to what it is today.
  • “Conrad has also since made peace with Android, about which he had previously said that he needed the platform ‘like I need a hole in my head,’ referring to the confusing state of Android fragmentation. On Monday, Conrad didn’t want to go into the specifics of Android vs. iOS market share amongst Pandora users, but he called Android’s growth ‘nothing short of remarkable.'”
  • Now Pandora is embracing HTML5 as it looks to what’s next.
  • “The company launched a new HTML5-powered website last week, and Conrad said that using HTML5 helped to both dramatically increase the performance of the site as well as implement new social features,” reports GigaOM.
  • Conrad calls HTML5 a “key enabler for connected devices,” hoping that it will provide opportunities for Pandora on connected TVs and car dashboards.
  • Currently, 70 percent of Pandora’s listening occurs on mobile devices. “In the future, the majority of Pandora listening will happen in the car and on the connected device,” predicts Conrad.

Will Licensing Deals Help Turntable.fm Compete with Pandora and Spotify?

  • Turntable.fm, a rival music service to Pandora and Spotify, is negotiating with the four major music labels to license content. Turntable.fm is a social media site that allows people to share songs with friends and other online users.
  • The New York-based startup is looking to create a deal that would be unique and allow users to legally stream music internationally, but CEO Billy Chasen has not disclosed the details of the proposal.
  • “Both sides are super eager to get this done, and we’re getting closer,” Chasen said. “We take very seriously the music labels and publishers, and we want to make sure they’re with us.”
  • Turntable.fm, which launched earlier this year and requires users to log in via Facebook, currently has about 600,000 users. The startup recently raised $7 million from investors including Union Square Ventures, First Round Capital, Polaris Venture Partners, Benchmark Capital, Lady Gaga’s manager Troy Carter, and Maverick Records co-founder Guy Oseary.

Smart TV: Netgear Goes After Roku with its NeoTV Streaming Player

  • Netgear will roll out its smart TV box, the $80 NeoTV Streaming Player, which provides streaming media from Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, Pandora, Napster, Picasa, blip.tv, Crunchyroll, Revision3 and others.
  • “Looks like Netgear is taking what it learned from licensing Roku’s tech last year and streamlining its connected TV offerings,” suggests Engadget.
  • The company’s press release indicates the device “opens up a world of Internet entertainment with streaming movies, TV shows, music, videos, news clips and games.” Users can also connect to friends through Facebook and Twitter channels.
  • “On the hardware side you’re looking at a glossy black box with a 300Mbps Wi-Fi radio, Ethernet, optical audio out and, of course, HDMI,” reports Engadget. The media player also includes a regular remote control for those who opt not to use the NeoTV Remote app via their smartphone.
  • The Roku 2 XS is currently the CNET pick for best media streaming solution under $100, but NeoTV may provide some competition.

TiVo Elite Records Fours Shows at Once, Touts 300 Hours Storage

  • The new TiVo Premiere Elite quad tuner DVR will allow users to record four shows simultaneously, while watching a fifth.
  • The device will reportedly only record from digital cable and Verizon FiOS, says Gizmodo.
  • “The THX-certified box uses the TiVo Series4 guts, has a 2 terabyte hard drive (~300 hours of recording space) and spits out video at up to 1080p resolution,” according to Gizmodo. “Plus, it has the standard array of outputs for connecting your TV (HDMI, Component, Composite, Optical audio, RCA audio). And of course, services such as Hulu, Netflix, Pandora and YouTube are also available.”
  • TiVo’s press release suggests the DVR will serve as an entertainment hub with “its ability to send content to other TiVo devices in the home, or integrate seamlessly with home automation remotes. TiVo Premiere Elite offers MoCA as a networking option in addition to its integrated Ethernet connectivity. By integrated MoCA support, custom installers can use the coaxial cabling within the home to connect the TiVo Premiere Elite to the home network in setups where an Ethernet connection is not available.”

iHeartRadio App to Feature Intelligent Playlists: Will it Take on Pandora?

  • An upgraded iHeartRadio will be released by Clear Channel in a few weeks, to be kickstarted by a two-day music festival in Las Vegas.
  • The service is Clear Channel’s answer to Pandora, which now has more than 100 million users.
  • A key feature of the new iHeartRadio app will be playlist creation based on an “intelligence platform” from Echo Nest that will reportedly incorporate 5 billion pieces of information collected from 15,000 music blogs.
  • According to Echo Nest CEO Jim Lucchese, his company has processed 30 million songs in the past 12 months, while Pandora has categorized 800,000 tracks in the past 10 years.
  • “Echo Nest provides similar technology to MTV, The BBC, MOG and Rhapsody,” reports Radio Ink.

Internet Radio for Vehicles Set To Explode: Pandora Driving Demand

  • The number of vehicles worldwide with Internet radio service is projected to grow from 168,000 in 2010 to 24 million in 2018, according to IHS iSuppli.
  • U.S. sales alone are expected to move from 149,000 to 10.9 million during the same period.
  • “The next several years will see an explosion in the use of in-vehicle apps in cars, driven by booming shipments of automobiles employing head units designed to integrate Cloud-based content,” says IHS. “These apps, whether built into cars or provided via connected mobile devices like smartphones, will provide a range of infotainment, entertainment, remote diagnostics and navigation services. Internet radio is expected to lead the in-vehicle app revolution.”
  • The study concludes that the following are currently driving demand: Pandora, iHeartRadio, Slacker and Spotify (and in the Cloud: Apple’s iCloud, Google Music and Amazon’s Cloud Drive).

Marc Andreessen Believes Software Is Eating the World (A Good Thing)

  • “In an upbeat and highly insightful essay on technology and innovation, pioneer Marc Andreessen outlines the ‘dramatic and broad technological shift in which software companies are poised to take over large swathes of the economy…'” comments ETCentric staffer Bob Lambert with this submission.
  • Andreessen notes HP’s announcement that it is “exploring jettisoning its struggling PC business in favor of investing more heavily in software” and Google’s plans to “buy up the cellphone handset maker Motorola Mobility” as recent surprises in the tech world, yet also examples of what makes the pioneer “optimistic about the future growth of the American and world economies.”
  • Andreessen suggests that Apple and Google are undervalued and we should avoid using the term “bubble” when analyzing the value of technologies. He writes: “…too much of the debate is still around financial valuation, as opposed to the underlying intrinsic value of the best of Silicon Valley’s new companies.”
  • “Over the next 10 years, I expect many more industries to be disrupted by software, with new world-beating Silicon Valley companies doing the disruption in more cases than not,” Andreessen adds.
  • Andreessen’s essay offers a compelling take on the direction of the tech industry, its place in world economies and some of the challenges that lie ahead. He notes interesting examples including Amazon, Netflix, Pixar, Pandora, Skype and others.
  • “Instead of constantly questioning their valuations, let’s seek to understand how the new generation of technology companies are doing what they do, what the broader consequences are for businesses and the economy and what we can collectively do to expand the number of innovative new software companies created in the U.S. and around the world,” he concludes. “That’s the big opportunity. I know where I’m putting my money.”

New Philips HDTVs Will Access Cloud Games and Set-Top Functions

  • Philips announced it will be including streaming set-top and gaming functions in some of its new HDTV sets.
  • The Philips 4000 and 5000 series, which use the CloudTV platform of ActiveVideo Networks, can access cloud-based games streamed as MPEG files.
  • Both lines will include Philips MediaConnect, that enables wirelessly connecting the TV and PC.
  • Other features include NetTV (offering services such as Netflix, VUDU, Facebook, Film Fresh, Pandora and Twitter), V-tuner Internet radio and built-in Wi-Fi support.
  • The 4000 series features six screen sizes, ranging from 19 to 55 inches, while the 5000 series adds another 10 screens, from 40 to 55 inches.

Spotify Sees Early Success with 70,000 Paid U.S. Users

  • Billboard reports that Spotify has already reached 70,000 paid U.S. subscribers, one week after the streaming music service’s invite-only launch.
  • It’s too early to tell what the initial success will mean in the long term since the service’s closest competitors have been on the market for years (Rhapsody and Napster, for example, have more than 10 times Spotify’s number of paid subscribers but took years to get there).
  • Spotify currently has an ad-supported free option, but also offers two paid tiers that start at $4.99.
  • Paid subscriptions provide ad-free service, unlimited play time, and mobile device access.
  • In a recent review, Digital Trends found the service “to be the most well-rounded service out of Pandora, Spotify, and Grooveshark.”
  • In related news, licensing firm BMI announced it has completed deals with Spotify and Turntable.fm to provide some 6.5 million songs to the online music services.

Clear Channel Announces iHeartRadio App and Music Festival

  • Clear Channel announced it is staging what is being billed as the biggest live music festival event in radio history.
  • The iHeartRadio Music Festival is slated for September 23-24 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
  • The event will be streamed live on iHeartRadio.com, the new iHeartRadio app, and Clear Channel websites.
  • Hosted by Ryan Seacrest, the current lineup includes Sting, Coldplay, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, John Mayer, Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Bruno Mars, Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj, Jane’s Addiction and more. Additional acts will be added in the coming months.
  • The new app, which will be ready for download in time for the festival, will offer access to 750 Clear Channel stations and customization utilizing technology from the recent acquisition of Thumbplay Music.
  • The iHeartRadio app plans to take on Pandora, “promising access to more songs, content, and more control, plus the ability to create playlists, and no commercials through the end of the year.”

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