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SanDisk WiFi’s Yahoo Music April 9, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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SanDisk announced its WiFi MP3 player, the Sansa Connect, is shipping with support for Yahoo’s music service (and some other Yahoo services like Flickr and Launchcast radio). Here’s Yahoo’s description. (What’s with the low-key approach, guys? Managing unreal expectations?) Whatever, it’s cool.

The net result is a $250 4GB MP3 player that in theory could do over-the-air downloads on-demand, for an extra $15 a month ($12 if you sign up for a year), assuming you were near a free WiFi hotspot. Without a keypad, what you’re really more likely to do is access radio streams, or custom playlists. Here’s a screenshot that shows you how that kind of thing would work.

The jukebox in the sky is another step closer. Ubiquitous WiFi and mobile user interfaces remain barriers, as does the number of music aficionados — and others — willing to buy into the on-demand music subscription service concept. (The greatest product ever for serious music fans, but so far not tapping into mainstream audiences.) SanDisk and Yahoo are are on the right path: Integrating a radio experience is part of the solution to limited-UI music discovery. (Rhapsody did it with SanDisk first, but without over-the-air access. And Slacker‘s coming this summer, with an ad-supported service, no less.)

There’s no reason why Rhapsody, Napster and Zune couldn’t support this approach. We’ll see if this kind of innovation pays off for SanDisk, or whether mobile phones end up learning the lessons better — their networks are built out already. And whether Apple feels a need to counter. If it does, would that be an iPod or an iPhone?

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