Okay, close your eyes and relax your mind. Think about nothing – just a grey backdrop. Now allow an MP3 player of your choice to float in. iPod, Zune, whatever. Doesn’t matter. Now, from the other direction, float in Last.fm, or Pandora, or any other personalised radio service. Allow yourself to get a little cross-eyed as the two objects merge in your head and you visualize a portable device that streams a mix of songs to you based on your listening habits – your likes and dislikes.
Now open those eyes. Did it look anything like the Slacker G2? Possibly not, but that doesn’t matter – you understand the concept. The Slacker G2 is the newest version of the Slacker portable player that wowed the crowds at SxSW 2007. It delivers a customized stream of music to you, which it gets from WiFi hotspots. Some you’ll know. Others you won’t. Simply click “like” or “dislike” on each one and it’ll learn your taste, giving you better recommendations in the future.
So it’s not a proper MP3 player, and it’s not a proper radio. It simply lets you be lazy in deciding what song to listen to. It comes in 4GB and 8GB capacities – though that doesn’t mean much because you’re not loading whole albums onto there. 4GB should give you ample space for a radio service – about 2500 songs. And those will be ever-changing too. If you desperately want to, then you can also add your own MP3s onto the player, too, and listen to those.
Okay – now let’s talk subscriptions. Slacker also lives outside of the portable player as an internet radio service. There’s a free version and a premium version. The free version lets you skip songs six times in an hour, and also plays you an advert every hour. The Premium version gives you unlimited skips and no ads, but it costs $7.50 a month.
Whichever version you’ve got shows up on the portable player, so if hearing ads bothers you, then you’re going to have to pay up. Before you start whining though, remember that you’re actually getting free, legal, music here. Sure, you can’t choose specifically what you’re getting but it’s still new and classic tracks delivered on the move via WiFi. That’s pretty damn good for $7.50 a month.
Which is why I’m really annoyed that it’s not available in the UK yet. I want this. My 30GB Zune (also unavailable in the UK) is beginning to show its age a little, and I’m starting to think about replacing it. I love new music but find it really annoying having to swap out songs on my MP3 player on a near-weekly basis. My little heart would explode with happiness if I could get new music that I know I’ll love, delivered straight to my ears via WiFi, for just $7.50 a month. Slacker, launch over here in time for Christmas, please.