I really like this new portable music player coming to market called Slacker. Aptly named, it is designed for those wanting music on the go without the requisite uploading, burning and detailed management of song lists that products like an iPod entail. It should be available by mid-December and priced between $200 – $300 depending on capacity; and available in 2 gb – 15 station, 4 gb – 25 station, or 8 gb – 40 station versions. This player is different from the usual offerings in that it will offer internet music on the go through a wireless connection built into the unit. Did I mention the service would be free? Of course nothing is truly free so you will have to put up with some ads. However, for a $7.50 per month subscription fee you can eliminate the ads and obtain more functionality, including unlimited song skipping and a save favorites feature. The player streams the free Slacker internet radio service at www.slacker.com.


I’ve streamed the radio service on my laptop and it provides continuous music in several genres, or radio stations. And actually, I never noticed the ads, so they are not very intrusive. The quality and song selection are great. The player will have access to 2 million plus songs and over 100 programmed radio stations. Walt Mossberg’s blog reports a few bugs at www.allthingsd.com that the company has promised to fix. The bugs he ran into include failure of the unit to wake up after being in sleep mode, an unreliable touch strip (but there is also a wheel on the side that can be used instead) and occasional difficulty in connecting to his account. Also, for it to work, you will have to be in range of a wireless hotspot. Some of the nice features I like include display of album art, artist information, biographies, photos, and reviews. Also, with free downloadable Windows software, you can add your own songs to the player.


CEO Dennis Mudd, formerly of MusicMatch and President Jim Cady, formerly of Rio, heads Slacker. Slacker has acquired the necessary rights from content owners. The price seems reasonable enough to take a chance on it the first time, although with all new products the later versions should be better and more reliable.