Pandora looking ahead to integrated, in-car streaming radio

by Mike
Posted December 8th, 2009 at 6:57 pm

Terrestrial radio, at least in my neck of the midwest woods (or lack thereof) is for all intents and purposes dead. I have 5 stations out of maybe 20 that I deem good enough to save as a preset station. The only problem is that those stations repeat the same songs day after day often playing several songs 2, 3, and even 4, times per day. In short: It sucks. For those fortunate enough to have a smartphone from Apple, RIM, Palm, or Android have probably fallen at least a little in love with streaming radio. Commercials are short or non-existent, content is ever changing, and you never have to worry about listening to the same song in the same day. Not to mention, custom playlists and other user customizable options are quickly pushing streaming radio above terrestrial radio. Personally, I’d even say satellite radio should be looking over it’s shoulder.

Imagine going to the car dealer in 2015 and right next to the upgraded audio check boxes that populate the order menu for your new car you see a “streaming radio” option. We’re very well on our way to such a thing according to Pandora CTO Tom Conrad. Speaking at the SF Music Tech Summit, Conrad went on to highlight how estimates put around 50% of Pandora’s customers using Pandora by one method or another in their vehicles. He further added that as the internet becomes more mobile and less confined to a structure, building, or collection of humans (such as a city), we’ll start to see more web content sneak it’s way into once impossible areas.

Consumers can currently purchase cars from certain manufacturers with mobile internet on board. The wireless freedom doesn’t come cheap however as the option itself is expensive with monthly bills of $40 or more tacked on after the fact. Like all technology however, it will catch on until internet in your car is no more uncommon than having a computer in your house.

It is this, Conrad says, that will help Pandora and other streaming services make the move from computer and personal electronics to evolving into a full fledged service. Just think how cool it would be to get in your car and bypass the junk (commercials) that pollute terrestrial radio, hop on over satellite radio (and the uncustomizable content) and settle on your new streaming radio. Connected to the web and powered by intelligent software means you now have access to millions of songs, free to pick and choose your road tunes to the fullest extent.

Hopeful as I may be, the hurdles and red tape Pandora faces to bring such a dream into reality are fairly extensive, though I remain hopeful. While streaming radio in your car for the masses is still some years away, streaming content in other areas of our life will only increase. For that, Conrad says, we’ll have to tune in this January to CES where at least Pandora will outline current, upcoming, and future plans. Stay tuned…

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