MusicGremlin: The iPod for Suckers

home A small consumer electronics company in NYC has launched another digital music device, called the MusicGremlin. The unfortunately named device is billed as a "Wi-Fi Music Player" and supposed to provide access to over 2 million songs from major label and indie artist. The $300 8GB MusicGremlin device offers anyone looking for a clunky, obscure alternative to the ubiquitous iPod , an option.

What makes this device unique? Wi-Fi access to an online store. So if your in your car, So if your at the airport, So if your outside jogging, So if your sitting at your desk and someone sends you an email with a great new song that you just have to hear you can pick-up MusicGremlin and for .99 cents you can order the song or listen to it free if you have the $15 dollar a month subscription.

Why anyone would think that Wi-Fi access to a music store is an added value for a CE device is beyond me. I get livid at the phone company when I have dropped calls walking around my office, how upsedi am I likely to be when my music stops playing because I jogged out of range. How does having access to 2 million tracks, that are only accessible from a limited number of locations for $15 a month give me new options or choices?

In an ideal world I would have universal access to all music for a fee or ubiquitous access to my store of music for free. MusicGremlins delivers neither option. Read the press release here or check the site here .

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7 Responses to MusicGremlin: The iPod for Suckers

  1. Sceptic says:

    Are you kidding? You download the songs onto the device, and then listen to them. You don’t have to be in range of wifi to access your music.

  2. Siddiq says:

    Your right. you can download songs to the device and listen (its got 8GB storage) but thats only for what you had the good sense to order/load on teh device. If you wanted any new stuff or other things from the catalouge (which is the only reason to buy the device) then you have to be connected to a network. I just dont see the value! Help me out…

  3. Dan says:

    A bunch of media players have been coming out with wi-fi features, most of which are tied to a downloadable media site. Handheld Entertainment has been planning on releasing a wi-fi enabled media player for a long time…they actually showcased the new unit at CES this year but then got a little bogged down with pesky business details. There have been a number of companies that have tried to launch media players tied to download sites…many have failed…almost all that remain are limping along.

    This type of business model is freaking tough! Launching a downloadable media site in itself is extremely challenging. Content providers want sizable up front cash to transfer their product over, margins are amazingly slim on download sales, and the back end infrastructure for an appealing media site can cost millions in development/upkeep…not to mention the challenge of attracting users.
    Additionally, the hardware/physical product business is a gigantic pain…especially in this space. Customer returns alone can paralyze a business like MusicGremlins, upfront cost to manufacture the units is beyond substantial, you have to order very large quantities in order bring the per unit cost down enough to compete, most of the time your building the units in China or south of the border which can be disastrous if hardware problems arise.

    All of these trials have come together to absolutely kill a number of ambitious companies. Check out Infinium Labs for a great horror story. 3 years ago they were coming out with a gamebox that you would hook up to your T.V. and download games to as well as play against others and all sorts of other fun stuff. These guys were extremely well funded and became absolutely crippled by hardware development issues not to mention content acquisition nightmares. Now, they are an OTC public company (delisted in 2004 I believe) and will be lucky to have money for payroll next month. Check out Findaway Ventures too. Those guys have come out with a $35+ content locked media player (think of having a CD player a CD loaded and the lid welded shut) that is getting great distribution and press but faces challenges in being able to bring their cost per unit down enough to make it appealing to a decent sized audience.

    Apple currently rules this space because they can make money on their players, have a SIMPLE model, have huge R & D budgets, royalty-like status with content owners, and the same hip public image tied to their players that Sony’s Walkman enjoyed in the mid-80’s.

    Anyone who wants to play this game better be willing to cut big checks, take bigger risks, and be creative enough to revolutionize the industry.

  4. Siddiq says:

    Thanks for the great post Dan.

    Infinium Labs: The product looks great… and they are still a going concern from the quick glance at a recent SEC filing they were still paying people as of 3/31/06. I also found this rather critical article about Infinium
    http://www.hardocp.com/article.html?art=NTEy

    I looked at the findaway ventures and their Playaway product and thought the idea was interesting for airport/ other impulse styled purchases but the price point was to high. I’d be really hard pressed to cough-up $40 bucks for an audio book that I could download for free at demonoid. For $10 I’d be willing to commit to their product but for what they are asking I need to have either alot more books or a more personal service.

    Siddiq

  5. range says:

    I don’t know, WiFi for MP3 players. Recently I’ve seen that WiFi enabled cameras and the lot. They use a lot of juice to make the antennas work. The main thing that I look for in an MP3 player is memory. Not if I can download songs, just memory. I’ve got 40GB packed up to the max and I’ll only change for something that has at least 100GB of storage in a portable format.

    I think that for media players it might be more appropriate and I do see that normal MP3 players will be phased out at some point and everybody will lug around media players. I do have one, but I find it’s uses quite limited. I have an Archos and I normally keep it for a removable hard drive.

    Maybe I’m not mobile enough. I’m looking forward to an all inclusive device, that will correctly assemble the functions of an MP3 player, media player, cell phone, PDA and more all in one compact package.

  6. Siddiq says:

    Range you should post that on MS’s site. The rumor mill is buzz with information about their plans to launch iPod killer that will have Wifi and allow you to replace the music you bought from iTunes with music from MSN for free.

  7. […] I really wanted to title this post “Zune everyone will get the Urge for an iPod”, but thought better of it. What good would it do to make fun of the two companies I’d most like to work for in the future, if for no other reason then to get a bit of what their smoking. The real question though is how to best sum up last weeks buzz about Microsoft’s hurried announcement of the Zune player, in response to Apple’s more interesting iTV/iPod announcements? Dare I joke about the dorky name? Have I the tech chops to suggest that another DRM crippled player isnt what the music industry needs. Should I play it straight, parrot the pundits and shill the Zune’s main selling point, limited Wifi sharing (3 tracks in 3 days and then poof its gone)? In the midst of all this musing it struck me, the real story here isnt that the Zune player is gonna take down Apple’s iTunes/iPod combo. The real story is that the Zune player could be the final nail in the coffin of the MusicGremlin. Never heard of it? Exactly! […]

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