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The July 31, 2002 Issue Provided by System Dynamics Inc.
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Compelling Broadband Applications -- Listen.com's Rhapsody service

Several months ago, a reader asked us to provide more coverage of broadband applications. There is still lots to write about the evolving infrastructure, economics, regulation, etc. but we think compelling applications are key in spurring broadband adoption and growth. As the "Positively Broadband" Campaign said in their original press release (see Industry Organization News, above): "We are going to have to give consumers better reasons for purchasing broadband service..."

Since many of our readers are broadband users as well as members of the industry, we'd like to hear about YOUR favorite broadband application. Please share your thoughts by emailing us at editor@bb-home.com and we'll share some with our readers in future reports.

To get the ball rolling, we'll share one application that Dave's been using a lot this month. Music is one of Dave's hobbies and passions. He plays music (and has a collection of more than 12 instruments) and is also an avid listener. His collection includes lots of CDs and tons of old vinyl.

Bringing it all together -- to listen to what he wants, when and where he wants it -- is a problem that's still not fully solved, but the pieces are emerging. We'll talk about this more next month.


Listen.com

We recently visited with Listen.com's CEO Sean Ryan and subsequently started using their Rhapsody service. From our first week's reaction, this is one of those services that, once you've started using, you probably won't want to do without. Users pay $9.95 per month for unlimited access to more than 15,000 albums from thousands of artists.

Rhapsody user interface --> Click for larger pictureThe user interface is very clear and easy to use. You can search the library, listen to complete albums and create your own playlists. You can play music with controls similar to those on a CD player. Since the interface takes a lot of space on the screen, you can enable a tiny "Mini Player" which pops up only when you want it.

Rhapsody has 18 major genres, each with a list of subgenres. Some of them are our favorites while others, like "glam", "ska revival" and "darkside" we've never heard of before. But that's the point--it seems to have lots for every taste. It also has performer background information, suggestions for similar artists, compilations, Internet radio and a good search.

Dave has found that it has lots of music that he likes, and he's created playlists to keep music running in his office all the time.

Unlike P2P "file sharing" systems, Rhapsody is completely legitimate. Listen.com has signed agreements with the five major record companies and several independents and is working on more.

Rhapsody is a software application running over your broadband connection -- you have to be connected in order to play the music. That doesn't mean you have to listen via your PC speakers. Their Web site gives instructions on how to listen to Rhapsody through your home stereo, and Dave has it running through the stereo system in his office.

Rhapsody goes hand in glove with broadband. You can use it over dial-up but you really need an "always on" broadband connection to give you the CD-quality experience without listening interruptions.

There are some drawbacks, although Sean Ryan tells us that many of them are being worked on. Lots of our favorite artists are in genres which listen.com hasn't paid much attention to. We can't play Rhapsody through our Audiotron (see our article in BBHR 4/23/02). It doesn't solve the "where you want it" issue, since there are draconian limits on CD burning -- you can burn only 10 tracks a month and those are currently limited to the Naxos classical catalog. Rhapsody is available only to US residents, although they are working on expanding the available footprint.

Rhapsody has several different offers - the "all access service" costs $9.95 a month and has a 7-day free trial. Sandy thinks it's pretty cool too!

( www.listen.com )