25 aprile 2011

TuneIn: la nuova app WinPhone7 riceve lo stream e l'FM

Mentre negli Stati Uniti si discute animatamente sulla proposta della National Association of Broadcasters di forzare per legge l'inserimento di un chip per la ricezione dell'FM a bordo dei telefonini - a sfavore di questa proposta è stato presentato recentemente un disegno di legge contrario - il noto servizio di directory TuneIn (nuovo nome di Radio Time, il catalogo online di emittenti e Webradio su cui si basano diversi tipi di dispositivi Internet radio e tablet computer) inaugura un approccio "ibrido" molto innovativo nella nuova versione per Windows Phone 7 della sua app per la sintonia degli stream radiofonici via Internet Mobile. TuneIn per WinPhone coinvolge infatti nel suo funzionamento i ricevitori FM integrati negli smartphone (considerando il ruolo di Nokia nella nuova joint venture con Microsoft ce ne saranno parecchi). L'app offre in altre parole la possibilità di ascoltare la propria emittente preferita anche quando lo stream IP non c'è o non risulta accessibile, ricorrendo alla sintonia diretta del segnale FM. Mi pare una soluzione davvero furba per mescolare due modalità di ascolto che gli utenti evoluti ormai considerano entrambe molto naturali. Credo però che questo imponga una maggiore accuratezza nella gestione dei database con le informazioni sulle emittenti e il loro aggiornamento. Sulla questione si è soffermata anche la Radio and Internet Newsletter (RAIN), che in occasione dell'ultima edizione del NAB Show di Las Vegas ha organizzato un suo summit sulla radiofonia IP.


We’ve often heard analysts foresee a future where radio platforms blend delivery methods — FM, web, satellite — to the point where listeners don’t know (and perhaps don’t care) how exactly they’re getting their content (as wrote Fred Jacobs in this blog post).
Here’s an interesting step towards that future: TuneIn Radio’s new app for Windows Phone 7 integrates the on-board FM tuner that comes standard on such devices with more than 50,000 Internet radio streams. Users can tune in to either local FM stations or online streams from around the world.
The app’s use of FM offers smartphone users two benefits that should get them drooling: improved battery life and less data usage.
Meanwhile, two U.S. Representatives have introduced a new resolution into the House that opposes the FM-in-cellphones mandate (more coverage from All Access here). The NAB has pushed for a law requiring all mobile devices to include FM receivers for “emergency alerts” (RAIN coverage here).
RAIN ANALYSIS: TuneIn Radio’s Windows Phone 7 app showcases the substantial benefits of FM — benefits that may appeal to smartphone users more than any “emergency alerts” argument. As cellular providers cap data usage and slap bigger, more power-hungry screens (and 4G antennas) onto devices, anything that saves battery and avoids data usage should be welcomed by users.
If this “hybrid” approach appeals to consumers, device manufacturers will take note and respond — without the need for legislation.


Many webcasters rely on Internet radio directories — those sites and services that aggregate the tens of thousands of Internet radio addresses and allow listeners to find stations based on genre, location, and more. But, as we learned at RAIN Summit West 2011, maintaining such databases presents numerous challenges, not only for the directory services that want to provide a helpful service, but to webcasters themselves who want to be found.
Rusty Hodge, founder of successful independent webcast Soma.fm, noted during the “Tuners & Directories” panel discussion that it’s difficult for webcasters to push their streams to all the different aggregators out there and to ensure their services are listed correctly.
Bill Moore of TuneIn Radio explained his own company’s challenges. TuneIn Radio maintains tuning software for devices, its own successful mobile app, and a consumer Internet radio guide destination called RadioTime. Moore explained that TuneIn Radio relies on users, as well as broadcasters, to spot errors. As a result they receive 10,000 update requests every week, said Moore. To sort through them, TuneIn Radio uses a 40-member editorial team and “millions of lines of code.”
Lisa Namerow, VP of AOL Music Network, explained how her company’s approach with the Shoutcast directory is more “organic.” Webcasters suppy their own data, which is automatically aggregated into the directory. Not surprisingly, that sometimes means “it doesn’t look as pretty” (as a closely-monitored guide might be). However, the guide is still well-used. Namerow said Shoutcast visitors clock in about 400 million hours of listening every month.
Moore, Hodge and BRS Media president George Bundy (who also runs the Web-Radio.fm directory) agreed that some sort of unified Internet radio directory should be the ultimate goal here. And that’s just what the Internet Media Device Alliance (IMDA) is trying to do, according to panelist John Ousby of tuning software creator vTuner (on the panel representing the the IMDA).
“When data is updated [by webcasters, updates would ideally be] sent to all subscribing aggregators so that the information can be kept fresh… there’s currently no standard way of providing this information. So that’s what we’re doing,” explained Ousby.
“This sounds like a pretty good step forward,” said moderator James Cridland of MediaUK.org. Soma.fm’s Hodge agreed. “I love the fact that we would only have to push one data feed out…standardization in directory services is like a holy grail for Internet radio right now.”

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