Pandora for Android is (Finally) Here!

September 9, 2009

I’m delighted to announce that today we’re finally ready to extend the Pandora experience to Android. As of today Pandora is available directly from Pandora at www.pandora.com/android as well as in the Android Market.

I’m really excited about how Pandora for Android turned out – listen to all the same Pandora stations that you’ve been listening to on the web. The application is also deeply integrated with many of the core Android features: control playback from a home screen widget, “deep tap” any artist or song in the standard Android music player and jump into Pandora to discover other similar artists, make a smart folder to get quick access to your stations from the home screen, buy tracks you discover from the Amazon MP3 application, use your Android address book to share stations with your friends, and of course listen in the background while you’re doing other things on the phone.

I know this has been a really long time coming and I’d like to thank all of you for your patience. Hope you enjoy the app.

And yes, for those that have been following the story since the beginning, I do in fact need a “hole in the head” :-)


Pandora for Android: it’s coming

June 16, 2009

Pandora for Android is under development now. We’re a startup and sometimes the world has a way of stepping in and changing priorities, but assuming that doesn’t happen, our plan is for Android to be the next big mobile platform launch for us.

Over the course of the last year Pandora has come in for a lot of criticism for the prioritization choices I’ve made about which mobile operating systems to support and when to support them. I brought some of that on myself, and I deserved to be criticized. Because we’re a relatively small team we’ve decided to focus on one mobile OS at time with the goal of bringing Pandora to every “smartphone” platform where our users want us. There are those that want to believe that I’ve made those choices based on some personal preference for one OS or another. Others see some kind of payola at work.

The reality is that we started with the iPhone because it was an extremely compelling music phone with an extremely compelling developer SDK. We followed on with Windows Mobile and BlackBerry because they have huge volume. Then, perhaps most controversially, I chose to develop for the Palm Pre next. That decision hinged on a unique opportunity Palm presented to us: to be one of just 5-10 developers that worked together with Palm on the initial launch of the Pre. This opportunity was unique in that it essentially guaranteed that every Pre customer would easily find Pandora in the download store. It also seemed likely that we’d have an opportunity to play a part in their launch advertising and press. All of this has come true. Pandora for the Pre turned out really well, nearly every Palm Pre user has installed the application, and Pandora was a meaningful part of their launch story and advertising.

While we were busy doing everything I just described, the Android universe has developed nicely. The G1 is a really good phone. I routinely carry one myself. But the so-called G2 is a great phone. And there are more Android handsets in the pipeline that are extremely compelling. The OS has also evolved noticeably with lots of great new features for developers and end users to take advantage of. While I regret our inability to be part of the Android community from day one, I’m really excited to join the party in progress.

Update, August 10th: We’re still hard at work on this, and have been every day since this post. It’s going to be great. Stay tuned — it’s coming.

Update, Sept 6th: Well look at that… Sprint mentioned Pandora in their HTC Hero press release. Hmmm… starting to sound like “we’re working on it” is more like “coming soon”. :-)


Pandora for the new Palm webOS

January 8, 2009

About 3 months ago the folks from Palm called to ask if they could come up to Oakland to tell us a bit about their new OS plans. Truth is, I was very skeptical. Regardless, we welcomed the visit and they came by to share the basic elements of their plans: an entirely new OS, an entirely new device, an entirely new way to think about developing mobile applications. I was intrigued, but remained skeptical. They invited us to come down to Palm the week before Thanksgiving to get our hands on an early version of the developer kit during a three day developer “camp.” We agreed to participate.

During “camp” we got our first look at the new PalmOS and their HTML+CSS+JavaScript development model. In those three days our incredible engineer Brett Uyeshiro was able to get a rudimentary version of Pandora up and running: login, pick a station, stream music, skip, rate songs, and so forth. We still hadn’t seen the hardware but it was clear that the OS itself was capable of some interesting things.

In late December Palm summoned us to their headquarters again, this time for the real show: the Palm pre hardware. While I may have walked into Palm a skeptic that day, I left a true believer. This is a very impressive phone. The first in my opinion to really give the iPhone a run for its money in terms of the software experience overall (there’s of course lots to like about the Blackberry products, but my opinion is that the BB applications are stronger than the OS experience that links them all together).

The phone is smooth like a well polished river stone. When closed it fits perfectly in the palm of your hand. It clicks open with a *snikt* that Wolverine would be proud of. When open the back reveals a reflective mirror like surface — a nice, elegant surprise. The hardware itself is well integrated with the OS. Gestures underneath the display are used to control basic navigation actions (for example, swipe right to left to go “back” anywhere in the UI). Start typing on the keyboard and the OS or current app will contextually respond with the appropriate action (start searching contacts in the contacts app, start entering a URL in the browser, do a system wide search when on the desktop, etc).

The hardware seems to address everything you might choose to poke at about the iPhone: higher quality camera, flash, keyboard, inductive charging, replaceable battery, etc. None of those details were ever a deal killer for me (and let me be very clear: I still love my iPhone) but certainly this phone is meant to capture every single user that is put off by one of Apple’s hardware choices.

You really need to see the OS in action to fully appreciate how good this phone is. While I’m not going to say that it beats the iPhone on every front (for example, on a purely aesthetic basis I think the iPhone wins) this is a very powerful OS with lots of clever touches throughout. The aggressive use of multitouch gestures — while perhaps introducing an ease-of-learning hurdle — leaves the UI devoid of space-stealing back buttons and the like. Your content really takes center stage. They’ve also done a great job with a feature they call “synergy” that aggregates your content and services together from various sources. For example your Exchange address book, Gmail address book, and Facebook friends are seemlessly integrated in the global Palm address book. The data is stored separately on the backend, but presented in a unified view on the frontend. The same is true of your calendars, email inboxes, and chat services.

Pandora for webOS is coming along nicely and we’re delighted to be part of their launch story. Pandora will be available on every Palm pre from day one of their launch on Sprint. Of course webOS is a multitasking OS so Pandora will continue to run in the background if you need to jump out and use another application on your phone. Very cool.

This has been a really fun process for us. We got to see something very cool a bit before the rest of the world. I’m incredibly impressed with everything that Palm has done so far and I can’t wait for them to get this out the door and into the hands of real customers. Congratulations Palm! Well done.

Update: Mobility today has pulled together a bunch of videos from the announcement that show off various aspects of the UI. Take a look.

Update 2: Palm has posted a Quicktime video of the entire launch event.


Pandora (finally) on Windows Mobile

December 17, 2008

About 18 months ago I first talked publicly about Pandora for Windows Mobile. What followed was a lesson in the perils associated with talking about unreleased products. Over the many (many) months that followed I was called to task by quite a few Windows Mobile enthusiasts that were anxious to be able to take Pandora with them. As we released Pandora for more and more phones (nearly 40 different models today) the criticism became more and more pointed. Here’s how I described the situation some months ago on a Windows Mobile message board:

The full story here is that back almost two years ago we started building a Windows Mobile build of Pandora for the original Blackjack. At the same time working on establishing direct relationships with the carriers. About the time we got the Windows Mobile client into an alpha state, our deals with Sprint (and then later AT&T) came through. With those deals in place we started shifting our mobile development priorities to sync up with what the carriers wanted us to do — without exception that was to so-called “feature phones” and not smart phones. Pandora is still a small startup, so we had to shift our mobile team away from Windows Mobile and onto getting Pandora up and running on the J2ME feature phones. It was almost 18 months before the carriers began to show any interest at all in us adding Windows Mobile versions to the mix. We’ve been actively developing a full Windows Mobile version for the last couple of months.
When the iPhone SDK became available we — fairly i think — saw an opening to ride the iPhone 3G / App Store launch wave and in the process help people understand that Pandora is available in a mobile form as well. Certainly that bet has paid off… but I understand how frustrating it must be that we’ve not yet finished what we started on the Windows Mobile front.

I’m pretty happy to report that we’ve finally made good on my promise from so many quarters ago. Pandora is now available for select Windows Mobile phones and we’re hard at work on porting the application to a broader set of handsets. Here’s how I described it on the Pandora blog:

It’s been well over a year since I first talked publicly about Pandora for Windows Mobile. After a number of false starts and broken promises on my part, I’m happy to report that we’ve now released our first Windows Mobile implementations of Pandora.

Today we’re rolling out Pandora for the HTC XV6900 on Verizon, the HTC Touch on Sprint, and the Motorola Q9C on both Sprint and Verizon. These are free to download and are supported solely through advertising. The entire Pandora experience you’ve come to expect on the web is available on your Windows Mobile phone: create stations, listen, give feedback, QuickMix, etc.

In cooperation with AT&T we are also launching Pandora support for three additional Windows Mobile phones: the Samsung Epix, the LG Incite, and HTC Fuze. AT&T has decided to make these versions of Pandora available on a monthly subscription basis.

To get started with Pandora on your HTC Touch, HTC XV6900, Motorola Q9C, LG Incite, HTC Fuze, or Samsung Epix simply visit http://www.pandora.com using Mobile Internet Explorer on your smartphone and follow the installation instructions.

We’re continuing the work required to bring Pandora to a broader range of Windows Mobile handsets. Keep your eye on this blog and this page for updates on new handsets.

For those of you that have been following along for all of this time, I thank you for your patience. Hope you enjoy the Pandora experience on your Windows Mobile phone.


Pandora needs your help

September 26, 2008

Update: Thanks to your phone calls, faxes, and emails the bill did pass in both the house and senate. While the bill itself doesn’t resolve the underlying licensing issue, it has given us the legal framework we need to negotiate a settlement. We’re hard at work on that now. Thanks everyone!

Pandora needs your help…here’s the whole story (originally posted at http://blog.pandora.com):

After a yearlong negotiation, Pandora, artists and record companies are finally optimistic about reaching an agreement on royalties that would save Pandora and Internet radio. But just as we’ve gotten close, large traditional broadcast radio companies have launched a covert lobbying campaign to sabotage our progress.Yesterday, Congressman Jay Inslee, and several co-sponsors, introduced legislation to give us the extra time we need but the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which represents radio broadcasters such as Clear Channel, has begun intensively pressuring lawmakers to kill the bill. We have just a day or two to keep this from collapsing.

This is a blatant attempt by large radio companies to suffocate the webcasting industry that is just beginning to offer an alternative to their monopoly of the airwaves.

Please call your Congressperson right now and ask them to support H.R. 7084, the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2008 – and to not capitulate to pressure from the NAB. Congress is currently working extended hours, so even calls this evening and over the weekend should get answered.

The central congressional switchboard number is: (202) 225 3121

Or to look up your representative, visit: https://forms.house.gov/wyr/welcome.shtml

If the phone is busy, please try again until you get through. These calls really do make a difference.

This is a fork in the road. Only massive grassroots opposition will keep us from another 50 years of top 40 radio. It’s time to take a stand and break the stranglehold of broadcast media on radio.


Android: what I really think

September 12, 2008

A few weeks ago, just after the iPhone 3G launch, I was invited to join a mobile round table put together by the folks at TechCrunch. They’d brought together a relatively large group of people with the goal of engaging in a dialog about the future of mobile and the implications of new solutions like the iPhone AppStore and the upcoming launch of Android.

As is often the case, once the discussion got going, folks on the panel tended to take extreme positions — in part to illustrate points and in part to keep the dialog lively and entertaining. Periodically the conversation would turn to Android and when that happened Mike Arrington would typically chime in with enthusiastic comments about Android’s open stance and potential. Others on the panel were more guarded in their enthusiasm and advocated a kind of wait-and-see approach. In the heat of the discussion I said something pretty inflammatory (“I need Android like I need a hole in the head”). It was a stupid thing to say, and I immediately regretted it.

My thoughts on Android are rather uncomplicated and are not in any way well summarized by my comments that day. Here’s what I really think

- It’s being built by a great company with a great team.

- Their SDK is evolving nicely and it’s getting easier and easier to develop really compelling applications for Android. The SDK released on August 18 (a few weeks after the TechCrunch panel) in particular is a great step forward.

- We want Pandora to be available everywhere there are listeners. On the web, on your phone, in your car, in your home. Everywhere. If that means investing in dozens of mobile platforms, so be it. Once Android is released and starts to gain traction with users (and I’m sure it will), I’m certain we’ll develop and release a version of Pandora for Android. We’ve of course been prototyping already and it’s clear that we can build a great version of Pandora for Android.

- I think that there are real challenges to the notion of Android as completely open when placed at least in the context of the US cellular market. For example, the US consumer is addicted to carrier subsidies on phone hardware. Even Apple was forced to reverse its stance with the iPhone 3G and go to a carrier subsidized model. Carrier subsidies mean one thing: network lock in. So I think that means there are two options for Android: phones that are truly open, but that are largely not price competitive for the mass market, or subsidized models that sell at scale but lose some of their open appeal. I guess my main point is that at the end of the day, at least in the US, it’s the carriers that control access to the spectrum which means that they’re typically the final arbiter of how “open” the devices accessing the network will be.

- Our experience with BREW, J2ME, and Windows Mobile — all software platforms that are at least somewhat device agnostic — has been that device firmware level issues often make porting very, very time consuming. When viewed through that frame, and combined with the fact that there are already 7 major phone OS’s that are viable in the US, the introduction of yet another mobile OS isn’t entirely exciting news in and of itself. Having said that, I’m sure my enthusiasms will shift once I’ve been able to lay hands on a real live Android device. Certainly the latest demos and emulators are very compelling.

- I think Google and RIM both have a very formidable competitor in Apple with respect to the maturity of their mobile development tools. In some ways, Apple has been working on the iPhone tools and SDK for something like 15 years since the basic mechanisms and tools have their roots in the NeXTStep platform. Having said that, I’m really encouraged by what we’re seeing in the latest Android SDK drops and it should be fun to watch this competition play out. Certainly the industry would benefit from these players each trying to outdo each other with respect to development tools and technologies.

So that’s the my real point of view on all of this. As much as anything, this entire back-and-forth was a good reminder for me that it’s just not smart, not to mention nice, to say anything that seems to openly disparage the hard work that other smark folks are doing in the industry. So to the Google Android team: sorry guys.


Thoughts on the Gnomedex ’07 Kerfuffle

August 20, 2007

It seems that the big news out of Gnomedex last week was the “drama” that played out around Jason Calacanis’ presentation. The basic context is this: Jason took the stage to talk about spam content creeping into search results. This is clearly a topic that Jason is passionate about — so much so that he’s created a company that he hopes will tackle the problem through a new kind of editorially-influenced search engine. As he spoke, it became clear that his talk was going to segue right into a discussion of how his company could solve this problem.

Generally the presentations at Gnomedex aren’t about particular products or companies. There are exceptions to be sure (for example, this year the CEO of JibJab gave one of the more interesting talks, which was almost entirely about his company). I don’t have a strongly held point of view on this subject; for my part I just want the presentations to be interesting. If that means talking about your company so be it.

So, as Jason gets going, he’s talking about spam (“unwanted commercial pitches”) showing up everywhere, especially in search, and it occurs to someone in the back of the room that if he’s going to segue right into Mahalo, then the talk is sort of “conference spam.” That struck some as funny and ironic. There was some mumbling and giggling from the back of the room. Jason noticed, paused, hesitated, something — and Dave Winer said “You’re doing it now! You’re spamming us!”

This is what I thought at the time: that’s kinda funny. Maybe a tiny bit obnoxious to yell it out, but Jason’s pitch was a tad ironic. I think I chuckled a bit. Then I went right back to listening — with some interest frankly — to what Jason had to say. We use subject matter experts at Pandora to classify music, so there are some parallels with Mahalo and I wanted to hear more.

I would never have thought about it again.

And then the blogosphere picked it up. The first accounts I read sounded like “HUGE BLOWUP AT GNOMEDEX!!!” Strange, I thought — my experience of the event was quite different: it was a non-event for me.

Could it be that we wanted to invent a little drama to attach to what was really a pretty sedate little conference? That maybe, just maybe, the entire thing wasn’t about what Dave said at all? Given that very real possiblility, it doesn’t seem right for Dave to be at the epicenter of an invented conroversy, with lots of old stories of ancient feuds and perceived injustices being dredged up. When I saw Dave at BarCampBlock on Saturday, I told him as much. He mentioned it on ScriptingNews today so I thought I’d say a bit more about my perspective on what happened.


BarCampBlock

August 19, 2007

Wow. What an event.

Tremendous turnout — not sure they have a perfect count of attendees but easily 600 people. The huge grid quickly filled up with fascinating content from all corners of the tech, community, and art communities. Some giant sessions, some small sessions, but a spirit of sharing that I think embodies the current vibe in silicon valley. This was a gathering of people that are passionate about the work they do who share an eagerness to learn from their peers. Incredibly exciting.

I had the pleasure of leading a small group discussion about Music Rights issues (who gets paid what for various forms of digital music). For me this conversation perfectly embodied the spirit of BarCamp — just a handful of people sitting down to share what they know about a complex topic in the hopes that everyone would walk away better informed, and more prepared to build great things.

Later in the day I lead a much bigger discussion examining the evolution of Pandora in the two years since the first BarCamp. Great fun and lots of interesting questions. Incredible how different things are for Pandora than they were two years ago. I’m really lucky to be involved in something that so many people enjoy.

No discussion of BarCamp would really be complete without a mention of the people that create these events — people like Chris Messina, Tantek Çelik. Ross Mayfield, and Tara Hunt. You all are an inspiration to me. Thanks for all you’ve done for this community.


BarCamp… Two Years Later

August 18, 2007

Two years ago, when Pandora was still in its (oh-so-short) private beta, I decided to head down to a two-day event in Palo Alto called BarCamp. The rules were simple: you show up, you present. It would turn out to be the very first public demo of Pandora. And it was done absolutely on a whim.

Shortly after I arrived, I wrote my name on the whiteboard offering a talk about our new music service (cleverly titled “Introducing Pandora”). I remember listening to Chris Messina’s talk about Flock just before it was my turn to present. Michael Arrington was there and asked for a quick demo because he couldn’t stick around for my presentation. While I’d met Mike before, TechCrunch felt like one of his little side projects to me. I was happy to give him the demo early, but I’ve got to tell you it wasn’t anything like what folks go through today to get on his agenda. What I remember most is he gave me a bunch of crap about not inviting him to the beta (we’d met at Gnomedex and it had competely slipped my mind). Pretty funny in retrospect.

The presentation went well enough (and the demo worked); some folks wrote nice things. It was a fun and very memorable day. I met a lot of people that day that have become good friends.

Tomorrow is BarCampBlock — the two year anniversary of that original BarCamp. It simultaneously feels like a very long time ago, and like it was just yesterday. Certainly my whole world has changed, as has Pandora. I’m excited to head down and throw my hat into the ring again… should be quite an event. They’re expecting 900 people. I’ll be there again this year and Pandora is providing the music for the after party at SocialText.


Day of Silence

June 25, 2007

dayofsilence_white.gifStarting at 12:00AM Eastern time on June 26, 2007, Pandora will be participating in the Internet Radio “Day of Silence.”

Joining Pandora are Yahoo, Live365, MTV, SomaFM, Bagel Radio, Rhapsody, and dozens of small webcasters. The idea behind this event is to give everyone a glimpse of what it will be like if the oppressive royalty rates recently set by the Copyright Royalty Board are left unchanged. You can read more about the issue at SaveNetRadio.org. There are bills pending in both the Senate and in the House and I’d encourage you to lend your voice to the cause if you love Internet Radio. Please call your representative to let them know that this is an issue that matters to you.

While I believe in the statement we’re making with the Day of Silence, this is a painful night for me. Taking Pandora off the air is something that we don’t do lightly — in fact when we moved datacenters a year ago we worked long and hard to ensure that we didn’t have any down time at all during that transition. To take our music off the air intentionally is completely unprecedented in our 2 year history. It’s not something that I’ll enjoy. Here’s hoping though that the Day of Silence helps to move our lawmakers into action, so I don’t someday in the not-too-distant future have to pull the plug on Pandora entirely.


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