The first one that we're going to be coming through with early this year, which we've spoken about before, is giving listeners the ability to buy a track that they're listening to on the radio. If you like a track, a button will appear on the radio that says 'buy now'. To see this you'll [need to] already have a small value account set up on The Pure Lounge, which is our online portal – then you hit the 'buy now' button and you've bought the track. Job done!
You don't have to write the name of the track down and then go to iTunes or anything. It's instant. It's then stored on The Lounge, so you can play it on the radio whenever you like – and it will also be emailed to you as a high-quality MP3 file. The codec we use in The Lounge will probably not be MP3, simply because we will want to reduce bandwidth. But that will make very little difference – the gist of it is that you've got access to your music wherever you are: via The Lounge, your connected radio, or you have it on your PC as well.
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Can you tell us a little more about the background to The Lounge concept? How does that compare with what your competitors such as Receiva, Frontier Silicon, Radiopaq are offering?
We looked at all those possibilities when we first started thinking about developing an internet radio device. It became clear to us that it wasn't acceptable for the portal to be owned by anybody other than us.
Effectively the portal, well, it is what it says – it's the portal for all your customers. So, we [currently] have well over two million DAB radio customers. By the end of 2009, we'll have well over 100,000 'connected' customers. And by the end of 2010, we expect to have many more than that, because we have a big development programme working on new connected products for this year and subsequent years.
The thought of having all those hundreds of thousands (and soon to be millions) of customers almost held to ransom by your portal provider… What happens if the portal provider goes bust? What happens if the portal provider gets bought by a competitor? It's just too risky.
When we started working on the Flow platform (and it is a platform, which starts from the very back, the portal itself, right through to the radio hardware and the firmware that runs in the product) – [we decided] the whole thing would be developed in-house.
When we started working on that, we decided (because we tend to be fairly arrogant about these things) that we believe we know what our customers want and for that reason we had to control it and do it all ourselves. We think we can come up with a better set of content for people to listen to.
All of this means we have a much more connected process. The Lounge can be used as an internet radio portal, you can go and find content on there, listen to it on your PC and you need never even buy one of our products if you don't want to. Or you can go and buy one of our connected products, use it and never go near a PC, because we very specifically designed the products to operate as stand-along consumer electronics devices. We don't want to force people to go online if they don't want to.
But if you do bring the two together, then you end up with a much more compelling 'concept', because favourites stored on the radio are automatically stored on The Lounge. Favourites stored and categorised on The Lounge are also available on the radios themselves. The content available in The Lounge is also available on the radios. If we add more content, something we are doing more and more, then that will all be available on the radios.