DeVesto of Tivoli says his team spent almost a half-dozen years developing the user interface for Tivoli's NetWorks radio. Since these standalone Internet radios don't have a keyboard, they've had to resort to other methods to tune in stations. They use searches, but to find your station, you scroll through lowercase and uppercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols, one character at a time. Even then, the search doesn't always succeed. In part, that's because of the way the stations are listed. For example, take WCBS AM in New York. Is it listed under WCBS, WCBS AM, WCBS880, Newsradio880 or something else? At one letter at a time, the process can take awhile.
Internet radio can have one other problem. Sometimes the speed of your Internet connection cannot keep up with the stream from the radio station you're listening to. If that happens, you can get annoying gaps in the music. To resolve this, radio apps and standalone Internet radios will use "buffering" that may allow several seconds worth of music to be stored in your device's memory before it's played, effectively smoothing out the bumps.
To deal with some of the complexity, Jake Sigal, founder of Livio Radio, set out to design a radio for his own parents. He decided to make life a little easier by preloading radio services such as Pandora or NPR, which allows you to find your local NPR stations and listen to your favorite NPR programs on demand (either radio is $120). Sigal puts it this way, "People over 55 are not as interested in spending hours learning the device as people in their 20s. They want to spend their life doing life and not figuring out electronics."
Now Sigal is trying to make Internet radio portable with a new device called the Carmen ($60). It allows you to record several hours of your favorite Internet radio stations from almost any device, then take the Carmen, plug it into your car's cigarette lighter and play back through your FM radio. Livio has also created big button Internet radio applications for both iPhone and Android smartphones.
If Internet radio has enabled us to find our favorite radio stations wherever we are, it's made life infinitely more difficult for the people who run radio stations. After all, how are you going to hold your local audience in Moscow, Idaho, when there's a really great all-Beatles station in Moscow, Russia? Stay tuned.