Walter S. Mossberg and Katherine Boehret at the Wall Street Journal:
Today, a small New York City company called MusicGremlin Inc. is rolling out a fresh approach to denting the iPod hegemony: the wireless music player. Its new $299 Gremlin portable player has built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking, so it can download songs from an accompanying subscription service directly, without requiring the use of a personal computer.
Not only that, but Gremlin users can wirelessly exchange entire songs right from their players, legally, as long as both the sender and receiver are subscribers to the MusicGremlin Direct service, which costs $14.99 a month. This process, called “beaming,” allows you to share songs with your Gremlin-toting pals, no matter where they are, without ever using a computer or a CD burner. You can even peer into other users’ Gremlins to see what they’re playing and what they’ve downloaded, and pluck any song you like from their devices, if they give you permission.
The Gremlin is available today at Amazon.com, and the company’s own Web site, musicgremlin.com. While it doesn’t require a computer, the Gremlin can synchronize with a PC, but this only works with Windows machines. Its Web site requires Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser and Windows Media Player for full functionality. The subscription service, which is optional, is free for the first month and offers unlimited downloads from a catalog of two million songs, about the same size as Apple Computer’s catalog.
We’ve been testing the Gremlin player and the MusicGremlin service, and we like them. The experience of downloading new music from the palm of your hand and sharing it legally with others is refreshing and fun, and can’t be done on our trusty iPods. Plus, MusicGremlin is one of the few iPod competitors we’ve encountered that shares Apple’s strong dedication to a smooth, end-to-end experience, where the hardware, software and online service work seamlessly.
Sounds peachy, but before you break out your credit card, check out Sean Alexander’s detailed review which is much less favorable:
Last week I wrote about the new MusicGremlin portable media player. An interesting concept, the musicgremlin is the first portable media player to incorporate music sharing via Wi-Fi and the concept of community sharing. Both are compelling ideas to me, but I have some fundamental issues with the implementation. Net-net, musicgremlin in my opinion has a long way to go before it’s ready for prime time.
This was honestly one of the worst device experiences I’ve ever had. The fact that Walt Mossberg’s column seems to like it so much tells me either someone over at the WSJ isn’t really spending much time living with the device or perhaps I just have a bad unit. Either way, it’s time to put this one back in the oven and let it bake a bit longer. Here’s to hoping there’s a firmware update because right now, the device isn’t working for me as-advertised and is about to get returned. I’m waiting to hear back from technical support.
The Mossberg column does mention that “this first version of the Gremlin has some major rough spots,” and that they had to download a fix (easy to do with the Wi-Fi support) to cure one problem, but seems to downplay the difficulties. I think the verdict here is to wait for version 2.0 of what is otherwise a great idea.