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SoundBridge to Nowhere

6:00 PM -- For a guy who only dumped his collection of vinyl LPs in the early 1990s, I now have an impressive collection of audio playback options: a few CD players, satellite radio in both my car and my office, the inevitable iPod, and, as of this Christmas, a SoundBridge WiFi-enabled Internet radio from Roku Labs.

WiFi Net radio is likely to be a hot market segment by the '07 holiday season, according to a report from software-development site Dr. Dobb's. Two U.K. companies, Frontier Silicon Ltd. and Cambridge Consultants Ltd., will be showing off such devices at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week.

These radios provide access to the infinite realms of Internet radio, as well as music files on your computer. Unlike the SoundBridge, which works via a "music server," i.e., a laptop or desktop, and costs $300 to $400, the newer devices to be showcased at CES would play Net radio stations without a computer and retail for less than a hundred bucks.

There's only problem with my new SoundBridge: It doesn't work.

Well, it does work for Internet radio, but for playing tunes from my iTunes music library it's useless. It took me close to two hours of fiddling with the blasted thing (and getting an onscreen message saying "Connection to the server failed," even though the WiFi signal was blasting at near-full-strength) to discover this. I finally went online to find the following message on the Roku Website:

"With the release of iTunes 7.0, Apple has changed some of the underlying technology that allows the SoundBridge to communicate directly with iTunes. We hope to have an iTunes 7.0-compatible release of the SoundBridge software soon; however, at this time all SoundBridges are incompatible with the music sharing feature of iTunes 7.0."

In other words, sorry Charlie: The most popular music-download program on the planet doesn't work with your sleek, brand-new WiFi Net radio. This message was dated Sept. 12, 2006, which means that Roku has had almost four months to come up with an iTunes-compatible version of its software. Hey, take your time, fellows.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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