While the battle to access your music and video files on the go continues both of the software front with services like Qloud, Orb and Simplify Media, there's also the hardware side of things with placeshifting technology from Sling Media, SanDisk and others. Ultimately people want a really simple way to enjoy their stuff elsewhere with a soft or Webware experience that's easy to use.
rVibe is an interesting piece of Windows software that opened up its doors to the public last month. It's half jukebox, half social music marketplace that's taken a new approach to music pricing and sharing by giving users a sizable array of songs that can be both streamed and downloaded using two different price points. While the music comes from a combination of sources, the actual transfer of the songs is handled via p2p in a similar fashion to Napster in the days or yore.
Streaming a song will cost you $.03 a pop, while downloading an entire copy (sans-DRM and at a audiophile-friendly 320 kbps) runs $.99. RVibe has a built-in recommendation service that lets you suggest a track you've purchased to one of your friends. If they end up buying it, you get $.05 back, which can either be spent on more music or donated to charity. It's also worth noting that every time you pay for a streamed song, it will reduce the price of purchasing the track by subtracting the price of a streaming session, all the way down to $.78 a track (or seven streamed plays). While there's a preview portion of the service called "auditions" I wouldn't mind seeing a super low cost streaming option in other popular online music stores to avoid purchasing songs with deceptively good preview clips.
Today they're launching "rVibe Anywhere" which is their personal streaming component. Assuming you've got a copy of rVibe running on the machine with your music library, you can get full access to all your tracks, along with the capability to share any purchased songs with others with an embeddable player widget. While the incredibly popular iTunes software from Apple can accomplish similar feats locally (and across the Web by fooling it with plug-ins), rVibe's solution is a little more extensible from the get go when it comes to making music sharing a social experience. Despite Apple launching their own set of Widgets earlier this year, clicking on a song still requires firing up iTunes, which everyone might not have.
I spent some time playing with the software today, and although a little buggy (I had it go unresponsive on me several times while trying to play local tracks), it's definitely got the workings of something innovative. The previously mentioned social aspect is very well done, and you can manage friends and song recommendations like you would e-mail. While it's not as simple and intuitive as iTunes or Winamp when it comes to playlist and song management, any songs you purchase through the store can be carried over to your other favorite media player and played on portable devices because of the lack of DRM.
Another service that's doing this is GrooveShark (review), which remains in private beta, and offers similar functionality with streaming and p2p sharing. The big differences are that GrooveShark runs entirely in your browser, and lets you stream any music file for free. GrooveShark also has a wider array of mainstream music. While rVibe isn't advertising itself as a place for indie bands, its labels include Naxos, Magnatune, and the V2 Music Group which isn't a bad collection by any means, but you're not going to find some of that top 40 stuff clogging up the Billboard charts.
Related: Music site Jango in public beta