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ClickRadio striking music deals with Universal, PC makers

The start-up says it has figured out how to eliminate the hiccups and blips that commonly occur when consumers tune in to radio stations through their PCs.

Start-up ClickRadio says it has figured out how to eliminate the hiccups and blips that commonly occur when consumers tune in to radio stations through their PCs: Don't rely on the Web.

ClickRadio has created a service through which radio listeners can access playlists from their hard drives. The service, which will launch later this spring, also allows people to personalize their selections by genre. When people connect to the Internet, the playlists automatically refresh in their hard drive caches with four new selections per day.

Although the idea seems contrary to industry trends, music giant Universal Music Group is taking a chance with the idea. The companies today announced that ClickRadio will license songs from Universal for its new product.

The software will be pre-installed on "several" computers from undisclosed PC manufacturers, a ClickRadio spokeswoman said. The company also is striking deals to distribute its service on handhelds and stereo components, through Internet service providers, and eventually on wireless devices. The spokeswoman declined to elaborate on pending deals.

The emergence of this technology is one attempt to improve the quality of music delivery on PCs and the Web. Web radio stations such as America Online's Spinner and Viacom's Imagine Radio have built their businesses around the streaming delivery of Web-based music.

Net consumers have gravitated toward these kinds of services because of their vast music selection and their ability to let people personalize song lists.

But ClickRadio thinks consumers want more reliability and quality when they listen to songs. The company believes that consumers want music without delays caused by Web traffic and that they wish to avoid poorer audio quality from low-bandwidth streams.

Is quality more important than selection? Aram Sinnreich, an analyst at market research company Jupiter Communications, doesn't think so.

Sinnreich said he doubts that Net consumers will allow a service to take over significant segments of their hard drives. Some also may be turned off by the slim song list rotations compared with those offered by Web-based services, he said.

"It's hard to compete with online radio, which has very broad catalogs at their disposal, and the ability to target very deeply," Sinnreich said. "Most people would choose the catalog over the quality."