I recently had a chance to play around with the Orb Music Player (MP1), which works in conjunction with an iPhone app, as well as a downloadable application for a PC or a Mac. While the integration between the PC, stereo and iPhone is an interesting one, the system itself seemed a bit complicated at times.
While I was pleased with the ability to control media on both my home PC, as well as Pandora radio from my iPhone and then have that broadcast via the MP1 over my home stereo, there are a few steps that I would have cut out of the equation.
Orb works by first plugging the MP1 into the computer, which introduces it to your home Wi-Fi network and initializes it with the computer where you have all of your music stored. After that’s done, you can hook the MP1, which is about the size of hockey puck, into your stereo and stream your content directly to it, using your iPhone as a remote control.
Perhaps I’m resistant to Orb’s solution because I’ve basically abandoned my locally stored music collection for Internet radio (Slacker and Pandora) and a per-month subscription with Rhapsody. Between those three services, I can basically listen to anything I want anywhere I want right from my smartphone and without the need for my desktop at all.
For someone like me, Orb needs to knock out the middle man. I don’t even need to involve my desktop. My iPhone, and I’d imagine I’m not alone on this, is the gateway to an almost infinite amount of media. The ideal solution would be a “puck” that I bring home, plug into my stereo and stream audio (podcasts, audible books, local music, streaming radio, etc.) directly from my iPhone. As it stands, my iPhone still has to be tethered to my stereo via a 1/8-inch stereo cable. I haven’t yet invested in Apple’s proprietary AirPort Express, which I find limiting and expensive for reasons I won’t get into here.
To be sure, Orb has an attractive product here and one that would appeal to people with a ton of music stored on their computers. But it’s also a solution that could be simplified as well as expanded upon in the future. At $69.99, the MP1 from Orb (available for Android and iPhone) is too close to the latest TV gadgets (which handle audio, video and images) like Apple TV, Google TV that can be controlled via smartphone apps.
I’m interested to see how Orb evolves this product going forward. It’s yet one more capable entry in the line of products that seek to integrate the smartphone with every other device in the home. At this point, though, the biggest shortcoming of Orb’s solution is its complexity and reliance on the desktop.