Apple Should Buy Slacker and Burn It to the Ground

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- ICYMI (and you probably did): Internet radio provider Slacker redesigned its Android app the other week to include cosmetic changes and a "new" feature it calls "My Vibe."

It's really not a new feature unless you live inside the Slacker vacuum. Slacker's gimmick knocks off what Songza has been doing -- and doing quite well -- for a while. Simplistically stated (i.e., the brainless way Slacker stated it), My Vibe serves music playlists based on your mood.

For all intents and purposes, Slacker skims Songza's idea off the top, providing music for when you wake up in the morning, exercise, etc. As far as I know -- and I have tried to ask, but Slacker's outspoken, frequently misguided CEO Jim Cady refuses to talk to me -- there's no real method behind Slacker's madness. The company's strategy appears as unfocused as its everything to everyone platform.

Sadly, Slacker gives Internet radio a bad name.

When you step back from the various controversies that mire it, particularly royalties, you realize what an incredible space Internet radio is and can continue to be. Not only does it provide music listeners with unlimited and dynamic options for consumption, it offers musicians unprecedented avenues for maximizing exposure and forming new lines of revenue. And more than a few Internet radio companies can and will sustain and become profitable.

That's because smart strategies underlie what they're doing.

Consider Songza. Expect it to look more and more like a smart e-commerce platform as it matures. The team at Songza understands the power of music. They recognize that music soundtracks our daily activities, from the mundane to the meaningful. So Songza takes these experiences, uses music to package them and sell them to advertisers and, eventually, provide users relevant and contextual options for associated consumption.

Songza effectively puts an Amazon.com ( AMZN)-like model to work.

Like Songza, Amazon also has a clear strategy that music works as a key part of. The ability to purchase, download and store music on Amazon acts as another feature of an all-encompassing and sticky e-commerce ecosystem.

Pandora ( P) takes pretty much an opposite approach.

It tackles the traditional radio sector head on, not only using the exact same (or, at least, very similar) sales model as broadcasters such as Clear Channel, but poaching top people from these companies to execute it. Pandora comes in on the end where users hit a button and enjoy a personalized listening experience.

While Pandora dominates Internet radio, there's plenty of room for others. Spotify and Rdio, for instance, come in on the end where you know what you want to hear and/or you want to build the modern-day version of a traditional record collection and store it in one place across devices for a nominal monthly fee.

Even Apple ( AAPL), hardly a company concerned with the fate of the music industry, has a clear, well-defined strategy. If it doesn't succeed in propping up digital download sales with iTunes Radio, it will help jumpstart what is, at the moment, a fledgling mobile advertising business. And, more importantly, iTunes Radio provides just another feature that, like Amazon, helps enhance Apple's hardware-dominated ecosystem.

So many people have an opinion on what Apple should do with its cash. Tim Cook has already listened way too much, particularly to David Einhorn. Hopefully he won't do the same with Carl Icahn. Pretty much every idea I have come across with suggestions for how Apple can spend its money is a bad one.

But I have a worthy proposition. Do some charity work for Internet radio. Some activism. Apple should buy Slacker, publicly fire Cady and promptly disassemble the company, maybe just keeping its San Diego office space because its sunny down there and can field a considerable number of iAd salespeople.

Slacker makes solid spaces look bad. Unless the company gets bought out, I doubt it will be around in two to five years. It offers nothing you cannot find elsewhere. And there's really no sound model to support an actual business.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in New York City
Roberto Pedone, based out of Delafield, Wis., is an independent trader who focuses on technical analysis for small- and large-cap stocks, options, futures, commodities and currencies. Roberto studied international business at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, and he spent a year overseas studying business in Lubeck, Germany. His work has appeared on financial outlets including CNBC.com and Forbes.com. You can follow Pedone on Twitter at www.twitter.com/zerosum24 or @zerosum24.

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