Over the weekend I bought a Freecom Musicpal internet radio from PC World. In terms of form factor it's light and small enough to fit on your kitchen windowsill. Installation was a breeze - all I had to do was enter my WEP key once - inputted by turning the dials to select letters - and I was onboard.
The Musicpal comes with a lifetimes subscription to Vtuner, and currently has approximately around 4,000 radio stations to choose from, under every genre imaginable. At present only mp3 streams are supported, but Freecom have said that they are currently working on Windows Media (wma) stream support. Expect that to be offered in any future firmware updates. ( In "settings", there's an update option to update the firmware)
Soundwise, the speaker isn't of enormous high quality, but for a kitchen radio its perfectly adequate.
Why go for an internet radio? Well, for starters , you don't need to power up a laptop. Plus the choice of thousands of stations means that you wont be short of choices of even the most eclectic music. This afternoon , for example, while preparing the Sunday dinner, we went from Irish trad to German Schlager, with a dose of Congolese dancehall ,Senegalese guitar-folk and a blast of Austrian classical, plus some cheesy French pop. Your listening habits are definitely changed with such a device, and it's a must-have if you are sick of the usual 24x7 commercial radio. And since it's now residing in our kitchen, and has an extremely easy to use interface, our musical exploration of the world is only starting. And once Freecom offer WMA support in a future update, the stations available will expand to thousands more.
I bought it for £79.99 in PC World , but no doubt it's probably cheaper online. Another thing to bear in mind as well , when it comes to learning a language - once you have one of these radios in your kitchen, it makes it so much easier to tune into a French, German, Spanish etc language station - and just having that in the background is a great aid to getting familiar with how a language is pronounced and spoken.
As part of making the Internet pervasive in consumer devices, the Internet Radio is a very interesting first step - I would expect it to be built-in to hi-fi systems in the future. But for now, to get a taste of the future, get hold of one of these devices. Your listening habits will change forever.
Important sidenote: You MUST have wifi enabled in your home for the Musicpal to work. However, it does have a standard network socket at the back if you prefer to run a network cable to it.