Logitech is adding a touch-screen model to its line of Squeezebox streaming audio products. Unfortunately, the upcoming Squeezebox Touch has a design flaw (in my opinion) that will likely relegate it to the periphery of the burgeoning home digital audio market.
At first glance, the Squeezebox Touch has a lot to like. Basically, it's the trusty Squeezebox Classic, but with that model's monochrome vacuum fluorescent display replaced by a 4.3-inch color touch screen. Connect it to a stereo (or a pair of powered speakers), and you've got access to your entire home music collection (streamable from any networked PC) as well as access a wide variety of online music services--including Pandora, Rhapsody, Last.fm, Sirius, Slacker, and the full range of free Internet radio stations and podcasts. The Touch connects to home networks via Ethernet or 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, and--unlike earlier Squeezebox models--it can play digital audio files from an SD card or USB flash drive.
Sounds like this $300 model could be the one-room Sonos killer we've long been longing for--except for the fact that the touch screen is built into the base unit. That means you're stuck with either getting up and walking over to it whenever you want to change a tune or pick a new stream, or opting for the little wireless remote (which provides far less detailed control than the touch screen). Why Logitech went this route instead of opting for a touch screen remote that you could hold in your hand is anyone's guess. (Who knows--perhaps Logitech is planning to offer a Harmony remote with built-in Squeezebox functionality instead.)
We can envision the Touch garnering interest from those who want a nifty countertop music controller in the in the kitchen, or one that's wall-mounted in various rooms in the house. But as it currently stands, we're far more excited about today's other Squeezebox announcement, the $200 Squeezebox Radio. We just hope that Logitech is busy working on a successor to the Squeezebox Duet (with a Touch-like remote). At the very least, we'd like to see Logitech offer an iPhone app to control their Squeezebox line that would effectively turn any iPhone or iPod Touch into a touch-screen remote as well. Apps like iPeng and Squeemote already exist, but--unlike the equivalent Sonos app--they're not officially blessed by Logitech.
We'll have a complete review of the Squeezebox Touch when it becomes available later in December.