October 12th, 2015


I just want my devices to talk to each other

I have a pair of Sonos speakers. They are controllable from any desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone in the flat. I can choose music from a variety of sources - either folders full of MP3s or streaming services like Spotify or Deezer. And I can make the one in the kitchen and the one in the living room play in sync, so that music pervades the flat.

Google produces the Chromecast. For £30 I can have a small dongle that plugs into the TV and allows me to stream music video, and photos from any phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop in the flat. I can choose from locally stored MP3/video files, or streaming services like Spotify, Deezer, Netflix or YouTube. And you can make them play in sync.

Philips produce a multiroom music streaming solution. It does the same as the Sonos system.

Samsung does too.

So do Panasonic. And Bose. And LG. And Pure.

None of these solutions work with each other.

Because that would mean that you wouldn't be completely tied into their ecosystem. You'd have options, and choice over what you used.

Particularly annoying to me there is the Chromecast. Because it's Google, and it's only £30, and it's built into Android and YouTube, it's attracted a lot of apps to the ecosystem. Huge amounts of stuff support the Chromecast protocols. But this will only stream to a Chromecast device. Which means that if I also want a Roku, which is apparently a better Plex client, then I can't stream things to it using the Chromecast method, because Google have decided to use a closed protocol.

What I _want_ is for companies to propose standards which anyone can use. For anyone to be able to produce a device which I can cast to. For me to be able to use the client of my choice to stream synchronised music to the devicce of my choice. For companies to compete on which one produces the best sound, or the nicest interface, rather than locking you in to their system.

Traditionally, in this kind of market, the first entrant goes proprietary, because they can lock people in easily, and you don't have any choice but to buy from them. But then others enter the market, and it's in their interests to be more open, because that way they can compete, en-bloc, with the market leader. And then eventually the market leader loses enough market share from not using the open methods that they open up too.

I'm not sure why this hasn't happened here yet. But I really hope it does.

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