Matt Galligan


The case for open APIs and why Sonos is really missing a big opportunity.

January 26th, 2010 · 19 notes

DISCLOSURE: I am a RABID Sonos fan. I’ve got 5 zone players, two controllers and all in a 1,200 sq ft condo. I absolutely love their product, and think it’s exactly what music lovers should have. Having said that, they kind of made me angry this morning:

I’ve been engaged in a very public argument with Sonos over Twitter this morning because of a very simple tweet that they posted.

Why Sonos maintains a closed architecture - to guarantee the user experience via @CEPro http://bit.ly/977LKk

This is a seriously flawed argument. Open API’s are only meant to IMPROVE a product. There are many ways to close down certain things that would dramatically affect or impact the user’s experience, and as long as you sandbox some of those things, then there’s no problem. Look at software development on the iPhone…generally speaking, most every iPhone app that comes out has a solid user experience. And even if it doesn’t, it’s the user’s choice to download the app.

I envision a future where almost every website, and certainly every consumer electronics device has some sort of open API, where the usage, interaction, data, etc. can be played with.

Sonos stated:

@mg fair enough. But you’re comparing a music system/CE device w/ a Web service. TM

Even this argument isn’t valid anymore. Look at the strides that Boxee, Chumby and even a microwave manufacturer have taken to improve their products through open APIs.

UPDATE: Laura pointed out that even Ford now has an API. This further stresses my point that everyone will get into it…and that if you don’t have an API you’ll be sorely left behind.

What a Sonos API could allow

  1. Integration with home automation: Think about it…you get home, push your “lights” button at your front door, and immediately your zones turn on to play your favorite Pandora station. Or how about when you’re at home, in your bedroom, rocking out to a great Sirius station…but when you leave the room and turn your lights of…wouldn’t it be great if it turned that zone player off?

  2. A better software controller: So what if Sonos doesn’t have time to improve their deplorable software controller? Let someone else do it! When people were disappointed in the AIM IM client, they took matters into their own hands and redesigned it, made it better, and surely didn’t sacrifice user experience…they only improved it.

  3. Turn your Chumby into a controller: While we’re on the topic of open APIs, why not use Chumby’s fantastic widget API to create a Sonos widget? I love my CR200 controller, but at the same time…it’d be awesome just to have a controller that would stay by my bed side that I know I can’t lose.

  4. Build a “requests” web app: There’s a numerous amount of businesses that I’ve been in recently that are using Sonos as their main way of playing music. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could somehow go to a website and add a request into the queue?

I’ll get off my soapbox for now, but I think that Sonos has a real opportunity on their hands to open up their technology to outside developers.