What Apple should learn from Sonos.
I have finally made the switch from AirPlay to Sonos over the past few months. Getting AirPlay to do “whole-house-audio” was not working, predominantly because the system is not designed for this. The other issue that became quite apparent in my case was that the amount of network interference in my house on the WiFi channels was significant enough to cause drops in the audio streams. Granted, this is self-inflicted given the number of devices connecting to my network(s). The simplicity of AirPlay was the big draw when I went down that path. The coupled with the fact that I have a lot of Apple devices made it a natural avenue to try. The advantage Sonos has is their proprietary SonosNet Mesh Network. With the latest Beta, I can connect my Sonos components directly to my WiFi network without the need for a Connect Bridge – but the speakers themselves talk to one another on a private network that does not interfere with my wireless network. My speakers now also offer me wired ports to my otherwise wireless network and the Mesh network makes the coverage wider than before. Now, here’s my perspective on Sonos and Apple:
Apple should effectively adopt the Sonos approach when it comes to AirPlay and here’s why:
1) Apple can do a proprietary mesh network well, as long as they also couple that with traditional WiFi. By that I mean that every Apple device should have the ability to talk to other Apple devices (perhaps using Bonjour) over a Mesh network just like SonosNet. A lot of Apple customers have more than one Apple device (iOS devices included). More devices could effectively become nodes or members of the Mesh network. At the end of the day, Apple should be able to provide a seamless and reliable experience inside the home.
2) This should add to the “halo effect” and Apple should sell their own high-quality speakers (again). It’s a natural fit given the rest of their products (iTunes and iTunes Radio, iPods and iOS Devices, AppleTV etc). Think Apple’s HiFi – re-invented. Hey, maybe use the Beats brand. Obviously, the point is to get “whole-house-audio” right – like Sonos has.
3) Next of course is the argument around the “Internet of things”. A mesh network can consist of other smart devices. For a consumer like me who already has Apple’s Time Capsule and Airport Express wireless devices – it could mean having a single wireless network that reaches every part of my house and does QoS and packet shaping to suit the needs of the devices. Take “Continuity” to the next level.
4) The Mesh Network could also be made to work like a private iCloud. As people’s reliance on cloud storage grows – it may be efficient to have the network funnel content to Apples iCloud and back. By that I mean that all storage devices on the Mesh Network could sync content before it is synchronized with the cloud. Effectively reducing the number of redundancy/duplicate checks.
I think what it comes down to is that when a person who is as invested in Apple products as me finds a product like Sonos, there is this tendency to want to Apple-ize it. Highly un-necessary, I’m sure – but also tough to resist.