Today Sonos, the multi-room streaming music system, announced an iPhone and iPod Touch application which turns the Apple devices into wireless Sonos controllers. The free app includes music management, Internet radio, album art etc. This is significant not so much because it suggest Sonos won�t be upgrading their physical controller unit anytime soon, but because it takes a step towards Apple touch devices become universal media controllers for the home. A concept which Sonos’ CEO is a firm believer of.
The concept of the connected digital home has been with us for many years and has thus far largely failed to materialize. Instead we’ve seen the surge of adoption of multiple home media technologies that largely don’t speak to each other. (My colleague Nate Elliott used to say that the future of the digital home wasn’t so much the Jetsons as the Flintsones). But perhaps the linking piece that will turn technology into people’s homes into the digital home will be the controller rather than a network. If so, Apple look the best placed to fill that role at this stage. To do so, Apple needs a more liberal approach to their rules for 3rd party app developers. To date anything that has overlapped too strongly with iTunes functionality hasn’t passed muster. It appears that Apple is indeed softening its stance: the Sonos app has numerous overlaps and indeed it creates a new, self-contained iTunes-like environment within the device when active. So that’s a big step forward, enabling Apple to stride into the digital home on the back of other companies technology and investment.