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February 12, 2006 / jnolen

Squeezebox + Pandora

Aww, hell yeah. Pandora has managed to cut a deal with SlimDevices, who will now begin offering the Pandora music recommendation service on my Squeezebox 3. And I get a 90-day free trial. I've been tempted to sign up for this service for a while and this may put me over the edge., which I also use, integrates data collection and streaming with the Squeezebox as well, made possible by the plugin architecture and some generous open source coders. Very handy. As is currently en vogue, I'm working on a side-by-side comparison of the services (in which I will spend at least as many words railing against the limitations of both imposed by brain-dead industry licensing terms).

I saw the news in Silicon Beat, which declares SlimDevices a come-out-of-nowhere hit. It's kind of bittersweet for someone who has been following the company for more than four years. But it's good that they're getting some recognition in the press, including several articles and reviews just this week.

Why now? This press history of Slim Devices is really enlightening read. Compare the coverage they’ve gotten since the first of the year (NYT, Wired, Cargo, PC World) to all that they garnered in the previous three. I think saw what Sonos did with their launch last year and finally decided to hire a PR firm.

This EETimes article offers more insight, including a glimpse at the structure of the company and the tidbit that they’re looking for a new round of funding. Good news, I say. They’ll need they money to take on Sonos which, last I heard, had more than sixty employees compared to SlimDevices’ twelve. It also has great traction with the press and some good distribution deals. And the Sonos system is an excellent product, and more consumer-friendly and less technical than the SlimDevices system. But it’s also more expensive and less open.

The article mentions that SlimDevices has sold “as many as 10,000 systems,” but that no doubt includes every unit they’ve sold in their four-year history. I think number of unique customers would be a more interesting metric. And I would love to see some current sales figures from these two companies to compare, but that’s not likely to happen.

The EE Times article spends a great deal of time on the open-source nature of the company, which is gratifying. They do a fair job of highlighting the benefits (being able to go further with fewer paid resources) that SlimDevices has gained from remaining open.

David Pogue (long-time Mac author currently writing a tech column for the NYT) gives the Squeezebox 3 a glowing review. He even has a 2 minute demo video of the SqueezeBox in action. But my favorite part of the article was this:

Now ordinarily, an electronics company is just a vendor. But in the case of Slim Devices, you get a real taste of the creators’ personalities. The company bends over backward to make itself an open, transparent, right-minded outfit. The server software is open source, meaning free and open to the public to modify; as a result, you can download Squeezebox plug-ins that give it even more abilities. (For example, a plug-in called SoftSqueeze lets you listen to your home music collection from any computer anywhere, by way of the Web.) A lively discussion area helps build a sense of community.

How cool is that? When the NYT spends an entire paragraph in the review of a consumer electronics product promoting Open Company values, the idea is really gaining some traction. Well said, Mr. Pogue!

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