Hello Sonos, goodbye Bose and why proprietary anything sucks

SonosI finally did it…I broke my longstanding relationship with Bose sound systems and bought my first Sonos equipment…starting out with the Bridge and one Play 3 speaker. I brought it home and had it running in ten minutes. No wires, and even though I had a manual, I didn’t need it. Like my all of my Apple gear, it just works.

Those Bose things that I own? Well, they have proprietary cables, proprietary plugs, proprietary everything. I can’t use pieces of the system I’ve already purchased without buying more from the same vendor. That means the investment I’ve already made is only useable if I continue to invest more in the same company. Sound familiar?

Vendor lock-in

Vendor lock-in, which is exactly what I’m describing with Bose, is a significant problem across the technology landscape. For many healthcare companies, it’s a nightmare they live with every day thanks to generations of software built for an insular industry. But it doesn’t exist only in isolated cases or in industries playing catch up.

Cloud computing has serious problems as well with vendor lock-in. Before cloud came on the scene, technologists were hard at work enabling solutions on common standards and protocols like J2EE. The idea was to build platforms that could be swapped out and replaced, regardless of vendor, by any software following the same standards. It was key to the maturity of software platform engineering.

But cloud isn’t as mature as the software we’ve grown used to. The standards aren’t fully formed and many of the companies offer platforms that will be costly to move away from.  Whether that’s by design or a fortuitous accident (for them) remains to be seen, but cloud standards for hosting, connection and administration are generally proprietary to the vendor. That leaves anyone using a cloud platform vulnerable to price increases, poor customer service, and a future that may not be optimal for the customer.

Avoiding lock-in

Avoiding lock-in means having a way to access your own data and to be free to migrate off a cloud platform whenever needed. This requires a level of integration sophistication that is rare in cloud computing but likely to be the next wave of cloud offering. Ultimately, customers must own their data and their business processes, meaning they should be able to move their work to any cloud provider at any time…also known as portability. Before you choose a platform, be sure to have a way to avoid vendor lock-in. There are a limited number of companies like Salesforce that dominate cloud computing, so be careful not to automatically go with the biggest and most popular, but make your choices instead on what allows flexibility and portability.


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Categories: Cloud / SaaS / PaaS, Consumerization, Tech Strategy

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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5 Comments on “Hello Sonos, goodbye Bose and why proprietary anything sucks”

  1. paullabelle
    May 20, 2013 at 4:50 am #

    Great analogy! Hope those atop Bose Mountain get the message, at least for the sake of my local economy in our beloved Commonwealth of Mass. Happy listening, Chris!

    • May 20, 2013 at 9:03 am #

      Thanks, Paul. I was Bose’s biggest fan but I’m afraid they’re being left in the technology dust by software-driven hardware that takes advantage of the environment I already own…electricity, network and iPhone. Brilliant.

      What I find most interesting, though, is what Sonos does to further the expectations of business-facing software like cloud.

  2. August 8, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    I think your conclusion here is a little off the mark.

    I love Sonos. I have spent a lot on their equipment and use it everyday. But it only works with other Sonos gear.

    You can’t play Sonos streams on your Apple laptop.

    You have to buy another Sonos.

    You’ve traded some physical interface lock-ins for a hardware/software platform lock-in.

    • August 8, 2013 at 10:47 am #

      Thanks for your comment, Joel. The value of Sonos over Bose is the ability to connect any external source to a Sonos speaker (except a Bose…). We use our Apple devices as the source (iTunes), so the need to play Sonos streams on an apple really isn’t an issue. We see Sonos as the endpoint, not the source.

      • August 12, 2013 at 1:47 am #

        A concur Chris, a great analogy here: “Ultimately, customers must own their data and their business processes, meaning they should be able to move their work to any cloud provider at any time” – it’s often the hidden hassle this entails that can kill the life of data projects. Sure you ARE able to get your data out of here, but you’ll have to jump through hoops A,B and C, each of which carry their own administrative fee.

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