Analysis

Spotify takes on Apple AirPlay with Spotify Connect initiative


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spotify-connectStreaming music services have long been keen to be integrated into connected hi-fis and speakers in the home: everyone works with Sonos, but Yamaha, Philips, Simple Audio and other manufacturers have also worked with companies including Spotify, Napster and Deezer.

Now Spotify is pushing its home-audio ambitions on a few steps with something called Spotify Connect. Announced this morning, it will build the service into a range of hi-fis and speakers, controlled by Spotify’s mobile apps (and later, its desktop app too).

The 10 launch partners are Argon, Bang & Olufsen, Denon, Hama, Marantz, Philips, Pioneer, Revo, Teufel and Yamaha, with more to follow – Spotify Connect builds Spotify into the Wi-Fi chipsets used by many more manufacturers, to ensure they need to do as little work as possible to support it.

Spotify users will pair their mobile app with a compatible hi-fi or set of speakers, then tap the Spotify Connect button within the app to start playing music through them – the key point being that the music will be streamed directly to the home-audio device rather than via the smartphone or tablet.

“What I see in general with the iPod and iTunes and those kinds of developments is that the audio [hardware] world has basically lost its role in the innovation curve, and they’ve started to become followers,” says Spotify’s hardware partnerships boss Pascal de Mul.

“Partners are great at building devices that make great sound quality and great design, but they struggle a little bit with following the speed of innovation that happens on the internet. They’re screwing things together, and you can’t do that as quickly as screwing software together. But by doing this, we bring them back in front.”

The technology is a direct rival for Apple’s AirPlay – although Spotify’s iOS app supports that too – with Google also exploring the idea of slinging music around the living room through its Chromecast dongle and Cast technology.

Plans for hardware partners to promote Spotify Connect via an on-box logo could put the cat among the pigeons – particularly in terms of whether rival services can launch similar features. But it’s a bold and disruptive move.

“We want to make sure people understand that it’s not just about the £500-and-up devices. We basically want to be everywhere: this is a strategic step towards being ubiquitous in the living room,” says de Mul.

Stuart Dredge

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