So-Called Smart Radio is a Dumb Move by Logitech
Not even a month after I wrote about my journey to musical bliss and my beloved Squeezebox system, I received news that the idiots in charge at Logitech have pulled the plug on the Squeezebox, discontinuing the entire product line. On the evening of Tuesday, August 28, I was browsing my Twitter feed and saw an announcement from @LogitechUE about “something big” to come the following day (Logitech UE is the brand resulting from Logitech’s acquisition of Ultimate Ears). Being the optimist I am, I was hopeful that this would be something to breathe new life into the Squeezebox product line. Boy, was I ever disappointed on Wednesday morning when it turned out to be a dumbed-down, incompatible rebranding of the Squeezebox Radio as the “Logitech UE Smart Radio .”
Don’t be fooled, people. This new “Smart Radio” is no Squeezebox. It would be more accurate to call it a dumbed-down Squeezebox.
Here’s what I have learned about the new “Smart Radio” so far:
- It requires an Internet connection to function. No, not a network, as you’d expect–an active Internet connection. Yes, even to play the local music stored on your home computers. (It does have a line-in, however, which may work without an Internet connection.)
- It’s for Windows and Mac. No Linux support, unlike the Squeezebox system. (It’s been brought to my attention that Linux software is available for download, but you won’t get support for it.)
- The new Smart Radio won’t be able to sync playback with any of the former Squeezebox devices, but it will be able to do synchronized playback with other Smart Radios.
- UE Media Server setup is easier than the old Logitech Media server used for Squeezebox, but at the cost of significant reduction in features and options.
- In the USA at least, the Smart Radio costs more than the Squeezebox Radio, but it includes the battery pack which was an optional extra for the SB Radio.
- An (ahem) “upgrade” path is provided should you wish to convert your Squeezebox Radio to a UE Smart Radio, but it is a one-way conversion. No going back if you change your mind.
- Logitech has discontinued direct sales and manufacturing of any new Squeezebox models, but you will still be able to buy new existing products through other retail outlets until inventory is depleted.
- Several third-party apps allow iOS and Android devices to act as Squeezeboxes, and there are software players for Windows, Mac and Linux–so existing Squeezebox users can still extend their Squeezebox system to other locations in this way. (See iPeng and SqueezePad for iOS, SqueezePlayer for Android, and SqueezePlay for everything else.)
- Logitech representatives have stated that there are no immediate plans to end any Squeezebox related services including mysqueezebox.com, forums.slimdevices.com, and so on. There will be some updates to the Logitech Media Server software for bug fixes, compatibility, and so on.
- Something akin to the Squeezebox Touch (i.e. a player which would connect to external amp and speakers) under the UE brand has been hinted at, but details have not been revealed.
- Whether there will be ongoing support for services such as Spotify, Rhapsody, MOG, Slacker, Pandora, etc. in Logitech Media Server is questionable. This is an area that requires Logitech support and can’t be passed to community developers. [Personal aside: Given Logitech's failure to keep existing services up to date, I don't really see much hope for this. On the other hand, if the UE media server software continues to share code with the existing Logitech Media Server software, maybe the ongoing maintenance for music services will be rolled together and maintaining them will become a higher priority. Ultimately, though, I fear my access to Rhapsody via the Squeezeboxes I own will fail long before my ability to play my local music does.]
- Existing Squeezebox users have no reason to panic or think about replacing their system in the short term. Your stuff will still work for the foreseeable future. Squeezeboxes are still being sold and they carry a two-year warranty in the USA, so Logitech will have to support them for at least that long (my interpretation).
- There have been hints from some long-time Squeezebox community members and third-party developers at forums.slimdevices.com that plans are underway to keep the Squeezebox platform alive without dependence on Logitech.
Most of the information here was gleaned from the Squeezebox community forum where Michael Herger, a Logitech developer, Ben Klass, a former Logitech employee, and others have been very helpful in providing information about this transition in an unofficial capacity. Personally, I trust these sources more than anything I have seen from official Logitech representatives–in fact, much of the information I have seen from Logitech representatives has been conflicting or just plain wrong.
Here are some additional links to threads and details I found particularly helpful:
From Michael Herger: Logitech | UE Smart Radio looks like a SB Radio, sounds like a SB Radio and is running almost the same software. But it’s supposed to be much easier to use than the Squeezebox. It’s Logitech’s attempt at making the product ready for the mass-market. It still offers almost the same feature set as the SB Radio, the same music service, the same sound, while (hopefully) offering an improved UX [user experience].
Thanks to Squeezebox developer and former Logitech employee Ben Klass for the title of this post and for sharing his insight so candidly. It’s definitely worth reading the full post he wrote in the Squeezebox community forum, some of which is quoted below:
The product itself…man, it’s so notable in how not notable it is. There isn’t one new “wow” thing this has over the 3-year-old SB Radio. And it’s hitting the market at US$179 MSRP. Ouch. Good luck with that, UE… They are leaving their installed customer base and developer base behind, pissing them off and not even offering them an upgrade path. All while having an incomplete new product offering that has no value proposition as it is now. This way, the product will be dead soon.
And here is the official Logitech announcement to Squeezebox customers, from the Logitech Squeezebox forum:
We’ve just announced our new brand, Logitech UE, that merges the design/engineering capability of Logitech and the Squeezebox product with the music know how of Ultimate Ears. This new brand serves music lovers across a wide range of music listening devices, including the Logitech® UE Smart Radio.
Important for you to know, the UE Smart Radio can play alongside your Logitech Squeezebox products, but will operate and be controlled separately. The team is working hard on releasing in a few weeks an optional software update for existing Squeezebox Radio users that will allow Squeezebox Radios to upgrade to the new Logitech UE Smart Radio experience. This update is optional and people who would prefer to maintain their Squeezebox Radio as is can do so. Moving forward, Logitech UE will only be developing for the Smart Radio platform.
That said, the Squeezebox platform you’ve been enjoying over the years will continue to operate as it has, providing you access to a rich world of music and we’ll continue to address any questions or troubleshooting on our Logitech.com support page: http://www.logitech.com/en-us/support/speakers-audio
That’s all I got, folks. My loyalty to Logitech is finished. They won me over with the Squeezebox Boom and Radio and now they’ve lost me with this. They acquired and have nearly killed the Harmony remote brand, Slim Devices and Squeezebox, and are now well on their way to killing the UE brand as well. If you want a real Squeezebox, better high-tail it on over to Amazon and get yourself a Squeezebox Radio or Squeezebox Touch before they are all gone.
If others reading this have more information to add, or corrections to the information I have gathered here, please post in the comments. I felt like I needed to write something about this to follow-up my recent “Journey to Musical Bliss” article, and I thought this could be a sort of quick reference to the demise of the Squeezebox line.
Now excuse me while I wash my hands. I feel dirty from typing “Smart Radio” so many times.