(Last Updated On: January 29, 2020)

A tech engineer said Sonos’ move may signal fewer promises of free lifetime software support from device makers as bulk of the labor and financial capital are poured into software rather than into hardware.

Legacy Sonos speakers, starting May, will stop receiving software updates and new features. (From: https://9to5google.com/)
Legacy Sonos speakers, starting May, will stop receiving software updates and new features. (From: https://9to5google.com/)

A technology expert-engineer said Sonos’ recent move to axe support for its legacy speakers may be the start of fewer lifetime-support promises from device manufacturers, but said an alternative, although difficult, may be offered to prevent antagonism from customers.

In her column for Bloomberg Opinion, Global Financial Access Blockchain Engineer Elaine Ou offered Sonos, and other device makers, the viability of running devices on open-source software as a long-term strategy.

Also a former lecturer in the electrical and information engineering department at the University of Sydney, she said:

”A better long-term solution for the company might be found by looking to a different coalition of rebellious customers: a group that has been quietly reverse-engineering their speakers to liberate them from the company’s software entirely. It’s not an easy task. A Sonos speaker integrates a speaker and a microprocessor running a proprietary operating system. In order to jailbreak the speaker, a user must gain access to the internal hardware and install their own software.”
”It would no doubt please these customers were Sonos to make their legacy speakers open source. Sonos has already indicated that the company can remotely erase the software; it could similarly perform a remote reinstallation of an open-source operating system like Linux or Android. The company’s tech-savvy fans could then continue to improve the software — which could be downloaded by other users — while Sonos focuses on its core competency of manufacturing high-end speakers.”

The Start of Less Lifetime Software Support

Tech expert-engineer Elaine Ou said Sonos may look into running their software on open-source, and focus on its expertise on producing quality devices for a long-term business model (From Herald&Review)
Tech expert-engineer Elaine Ou said Sonos may look into running their software on open-source, and focus on its expertise on producing quality devices for a long-term business model (From Herald&Review)

In the future, device manufacturers may be less generous about promising a lifetime of free software support, according to Ou.

For tech experts, backing down from a commitment to provided customers free software may not come as a surprise as much of today’s work toward technological improvements is done in software.

Cars, one example Ou cited, hasn’t seen drastic changes in its internal combustion engine since fuel injectors were introduced in the 1980s. Instead, indicators of quality improvements in recent decades had been focused on the performance of sensors and software to interpret sensor data. And this may be evidential with autonomous vehicles where updates may be crucial to continue ensuring customers’ safety.

A question she raised was:

“Will further updates be free, or will the vehicle manufacturer hold consumer safety for ransom?”

From a consumer’s perspective, however, zero software updates may be difficult to deal with especially when a company promises otherwise. As such, authorizing open-source software may be considered.

Ou said:

“While it’s easy to insist that customers should have free access to software updates running on devices they rightfully own, it’s hard to reconcile a sustainable business model with a lifetime of free software. A device that requires a paid subscription or leaves software updates as an exercise for the customer is better than one that turns into a brick.”