Compatibility Questions are Spreading Through Our Lives

We use the Sonos speaker systems around our office. They’re great! But when Apple launched Apple Music some wondered if Sonos would support Apple Music, and vice versa? Tweets from Sonos and Apple made it clear that it would.

But here is another example of how conflicting compatibility between hardware and services can frustrate consumers, making us regret our purchases of otherwise fine devices. In the competition between different standards, between online services, and plenty of other areas, there's often fallout that can make it hard to be a user of tech products.

Which car works with my phone?

One dreaded conflict is between Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto. It would seem silly that our choice of smartphones would dictate which kinds of cars we can buy, but what if the maker of your preferred car only provides in-car entertainment systems that support Android Auto?

This situation puts car makers and the companies that supply the in-car entertainment systems for their cars in a difficult situation. Rather than pick either Apple or Google, most auto makers will have to spend more time and effort integrating both systems.

Why aren't Siri and my house on speaking terms?

Another potential mess is the home automation/internet of things market. If you buy products in this category, you run the risk of having them end up on the wrong side of a divide between different interests. These include Nest thermostats, LIFX smart light globes, BelkinWeMo switch, Dropcam, etc. Which work with Apple’s HomeKit technology and which work on Android?

Stuck in the middle

This is not just the computer industry's problem, of course. If you're a pay TV subscriber you will feel the pinch if you  want to watch a TV series that's only available on another service – Orphan Black, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, or even an old episode of The Sopranos.

One commentator (Jason Snell) noted, “I have never been a fan of this approach as a consumer, because it makes me feel used. I'm not switching to a service because I actually like it; I'm switching because they've got something I want and are going to hold it hostage unless I pay them. It also sends a message that a particular service isn't actually worthwhile on its own, it's only worthwhile because they've paid someone a lot of money to create an exclusive item.”

So whether it's technological reasons or competitive reasons, we get caught in the middle. Here's hoping that Google, Apple, and everyone else in the tech industry try to work together to let us use the accessories we want to use. Nobody wants to be told to throw out audio equipment in order to switch streaming services, and nobody wants to have to buy a different brand of car because of the smartphone they choose to use. Compete all you like, as long as your customers aren't the victims.


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