A boon for homeowners as the consumer giants work together.

More and more clients are Apple Music users. Until this week, that has meant integrating Sonos into many jobs, as it has been the only music streamer with native Apple Music capabilities. But starting this week, Apple Music is now available through the Amazon Alexa ecosystem. I have to say that I am pretty shocked. Amazon and Apple have not been buddy-buddy for a long time. In fact, until very recently you couldn’t even purchase an Apple TV on Amazon.com.

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When Amazon announced that Apple Music was coming, I could not believe it. But it is here and my clients and I are happy. While there will be lots of limitations, particularly because the only way to activate Echo devices is via voice or the Echo app, many clients will be more than happy with the limitation. We are installing Echo Links at the rack as an input into the matrix and setting Apple Music as the preferred service. For the client, it is a two-step process, but all clients have to say is “Alexa, play Guns N Roses in the rack.” That starts the Link playing. Then we have custom commands and routines to direct the music to different rooms via the audio matrix — “Alexa, play music in the kitchen.” Now Guns N Roses is playing from Apple Music in the kitchen. Clients who are into voice control love it. The biggest drawback is the inability to integrate into the GUI of the Crestron system (except for directing the music to rooms and grouping rooms) and using any physical keypads to start the streams.

For those who want physical keypad buttons or a more integrated experience, we continue to recommend Sonos as their Apple Music solution. I am already finding the conversations to be quite interesting, if not a little complex, too. Trying to explain the difference and trade offs between integration, keypad control, voice control, and the fact that you cannot have it all can be confusing for the client and a little disconcerting. I am hopeful that Sonos will soon get voice control of Apple Music via Alexa, although for now it is only available with Amazon hardware.

I am also hopeful that this is a sign that Apple will start opening up to more hardware players. I would love to see it integrated into Autonomics, and I know my Control4 friends would be ecstatic if it was available natively in Control4. When Control4 got Amazon music a few months ago at CEDIA, the dealers I know were very excited because almost all of their clients have Prime and a lot of them use Amazon music as their main music service since it is essentially free.

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The more interoperability between hardware and software in our business, the better it is for homeowners. Choice is critical, especially when they get so much choice from consumer-grade product lines. We need the same choice in our professional-grade products. The partnership between Amazon and Apple, while consumer-based products, shows that Apple is willing to work with others and hopefully we will be able to have more professional-grade product with Apple Music to offer to our clients.

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