A number of years ago I came across a device called a Squeezebox, made by a company called Slim Devices. The first-generation model, which I bought, is pictured at the left. (There was also device called a Slimp3 which preceeded the Squeezebox).
The device sits with your stereo, connects to a wireless network (802.11b in the case of the first generation box), finds a computer running the SlimServer, and takes audio streams from that server to your home stereo.
In and of itself, that was cool enough for me. The SlimServer software (latest release, nightlies) is cross platform and open source – so that if you don’t like the way it handles, for example, multi-disc sets, you can change it, and contribute your changes back to the community (forums, wiki, bug tracker). (It’s Perl, and in the current versions uses MySQL to store library information – does very well even with large library sizes).
There’s even a Java application, SoftSqueeze, which emulates the hardware client, so you can experience the whole thing without buying any hardware. (CharlesV has created a mashup using Netvibes along with the Slimserver – one of the unintended uses to which an open source server can be put). Now they’ve created the Transporter, a high-end ($2000 list) audio device based on the same concept, but with “audiophile” quality components.
I want one, though it would probably put my stereo to shame, and is too “high fidelity” for my Mp3 collection. (Audio purists hate it, but I’m fine with mp3 files so long as the bitrate’s high enough).
How’d they manage to develop this masterpiece as a small startup? By leveraging community contribution.
Fast Company ran an article in the December issue: “Ears Wide Open,” calling Slim Devices “a next-generation open organization where customers imagine and design the products.” See also the sidebar on the Transporter.
My only concern is that they were recently purchased by Logitech – will Logitech understand and leave undisturbed the community Slim Devices has developed?