Editors' note: This story was updated September 27, 2012, to include a response from Logitech.
In my review of the Logitech UE Smart Radio, there's a single parenthetical line mentioning that the company is discontinuing the Squeezebox line of products. Incredibly, that's more than Logitech has officially said on the matter, leaving the passionate fans of the Squeezebox platform wondering what's going to happen to their network audio streamers.
To be clear, the Squeezebox product line is unequivocally over. Logitech representatives have confirmed to me that there will be no new Squeezebox products, and the Logitech Web site has been virtually wiped of any mention of the Squeezebox brand. The new UE Smart Radio is not compatible with Squeezebox products, despite running software that doesn't seem all that different. But I'd bet that many Squeezebox owners have little idea that the platform is going away, unless they've been reading a 47-page thread on the Squeezebox forum of owners looking for answers.
On its own, it's not surprising that the Squeezebox line is being discontinued. Products are discontinued all the time, such is the nature of progress. But the Squeezebox network audio streamers weren't typical products; owners were buying into an ecosystem of products. The ability to add more Squeezebox products to your network was a major selling point, making Squeezebox owners more invested the platform than you'd be with another gadget.
The Squeezebox ecosystem also includes software, and now there's a serious question as to how long the now-discontinued products will continue to work at full functionality. Squeezebox products rely on the MySqueezebox.com server to access streaming services like Rhapsody, Spotify, Pandora, and Internet radio. If Logitech stops supporting MySqueezebox, Squeezebox products will be limited to streaming local digital music libraries over a home network.
At the moment, Squeezebox owners have a faint promise from a sympathetic Squeezebox developer on the forum (commenting in an unofficial capacity) that there are "no plans" to shut down the MySqueezebox site, but that's far from a hard guarantee that it will remain running for at least, say, two years. (In fact, later on the same developer seems less confident, stating Squeezebox products are "very likely to work great 6 to 12 months in the future.")
And if you're not one of the diehards who read the forum, you probably have no idea that your digital audio ecosystem is now on borrowed time.
That's not to say that Logitech necessarily made the wrong decision to shift to the simplified UE Smart Radio -- in fact, my review highlights that it's much easier to set up and use than the Squeezebox products, making it a considerably more accessible product. The old Squeezebox Radio will also be upgradable to the new UE software, although no other Squeezebox products will have the upgrade option. But at the very least, Logitech owes dedicated Squeezebox fans (many who have invested a lot of time, money, and effort on the platform for over a decade) an official update about the end of the product line and what they can expect going forward.
The punchline to the story is that same 47-page thread of frustrated Squeezebox enthusiasts includes a hint that there will be new UE products compatible with the Smart Radio, creating a Squeezebox-like family of products that work together. It may be wise to see how Logitech handles its Squeezebox customers before committing to the new UE ecosystem.
In response to this story, Logitech issued the following statement:
Logitech values its Squeezebox customers, and we want them to continue enjoying Squeezebox. We actively plan to support the service, in its current form, for all existing users.
Logitech UE Smart Radio is the next evolution of the Squeezebox platform. All Squeezebox Radio users will have the option to upgrade to the Logitech UE Smart Radio platform, allowing them to take advantage of the new and improved software features. This upgrade is completely optional, and those that don't want to alter their Squeezebox Radio experience will not be required to.
While the Logitech UE Smart Radio can play alongside existing Logitech Squeezebox products, it will operate and be controlled separately.
We will continue to provide troubleshooting and support at for Squeezebox users at http://www.logitech.com/support/speakers-audio. The current mysqueezebox.com website will continue to work with existing Squeezebox devices. The new uesmartradio.com website is designed for Logitech UE Smart Radios, as well as those who upgrade from a Squeezebox Radio.
If you have additional questions we encourage you to visit the forums and ask there. We are actively monitoring and responding to questions as they arise there.
Additionally, Logitech noted that the company did post an update on Logitech's official forums, rather than the Slim Devices forum where I initially noticed the confusion from Squeezebox owners. That's certainly better than the lack customer outreach I originally assumed, although Logitech's message is still only only being heard by Squeezebox customers who read the official forum. As one forum member put it, "(Logitech seems to be) capable of writing (e-mail) to me to sell me new products, it shouldn't have been that difficult to inform me of the Squeezebox news."