Optimal Audio staff - Matt Rowe BW

Matt Rowe talks about Zone & WebApp and winning the Inavate Award for Best Audio Technology

How do you feel about winning the award for WebApp and Zone?

It’s amazing that this Optimal Audio’s third major award, as it shows that people have started to understand what our eco-system approach is and recognise its power and versatility. The award confirms that we had the right idea about decluttering and simplifying the commercial audio world, and that the hard work is really starting to pay off. Critically, it also gives our sales channels and system integrators added confidence in the brand and makes it an easier proposition to sell to their customers.

From your earliest vision of WebApp to where it is now – could you have foreseen this progress?

Not really, no! We’ve added so much more to it than we’d originally dreamt up at the start and it’s still building and gathering momentum. All the extra integration like streamers and third party control – they’re the sort of ‘real-world’ uses that people want and ask for. What must come with that, though, is trying to strike the right balance by keeping it clean, uncluttered and easy to use. It was always the intention that you should be able to configure it and use it without a user guide, just by playing around with it! 

I’m really pleased with the way the app ‘grows’ when people start to use it in more depth. We can provide those extra things but still maintain the basic principle of keeping it simple and easy to use. We’re saying – ‘if you want more, it’s there – just unpack it and use it’.

It’s clear that you’re very close to the product, and that the speed at which you’re developing things is very quick – are you enjoying the workflow in what appears to be a very agile team?

It’s great, yes. We have a small, nimble team with some real talent in what is a very fast-moving area of technology. We can try ideas, prototype stuff and bounce it around the team without taking months of development time, then show it to a few close partners and get their immediate feedback. It’s then about adapting and responding – it’s great because I think what you get with a smaller team is the opportunity to do little bits of everything, not just be a specialist in one area. You can be involved in all the aspects of software, electronics, styling and design – it’s very satisfying.

What’s next for Zone and WebApp?

We’ll certainly continue to make software releases as we identify other areas to enhance, but we’re also looking at ‘next generation’. What are the areas we can really take a leap forward in as technology moves on? So, things like HDMI – going to the next standards and opening up more markets where people are putting in lots of audio-visual solutions. I also think that deeper integration with other technology partners is something to pursue. We’ve also got more ideas about how to make the system easier to set up, building towards the possibility, for example, of completing a small or medium sized bar setup in literally an hour.

Finally, I think giving installers tools to showcase potential value-add services is important – like monitoring and maintenance packages. Ultimately, it’s about making WebApp ‘sticky’, so we want system integrators and installers to fall in love with the product and to keep using and specifying it.

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