Sonos was surprised. While the company had its eyes focused on direct competition from Bose and its high-end products, the pioneer of wifi multiroom speakers did not see the mid-range category of smart loudspeakers coming such as Amazon Echo.
While its iconic founder John MacFarlane passed his hand in January for personal reasons, and after a wave of layoffs last year, the California-based company launches Playbase, a sound base that slips under the TV. Most notably, his new boss, Patrick Spence, bets on a partnership with Amazon that will allow to integrate the assistant Alexa on all Sonos’ speakers, which hopes to become “the sound platform of the connected home”.
“Partners for a Universal Experience”
Why choosing to partner with a competitor rather than develop your own solution? “It’s the same strategy as the integration of music services with the Sonos platform: we want to work with many partners to deliver a universal experience,” says Antoine LeBlond, software manager. Amazon is the first but others, like Google Home or Siri, should logically follow. According to LeBlond, “it’s about focusing on our strengths, sound and music. Building an intelligent assistant is an extremely complex challenge that some have been working on for the last decade. ”
On stage, Patrick Spence gives a demonstration. “Alexa, play David Bowie on Sonos. The assistant runs. “Pause,” “What is the title on theof this song? “. Classic, the controls work as expected. Before the official launch somewhere in 2017, there is still a bit of work, especially to allow to control all the speakers in a multiroom configuration.
The current main drawback is that Sonos speakers, including the new Playbase, do not integrate multi-directional microphones. As a result, you have to purchase the $50’s Echo Dot module of Amazon to connect it to the system. But Patrick Spence said that eventually the company will directly integrate Alexa and the hardware needed in its products, as Lenovo and others showed at the CES in Las Vegas last January.
A fierce competition
After years of stalemate, the connected home seems ready to explode. The power of wifi routers finally allows to cover every corner of the room, and the assistants from Amazon, Apple and Google are the brain that was missing to communicate with all the devices.
So, with its multiroom mall platform and a loyal customer base – 30% of its revenues come from the purchase of an additional speaker – Sonos is well positioned to be a strong player in this niche. However, “the competition is fierce,” and the company “has to go beyond simple musical control and offer interactive interfaces and interactive voice services” said Spence. The company does not want to miss the boat a second time.