August 31, 2016:Sonos opens up to Amazon, Spotify and more

Sonos has made no secret of the fact that the popularity of Amazon’s Echo speakers, with an estimated 4m+ units sold so far, has sparked some internal soul-searching within its ranks.

In March, Sonos announced some layoffs, and promised to double down on subscription streaming services and voice control.

“Alexa/Echo is the first product to really showcase the power of voice control in the home. Its popularity with consumers will accelerate innovation across the entire industry,” said CEO John MacFarlane at the time about Amazon’s speaker and voice-control tech.

Yesterday, we found out more about Sonos’ plans for such innovation – including Amazon as a partner. That was the biggest surprise: people who own both Sonos speakers and an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot speaker will be able to use Alexa to control the Sonos devices.

“We don’t care what you listen to, how you get to it, or in what room – we just want it to be effortless, quick and epic,” said president Patrick Spence.

While it’s good news for customers who want to straddle the Sonos/Amazon fence, we are wondering how the partnership will persuade new buyers to get a Sonos speaker rather than an Echo.

Spotify is also a key partner for Sonos, with the announcement yesterday of a Spotify Connect integration that will enable people to play Spotify through their Sonos devices from within the streaming service’s own app.

Sonos says that Pandora is among the other streaming services in line for similar direct integrations. Again, it’s a welcome move for people who use both Spotify and Sonos – apparently 50% of all Sonos households use Spotify.

Sonos has been a pioneer in connected audio, but in 2016 it is steeling itself for competition from the biggest tech companies: not just Amazon’s Echo, but Google’s soon-to-launch Home speaker too.

A healthily-competitive market for these devices is good news for the music industry if they encourage even more people to pay for monthly music subscriptions. But Sonos, like any pioneer, cannot rest on its laurels in the face of its new, well-resourced competitors.

Stuart Dredge
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