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Apple Music Partner Sonos Sees its Future in Streaming, Voice Control

Wireless audio company and Apple Music partner Sonos has announced it will lay off employees as it restructures the business towards a new focus on music streaming and voice control.

The reasoning behind the move came in a blog post yesterday by Sonos CEO John MacFarlane, who called it an "investment in the future of music" that would allow the company to remain profitable, but which came with "very difficult" consequences. No details were given on the extent of the job cuts.

Apple-Music-Sonos
MacFarlane said the change would first see Sonos "lean into" the area of paid streaming services, following an irreversible shift in the music ecosystem, led by Apple.
This past year, when Apple announced its entry with Apple Music, we saw and helped drive a dramatic acceleration of paid music subscriptions. With Apple's influence, the entire ecosystem – labels, artists, management – began to embrace and advance streaming all over the world.

Now, this shift is irreversibly started, and everyone in the ecosystem is adjusting to a world of streaming services. The Beatles library, now available on all the streaming services, is a perfect example of how labels are leaning into streaming.
MacFarlane said the path forward for the music industry and for Sonos is "crystal clear" as he announced it was "doubling down" on streaming music, with an aim to build "incredibly rich experiences" as consumers inevitably grew dissatisfied with existing solutions for listening at home.

The CEO offered few details on the products or services that would be at the center of such experiences, but identified voice control as the way forward, calling the company "fans" of Amazon's Alexa personal assistant and Echo hardware.
Voice recognition isn't new; today it's nearly ubiquitous with Siri, OK Google, and Cortana. But the Echo found a sweet spot in the home and will impact how we navigate music, weather, and many, many other things as developers bring new ideas and more content to the Alexa platform.

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. What is novel today will become standard tomorrow. Here again, Sonos is taking the long view in how best to bring voice-enabled music experiences into the home. Voice is a big change for us, so we'll invest what's required to bring it to market in a wonderful way.
Sonos made a name for itself by offering wireless sound systems that connect to an app which integrates third-party music streaming services including Spotify and SoundCloud. Apple Music content became available on Sonos wireless speakers in February after extensive beta testing by hundreds of thousands of listeners.

Sonos faces increasingly stiff competition as companies like Google, Samsung and Bose continue to expand their own wireless home audio solutions. However, while Amazon announced two new voice-activated audio products just last week, it also released accompanying SDKs and APIs which enable any device to respond to voice commands, opening the door for potential Sonos speaker integrations in the future.



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10 months ago
A bit odd this. The speakers are already one of the most effective ways to access streaming music services, mixing them and playing from multiple sources without really needing to care which one has the song you want. It seems highly unlikely they will start their own streaming service as they wouldn't be able to compete in that market or provide anything new or even promote it over their rivals in their own speakers.

Voice recognition is maybe an interesting addition but easily copied by rivals in the connected speaker system. Hardly something to keep them growing.

Looks to me like they are simply making the company more efficient but felt the need to come up with a convoluted reason as to why the layoffs.
Rating: 17 Votes
10 months ago
The streaming ecosystem has been led by Apple? In what world
Rating: 9 Votes
10 months ago
"irreversible shift in the music ecosystem, led by Apple." really i thought apple was more a Jonny come lately to music streaming....
Rating: 7 Votes
10 months ago

A bit odd this. The speakers are already one of the most effective ways to access streaming music services, mixing them and playing from multiple sources without really needing to care which one has the song you want. It seems highly unlikely they will start their own streaming service as they wouldn't be able to compete in that market or provide anything new or even promote it over their rivals in their own speakers.

Voice recognition is maybe an interesting addition but easily copied by rivals in the connected speaker system. Hardly something to keep them growing.

Looks to me like they are simply making the company more efficient but felt the need to come up with a convoluted reason as to why the layoffs.


Bingo. I hate when highly paid management executuves cant even manage to tell basic truths.
Rating: 6 Votes
10 months ago
I was in the market for a new sound system recently and I looked at the Sonos stuff as I do like the features. But the prices are just so high, you can get a much higher quality DAC and Speakers for 1/3rd the price. Do I want lower-quality sound just to have the added Sonos technology or do I want to buy an Airport Express and my own "dumb" sound system and combine the two? For me the answer was simple, save money and get a higher quality sound system in the process.

For me, they've priced themselves out of the market.
Rating: 6 Votes
10 months ago
Although McFarlane is probably correct about streaming music, to me it's a depressing shift in the industry. It seems like every business now wants me to provide them with a steady stream of income. So rather than purchase music when I feel like it or when I find something I like, it's now no different than all the other utility bills that pile up each month: Internet, cable, mobile phone, electricity, water, trash.... And like all the other monthly payments, once I'm hooked into the revenue stream, the cost will gradually rise.

I have hundreds and hundreds of albums already, on CD or vinyl. I'll just keep transferring that collection over to my devices and spare myself the extra monthly bill.
Rating: 5 Votes
10 months ago
Add me to those confused by this. I've just started with Sonos and absolutely love it - added a new Play 1 last week which took less time to set up than it did to open the box. And the box wasn't hard to open.

It's refreshing to find a product which comes with no shenanigans. I can't buy an Apple product without wondering how long before Apple hobbles it, or what features they held back for the next version, or how it's going to tie me into a cloud service which I have to pay for and will force me to update things against my best interests.

No games with Sonos, it really does just work. Not like Airplay, or Siri, or Home Sharing, or any of that garbage.

Which has me fearing, all this cosying up to Apple is only going to bad places. New Sonos versions every year, pointless feature upgrades, cloud this that and the other, 3rd party services disappearing, HomeKit lock-in... Paranoid? Yep really paranoid about this one...
Rating: 5 Votes
10 months ago
I have SONOS throughout my house, including 1st generation products. Very reliable. Very functional. Very expensive. That's what keeps most people from purchasing the brand. I'm not saying their products aren't worth it (that same pricing strategy works for Apple), but by now they should have production costs down and if they cut the price, they could attract a whole new demographic. Their speaker products are expensive, and many people have much less expensive BT speakers that play directly from their phone in any room. Sure, not zone-worthy, etc., but still functional for less money.

I would hate for SONOS to go away. I truly love and recommend SONOS but come on...I can get all the functionality of an Apple TV for $150 and similar top-brand devices for $99 so it's very hard for people to cough up $350 for a basic Zone Director. Something as simple as that box (no amplifier) should be $99 and much smaller.
Rating: 4 Votes
10 months ago
More seriously, what made the music of the '50s through the '80s so great was the social evolution. The final, mainstream accepting of blues, jazz and soul, and the appearance of singer-songwriters. The intention of teenagers. Radio disk jockeys. I'm sure my extreme age has something to do with it, but I just don't see that wild invention happening anymore. Radio collapsed into an ocean of bilious talk. MTV collapsed. The labels should probably collapse. Will Alexa/Siri/Cortana/Hey Sergei replace it? Not so far. It is totally commodified. Authentic? Not so much.
Rating: 3 Votes
10 months ago

I have to disagree here. Sonos isn't over priced.


Really? $350 for a basic Zone Director that does nothing more than stream music to a receiver? Look at the functionality crammed into a Chromestick or FireStick for $35. AppleTV for $99-$150. Tell me again how Sonos isn't overpriced?
Rating: 3 Votes

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