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.

Top Rated Comments

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61 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.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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61 months ago
The streaming ecosystem has been led by Apple? In what world
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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61 months ago
"irreversible shift in the music ecosystem, led by Apple." really i thought apple was more a Jonny come lately to music streaming....
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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61 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.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
61 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...
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
61 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.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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