Sonos Complains About Apple's Restrictions on Third-Party Siri Access in Antitrust Hearing

Sonos is today participating in an antitrust hearing on the smart home, where Sonos legal chief Eddie Lazarus had some commentary to share on the smart home market and the dominance of companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple.

Sonos Feature
Headed up by Amy Klobuchar, the Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights is today hosting a hearing on "Protecting Competition and Innovation in Home Technologies." Most of Sonos' complaints relayed by Lazarus are focused on Amazon and Google, but he did have a few comments about Apple.

In particular, Sonos has taken issue with the way that Apple is implementing Siri support for third-party companies. Apple at WWDC announced that third-party companies are able to integrate ‌Siri‌ voice control into their HomeKit devices, but "Hey ‌Siri‌" commands are relayed through a HomePod or HomePod mini, making an Apple device a requirement.

Take Apple's announcement that it will now license Siri to third parties in the smart home. As reported in The Verge, Apple will only license Siri to companies that utilize the HomePod as a central hub to connect with Siri Thus, Apple is conditioning interoperability with Siri on companies placing a competitive Apple product alongside their own.

Lazarus also said that while Google, Apple, and other companies are working on interoperability through initiatives like Matter, he's skeptical that this will lead to consumer choice or foster genuine interoperability between different smart home platforms. He also warns that because Apple and Google control the standard, they have control over the "pace of innovation."

No doubt the dominant companies will suggest that new legislation is unnecessary in light of the initiatives they have underway -- like the "Matter" alliance -- that are working towards a degree of smart home standardization to facilitate interoperability. It may well be that these efforts will yield some positive results for the makers of back-end devices, such as light bulbs, garage door openers, and the like by enabling them to interoperate with any of the three major ecosystems (Alexa, Assistant, Siri) using a uniform code base. But count me a skeptic that these types of initiatives will foster consumer choice at the front-end -- where consumers control their smart home devices -- or do much, if anything, to foster genuine interoperability across the siloed ecosystems of gatekeepers. From the user's perspective, the choices among a very few walled gardens will likely remain the same. One could imagine, furthermore, a Trojan Horse aspect to all this. Those who control the standard and its evolution effectively control the nature and pace of innovation, including the innovations dreamed up by their competitors. The standard Matter is working on, as I understand it, is basically a creature of Google and Apple code. That is hardly a formula for fair competition or more creative invention. It's a formula for further entrenching the dominance of the very few.

Because Amazon and Google dominate the smart speaker market, most of what Lazarus had to say focused on those two companies. He complained that as a condition of allowing Google Assistant on Sonos speakers, Sonos had to agree to allow just one voice assistant at a time, even though it supports multiple.

But Google demanded as a condition of having Google Assistant in our products that we never allow concurrency with another general voice assistant. As a result, today Sonos customers must open an application and manually choose which single voice assistant will be configured on their device. This forced choice degrades the consumer experience, but it is arguably good for Google, which is betting that most users will choose Google Assistant as the default voice assistant and then stick to the Google ecosystem.

He said that Google and Amazon have a history of taking on competitors by producing copycat products sold at subsidized prices, which is something that Sonos and other smart speaker companies aren't able to compete with.

Amazon and Google have now come to control roughly 85% of the U.S. smart speaker market. This is terrible for innovative dynamics because it hamstrings those companies that have better products that cannot be sold at a loss and consumers lose. In addition to protecting the future profits of their dominant products and services, cross-subsidization ultimately will result in the same anticompetitive effects as "traditional" below-cost predatory pricing; prices are sure to go up once these dominant companies have driven the other companies out of the market and reduced competition.

Google and Amazon have also allegedly copied Sonos advertising initiatives to confuse consumers.

sonos ad copying
If things don't change, Lazarus warns that in the future, every smart home will be controlled by a few dominant companies.

We see two possible futures for the smart home. In the first scenario -- resulting from the current trajectory we're on -- every smart home will be controlled by one of a few dominant companies, Google, Amazon, or perhaps Apple or Facebook will squeeze in too. These behemoths will exert overwhelming control over the direction of innovation and what new ideas make it to market, ultimately replicating a market structure that history tells us inhibits innovation and competition. Consumer choice will also wither. Consumers will find themselves channeled into the siloed ecosystems of a Google or an Amazon in a self-reinforcing dynamic of network fueled dominance.

With revamped antitrust law and enforcement level, the U.S. government could "broaden the playing field," according to Lazarus, allowing Sonos and other companies to "innovate and bring novel experiences to customers," with multiple companies competing based on product and services merit.

Top Rated Comments

genovelle Avatar
14 weeks ago
So everyone hates Siri but damned if they don’t want access to it.
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ToomeyND Avatar
14 weeks ago
The walled garden team is out in force today. Having more options for equipment should be a good thing for use in a smart home product. Why on earth do you all want every product to be controlled by one company? Sonos speakers are legit, they work great (with Airplay 2 and others), offers support for google home and Alexa. They are a competitor keeping your HomePods on alert to do a good job or else. Now you all want Sonos to become their own platform? Just so that you guarantee that you can't use them with your iPhone? This is the strangest take I've seen on here in a while.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jmgregory1 Avatar
14 weeks ago
This argument that a consumer‘s experience is negatively effected by not being able to access any voice assistant they want to use on a smart speaker is just complete bs. There are examples of all sorts of products and services where your choice is what the company provides and if you want an alternative, you can use a different company’s product.

You can’t go to Burger King and demand a Big Mac…well I suppose you can do that, but you won’t get one. You can’t buy a Honda, but demand that it has a Corvette engine in it…again I suppose that you can do that, and if you have enough money actually get what you want, but the consumer choice is in being able to buy different pieces of equipment (in the case of Amazon, Google and Apple smart speakers).

The idea that the government should mandate that competing companies all make their products or services be able to work on other company’s devices is just insane. My suggestion to Sonos - focus on making the best sounding speakers so that people can enjoy music more and not worry about the smart speaker market. The timing is perfect, given Apple is once again out of the high fidelity speaker market, and it isn’t exactly a strong suit of either Google or Amazon. Not every speaker needs to be a small counter or shelf size.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
vipergts2207 Avatar
14 weeks ago
While I certainly understand some complaints on anti-competitive behavior by the tech giants, including being forced to choose a single available assistant on a smart home device, I really don't get the complaints on Matter. It's moving smart home devices toward true standardization and that is a good thing. Apple, Google, and Amazon are all members of the Wi-Fi Alliance as well, does that mean Wi-Fi is some nefarious attempt at entrenching Apple and other's market power or that innovation will slow because of the Wi-Fi Alliance's existence? Standards either exist or they don't, and they are frequently necessary, as in the case of Wi-Fi. If the powers that be behind Matter start using the standard in an anti-competitive manner then a complaint would be valid, but from where I sit, Matter appears to be an honest attempt at tying disparate smart home devices together in a way that will likely ensures interoperability, including between competitors and different ecosystems.

https://buildwithmatter.com/

I see a lot of companies participating in Matter, but notice that Sonos is not among them. Perhaps they should join the alliance for the new standard, rather than complaining about it.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Cigsm Avatar
14 weeks ago

[IMG width="251px"]https://images.macrumors.com/images-new/macrumorsthreadlogo@3x.png[/IMG] ('https://www.macrumors.com/2021/06/15/sonos-apple-homepod-siri-antitrust-complaints/')

Sonos is today participating in an antitrust hearing ('https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings/protecting-competition-and-innovation-in-home-technologies') on the smart home, where Sonos legal chief Eddie Lazarus had some commentary to share on the smart home market and the dominance of companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple.



Headed up by Amy Klobuchar, the Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights is today hosting a hearing on "Protecting Competition and Innovation in Home Technologies." Most of Sonos' complaints relayed by Lazarus are focused on Amazon and Google, but he did have a few comments about Apple.

In particular, Sonos has taken issue with the way that Apple is implementing Siri support for third-party companies. Apple at WWDC announced ('https://www.macrumors.com/2021/06/07/apple-announces-range-of-new-home-features/') that third-party companies are able to integrate Siri voice control into their HomeKit devices, but "Hey Siri" commands are relayed through a HomePod or HomePod mini, making an Apple device a requirement.Lazarus also said that while Google, Apple, and other companies are working on interoperability through initiatives like Matter, he's skeptical that this will lead to consumer choice or foster genuine interoperability between different smart home platforms. He also warns that because Apple and Google control the standard, they have control over the "pace of innovation."Because Amazon and Google dominate the smart speaker market, most of what Lazarus had to say focused on those two companies. He complained that as a condition of allowing Google Assistant on Sonos speakers, Sonos had to agree to allow just one voice assistant at a time, even though it supports multiple.
He said that Google and Amazon have a history of taking on competitors by producing copycat products sold at subsidized prices, which is something that Sonos and other smart speaker companies aren't able to compete with.
Google and Amazon have also allegedly copied Sonos advertising initiatives to confuse consumers.



If things don't change, Lazarus warns that in the future, every smart home will be controlled by a few dominant companies.With revamped antitrust law and enforcement level, the U.S. government could "broaden the playing field," according to Lazarus, allowing Sonos and other companies to "innovate and bring novel experiences to customers," with multiple companies competing based on product and services merit.

Written Testimony of Sonos ... ('https://www.scribd.com/document/511914140/Written-Testimony-of-Sonos-CLO-Eddie-Lazarus-in-Senate-Hearing-on-Competition#from_embed') by MacRumors ('https://www.scribd.com/user/212523051/MacRumors#from_embed')


Article Link: Sonos Complains About Apple's Restrictions on Third-Party Siri Access in Antitrust Hearing ('https://www.macrumors.com/2021/06/15/sonos-apple-homepod-siri-antitrust-complaints/')
What’s preventing Sonos from creating their own Smart Home platform?
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
boethius Avatar
14 weeks ago
Sonos play fair with AirPlay 2 support. Apple can’t even begin to deliver the same home audio experience that many of us enjoy. Why not fully support it?
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

HomePodandMini feature orange

Apple Remains 'Largely Absent' in U.S. Smart Speaker Market

Wednesday August 4, 2021 7:04 am PDT by
Apple remains "largely absent" in the U.S. smart speaker market while Amazon and Google continue to dominate, according to data gathered by Consumer Research Intelligence Partners (CIRP). Since 2017, Amazon has been the dominant company in the smart speaker market, with over two-thirds of smart speakers in U.S. homes being Amazon devices. Google holds about a one-quarter share of smart...
maxresdefault

Hands-On With the New Sonos Roam Speaker

Tuesday April 6, 2021 6:02 am PDT by
Sonos in March introduced a new portable smart speaker called the Sonos Roam, which is priced at $169, making it the most affordable Sonos speaker to date. We were able to check out the Sonos Roam to see if it's worth the asking price and how it compares to other portable speakers on the market. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. At just under a pound, the Sonos Roam...
matter smart home connectivity

Apple, Google, and Amazon Delay Launch of 'Matter' Smart Home Standard Until 2022

Friday August 13, 2021 10:03 am PDT by
The Connectivity Standards Alliance, which includes Apple, Google, and Amazon, has announced it will delay the launch of its "Matter" standard, which aims to unify the smart home ecosystem of the largest tech giants, according to a blog post by the Alliance posted today (via Stacey on IoT). "Matter," announced last year and formerly known as "Project CHIP," is a unified IP-based connectivity ...
matter smart home connectivity

Apple, Amazon and Google Smart Home Alliance Announces New 'Matter' Connectivity Standard

Tuesday May 11, 2021 10:56 am PDT by
The Connectivity Standards Alliance, which includes major tech companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google, today announced the launch of "Matter," a new interoperable, secure connectivity standard designed for smart home devices. Formerly known as "Project CHIP," Matter is a unified IP-based connectivity protocol that will be used to build and connect Internet of Things ecosystems. It is...
HomePodandMini feature orange

Apple Releases New HomePod 15 Software With Siri Playback Support, HomePod Mini Stereo Pairs, and More

Monday September 20, 2021 10:02 am PDT by
Alongside iOS 15, iPadOS 15, tvOS 15, and watchOS 8, Apple today released new software that's designed for the HomePod and the HomePod mini. The HomePod 15 software update introduces several new features that are designed to work in tandem with tvOS and iOS. - Select a single or pair of HomePod mini as the default speakers for your Apple TV 4K for rich room-filling sound and clear dialogue. ...
app store blue banner

New U.S. Antitrust Bill Would Require Apple and Google to Allow Third-Party App Stores and Sideloading

Wednesday August 11, 2021 12:17 pm PDT by
New bipartisan antitrust legislation that targets Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store was today introduced by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal, Marsha Blackburn, and Amy Klobuchar. The Open App Markets Act [PDF] is meant to create "fair, clear, and enforceable rules" that will protect competition and strengthen consumer protections. According to the three senators, Apple and Google...
sonos roam iphone

Sonos Unveils Portable $169 Roam Speaker With AirPlay 2, Sound Swap, and More

Tuesday March 9, 2021 1:00 pm PST by
Sonos today introduced a new "ultra-portable" smart speaker called the Sonos Roam, designed for use at home and on the go. It's designed to be even more portable than the Sonos Move, competing with the likes of the Ultimate Ears Boom. Priced at $169 in the United States, the Sonos Roam is now the most affordable Sonos speaker available, and it is also the lightest at just under one pound....
safarisearchengineios

Google Could Pay Apple $15 Billion to Maintain Default iOS Search Engine Status in 2021, Suggests Analyst

Friday August 27, 2021 1:34 am PDT by
It's no secret that Apple and Google have a considerable monetary agreement that ensures Google's position as the default search engine on Apple's devices. In a new investor note by financial advisor Bernstein's Toni Sacconaghi, the analyst claims Google's payment to Apple to maintain the status quo could reach $15 billion in 2021, up from $10 billion last year. First reported by Ped30,...
homekit devices feature orange3

Apple-Backed 'Project CHIP' to Start Smart Home Device Certification in Late 2021

Friday April 16, 2021 8:55 am PDT by
In late 2019, Apple along with Amazon, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance announced plans to develop a universal standard for smart home products, leveraging existing protocols like Apple's HomeKit, Amazon's Alexa, and Google's Weave. The so-called "Project Connected Home over IP" or "Project CHIP" aims to make it easier for device manufacturers to build devices that are compatible with a...
aqara coming to apple stores

Aqara HomeKit Accessories Now Available From Online Apple Store in Europe [Updated]

Wednesday July 21, 2021 1:00 am PDT by
Aqara HomeKit accessories are now available from the Apple Store Online in a range of European countries, the company has today announced. Aqara products will be available from the Apple Store Online in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK. To date, Aqara products have only been stocked in Apple Stores in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao. Review: Aqara Camera Hub G2H and Sensors...