How will Sonos compete against Apple’s HomePod?

How will Sonos compete against Apple’s HomePod?


Over the past 16 years, the wireless speaker company Sonos has had to contend with a parade of naysayers who thought competitors would knock it out.

“There were a lot of people, back when we started, saying, ‘There’s no way you could ever compete with Bose and Sony,’ the heavyweights of audio at the time,” Sonos CEO Patrick Spence said on the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask. “And here we are. I was joking with the team, the reward for having disrupted the space over the last decade is to get to compete with Apple and Google and Amazon.”

Indeed: Amazon made a splash in 2015 with the Amazon Echo line of speakers, which let users talk to its virtual assistant, Alexa; Google responded with the Google Home product line, which talks to Google Assistant; and next week, Apple is scheduled to release its own smart speaker, HomePod, which works with Siri.

But Spence doesn’t worry that Sonos’ customers are going to jump ship. One of the company’s strongest advantages, he said, is that its newer hardware — such as the voice-enabled Sonos One — can work with multiple virtual assistants, the same way all Sonos speakers can access multiple competing music services.

“This is a difference versus the mobile space, where it’s a very personal device, you’re going to use one set of services that matter to you,” Spence said. “We know, in the home, there’s multiple music services used. My spouse uses a different one than I do, my children use a different one. With voice services, I see it developing very similarly.”

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On the new podcast, Spence said none of the voice services Sonos has approached — “we’ve been talking to everybody,” he said coyly when asked for specifics — has demanded exclusivity. That means that people who have already bought the Sonos One, which currently only supports Alexa, won’t be locked in if they want to use Google Assistant when that comes to the platform later this year.

“I believe it’s one of the reasons we’ve had good partnerships with streaming services — and remember, on the streaming services side, that includes Apple, Google, Amazon [and] Spotify — is because we’re very transparent about that,” Spence said. “I went to all of them and said, ‘This is what we plan to do: We plan to do it just like we’ve done music services. We’re going to have multiple voice services because we believe that’s the right thing for the customer.’”

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