David (SONOS) and Goliath (Google): The future of Casting Music (and Video)

  • 9 January 2021
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I have a 5 zone SONOS system and I am not a YouTube music user and do not intend to be one.  Too damn many subscriptions already.  And the app is terrible for accessing the 10,000 songs I have on the SD card in my phone.

However, I AM interested in casting the music from YouTube videos to SONOS, and ideally, have the music go to SONOS speakers and the video go to my TV.  There are thousands of great YouTube music videos that I want to watch and listen to via SONOS.

The real problem here is obvious It’s a battle between David (SONOS) and Goliath (Google) for domination in the streaming music business (both on-premise and via the web).

Sonos is a good size company and they are a pioneer in high quality whole house synced music streaming….but we all know how this is going to go.  Google is already winning the protocol battle and SONOS will be forced to add that to their system (for a price of course).

Non-Google apps and streaming services could choose to support SONOS and Google Cast but over time, as Google Cast protocol becomes more and more ubiquitous, it will be hard to justify the cost of maintaining that dual compatibility.

I love my SONOS system and use it every day.   But I predict that SONOS will be forced to add Googles protocol to their system and that it will eventually be the only protocol that customers use

This will mean that SONOS value proposition will be limited to the quality of their hardware (which is better than most).  Ultimately, it will increase pressure to trim speaker costs to compete better with a growing selection of good hardware.  Not to mention the possibility of synchronizing multiple brands of speakers to the same system.  That is a near certainty going forward. 

Remember, Google (and Amazon) does not care much about the hardware you buy.  The data that they collect about you when you use their protocols is far more valuable (And of course, like everyone else, they want to try and grab some recurring revenue via subscriptions….)

The transition to Google’s protocols also means that the SONOS app, despite being amazing, will also lose favor with customers who will get used to using Google cast apps instead.

SONOS early collaboration with Google (which has since been severed) was a risk because it exposed Google to SONOS ideas and technology.  

I hate to say it, but I think SONOS is in a tight spot.

They make amazing high-end hardware (with decent Class-D amps and DACS) so that will keep their primary demographic (high-end customers) happy.  But over time, I think that market will shrink due to standardized protocols (Google Cast) and more choices for high quality hardware from multiple manufacturers (including Amazon and Google who value your data more than the revenue from hardware).

I’d like to see SONOS survive the expansion of Cast compatible devices.  But they may have to adjust their business model.

Let’s hope that the premium price of SONOS speakers is being used to fund some top notch lawyers…..

Happy Listening!

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