Smart Homes, Digital Assistants, and Future Proofing with Sonos - Is it Possible? (WWDC 2017 Ponderings)


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After seeing the new Siri Home Speaker launch today, one of my chief concerns with my Sonos setup is about future proofing.

My curiosity started with my other research in the Sonos forums; I found interesting discussions on the whole DTS/ Dolby 5.1 compatibility as far as the streaming pass through (like Netflix shows with surround sound), as well as physical media (like Blu-Rays, which I rarely use). This got me thinking about whether Sonos would consider patches or firmware updates that allow future compatibility. Soon after, I started thinking about my "smart home" setup.

As of today, I have the following devices:
    Master bedroom -
  • Amazon Echo Dot (which will soon be releasing the Sonos voice-control update),
  • 40" Flat Screen with Chromecast attached
  • Sonos Play 5
  • Sonos CONNECT Amp attached to vintage Pioneer record player.
Not directly related, I also have the Philips Hue Gen 3 in by bedroom, controlled by the Echo Dot.

Living room:
  • Acer Projector
  • Playstation 4 (not pro, not slim)
  • XBOX One
  • (soon) Sonos Playbase

I also have a Google Pixel XL as my daily driver phone (so I work primarily in the Android/ Google ecosystem for my files and communication).

For my music subscriptions I have:
  • Amazon Unlimited (which I only purchased because calling out songs to Alexa is only seamless with a subscription, otherwise it only answers my requests with Pandora Radio stations),
  • Google Play Family (with YouTube Red/ YouTube Music),
  • Apple Music,
  • TIDAL Hifi,
  • and Soundcloud Plus.

Now after seeing yet another home speaker/ digital assistant hit the market, and this time with Apple's ecosystem including a Siri assistant that will be the same across all devices (unlike Google Assitant being different between Mobile and Home Versions), I am genuinely concerned about how deep into the future my Sonos setup will be adaptable. This includes changes to digital inputs (like optical audio and HDMI). It's the biggest downside to me of investing in this ecosystem; Dropping $500+ USD per speaker is tough when I don't know how long it will be friendly with my other components.

Thoughts?

TL;DR: How are you Sonos users preparing for the changes in IoT/ synchronization? The rise of digital assistants, along with the new and continued support/ integration of various streaming services and digital codecs has me wondering how often I need to worry about upgrades to Sonos, including when or if I'd have to purchase new speakers and hardware.

20 replies

Just like Apple, I suspect that Sonos is not willing to lay out their corporate strategy for us.
To me, the key element in how your question gets answered is how well the Echo-Sonos integration works. Beyond that, Sonos needs to find a new way for digital sound to get connected.

If the Echo-Sonos integration works well, Sonos can provide the sound and multi-room sound, while letting Amazon compete on home control. Echo can provide the microphones while Sonos concentrates on speaker quality.

In short, the two will be symbiotic.

For the long run, Sonos needs to find a way to work with soundkit, or whatever the devkit is called, so that its speakers will coexist with, and possibly even work with, the Apple speakers.
So, for those always complaining about how slow Sonos is to deliver, Apple's new speaker is already two years behind Amazon, and won't start to ship for another 6-7 months. Apple never has been much of an innovator. Looks like they are emphasizing SQ. Probably a good idea, since Siri is so far behind Alexa and Google now...
Over the past 4 weeks or so Amazon has had a major new Echo product or feature release almost every week while Google has been working hard to keep up. I wonder if this is going to be the new normal and if Apple and Sonos are going to have to adopt a more aggressive development cycle?
Digressing just a little, I get a sense that Chromecast Audio started with a bang of potential that seems to have died down to a whimper. Or is it as viable part of this subject for Google as Echo/Show, or Sonos-Alexa when that is released?
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Given Apple's focus on sound quality and the obvious strength of its brand how much of a competitive threat do you guys think this poses to Sonos? Interesting that they also directly referred to Sonos in yesterday's conference.
BurtBushell wrote:

Interesting that they also directly referred to Sonos in yesterday's conference.


Oscar Wilde: "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."
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Kumar wrote:

Digressing just a little, I get a sense that Chromecast Audio started with a bang of potential that seems to have died down to a whimper. Or is it as viable part of this subject for Google as Echo/Show, or Sonos-Alexa when that is released?


Well google sold 30 million chromecasts by may2015, at one point 5 million in 2 months. I guess the peak may have passed, but that's a lot of potential google home sales......and not sonos sales.
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chicks wrote:

So, for those always complaining about how slow Sonos is to deliver, Apple's new speaker is already two years behind Amazon, and won't start to ship for another 6-7 months. Apple never has been much of an innovator. Looks like they are emphasizing SQ. Probably a good idea, since Siri is so far behind Alexa and Google now...

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I'm a Sonos fan as well, but lets get real here. "Apple never has been much of an innovator." ???? Ever hear of the iPod or the iPhone?
BBH wrote:

I'm a Sonos fan as well, but lets get real here. "Apple never has been much of an innovator." ???? Ever hear of the iPod or the iPhone?



iPod was just an updated Walkman. Good marketing but not really an innovation. Sony was the true innovator there since they invented the category in the first place.
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Apple are pros at market development and marketing as a whole. Not necessarily pure innovation. Their role in developing the personal computer represents the heights of their innovation. In most other cases they have merely broken existing technologies to the "big time". They are excellent at developing the full potential of a technology. I think this HomePod is something that we should look at closely. They are laggards but have the potential to break wireless audio to another level.
I see the combination of iPod+iTunes as the big business innovation, which is as much to do with tech deployment as with the pure invention side of things; after all, how many have done both successfully after Thomas Edison?

But I see wireless home audio today where Apple wishes to repeat the history as much more advanced than the corresponding market to iPods at their time. Sonos is almost certainly better than Apple on sound quality, while Alexa seems to have a lead over Siri, so it does not look an obvious winner, the Homepod. And by the time December is here, the Sonos Alexa ought to be up and running reasonably well.
Kumar wrote:

...and by the time December is here, the Sonos Alexa ought to be up and running reasonably well.



Plus Amazon will have advanced the Alexa paradigm by releasing (not just announcing) enough new features and products by that time that the current Apple announcement will have lost most of it's buzz appeal.
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Well, management has already stated that their approach to voice will be the same as with music services: they'll work with everyone.
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IF the Alexa interface will allow me to use all the third party music services that I have on my Sonos, its a winner no?
e.g.
Alexa, play Pink Floyd's Time on Apple Music
Alexa, gimme Audio Machine on Spotify
Alexa get me the FM.1 America's Best Ballads Radio

Now will these use cases work? Who knows....:?
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I'm not too worried. Sonos has a history of making changes when needed and have said they are aware a will make changes for the current environment. They have a history of keeping the old products in the system, and updating features where they can. We may have to buy a new product to get a new feature, but I don't think it will mean the old stuff doesn't do the stuff you bought it for anymore.

I don't know that it's realistic for existing products to handle every possible feature change. I mean, one day everyone will be dropping voice control for thought control. And your PLAY:3 won't be equipped for that. However, I bet Sonos will do what it can to work that feature into the system one way or another.
I have speakers in every room of my house and a connected amp for. Each room I spent a small fortune
On equipment and installation and now every day my wife walks into a room and says hay google play music
And listens to a little speaker sitting on a counter so I think when apple Home comes out I am going to buy 3 or four of them
And ditch all my sonos equipment I can even use the money I’ll get selling all my connected amps to pay for them
Unless they get together with Apple and let Siri connect to my sonos system.
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Jhardy0786 wrote:

I have speakers in every room of my house and a connected amp for. Each room I spent a small fortune
On equipment and installation and now every day my wife walks into a room and says hay google play music
And listens to a little speaker sitting on a counter so I think when apple Home comes out I am going to buy 3 or four of them
And ditch all my sonos equipment I can even use the money I’ll get selling all my connected amps to pay for them
Unless they get together with Apple and let Siri connect to my sonos system.



I have to confess I am little confused by this contribution given that Alexa integration is around the corner for Sonos. It is also agreed by many that Siri is not exactly this greatest assistant. If you already have all that gear why not buy a couple echo dots rather than going with Homepods that are not without their own limitations. Just seems odd to me.
Google home integrates with google assistant on your phone. So its already ahead of Amazon. I don't need a dot in each room. I simply tell my phone or any phone set up on home with google assistant home or away. Its also integrated with android TV and in my case Google fiber. So I can tell it to play Ozark from Netflix on ManCave TV. On the screen. Or if you have a sound bar and have rooms grouped it will play anything you tell the TV to play with a supported app.

Also If you plug a Chromecast audio into a Sonos with line in, you have voice control via google home. I don't use it that much but it works great. If your speakers are grouped it will play house wide. Its not full integration, but its decent, ahead of the Echo for sure. Play, pause, volume, change songs, play a playlist, play a station.

Google home to needs to add more apps, but as far as technology and usability its pretty far beyond the others. Casting audio and video can only be done via the actual home unit, not the phone. I have 2 homes, basement and upstairs. 8 Sono's speakers, Chromecast, 4 google fiber boxes and a Pixel. Works great.

It would be great if Sono's would work with Google on this.

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