Question

Sonos strategy

  • 27 November 2016
  • 14 replies
  • 1153 views

As a long time Sonos user I have been following their development closely, especially in the last few years with the strong shift towards on-line services. The more I think about it the less sense this seems to make (it did make sense for a while). Isn't this a self-defeating strategy? I use on-line streaming services too but I am not likely to pay for more than one of those. So if I subscribe to one only why should I use the Sonos app to make use of it? Why not use the proprietary app (if there is one)? Of course there are some good reasons still because the Sonos equipment is pretty good, but it also shows its age and limitations and some of the reasons for using it in the past may no longer (fully) apply (Sonosnet). The number of mails on this forum in which the dismissive answer to a (new) user question asking for a specific feature is "sorry, no can do because the internal memory is limited and cannot handle that" is considerable and the answer, though true, is becoming somewhat stale. Yet it is the one issue that Sonos does not appear to be willing to tackle. We recently had a guy demonstrating a new speaker concept in the house who was rather dismissive of Sonos (completely undeserved of course, bit perfect is bit perfect) and wanted to know why we did not simply use a MacMini instead? And he has a point. It doesn't have to be a MacMini, it can also be an Intel NUC box or a JRiver ID (take your pick). There is something to be said for all of these and yet none of them offer the sort of functionality that would make me drop Sonos yet. After all, I have quite a bit of money invested in it too. But I have noticed I have had those extra speakers for a few more rooms on hold now for quite a while.

To come back to the original question. Where do you think Sonos is heading and what do you think their strategy is?

PS. What is this I read a few days ago about the Connect no longer being bit perfect? Does that only apply to new Connects or is it a software matter that affects all Connects?

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14 replies

I use on-line streaming services too but I am not likely to pay for more than one of those. So if I subscribe to one only why should I use the Sonos app to make use of it? Why not use the proprietary app (if there is one)?
Simply stated, the new direction is streaming services and voice control. The former includes the ability to use the proprietary app, in just the way you want to, that is an announced work in progress.
That said, the Sonos app will still work better for those who want to interchangeably use a streaming service and local NAS hosted music.
As to the music delivery end, the strategy seems to be to deliver better sounding play units, that are able to be customised with respect to unique room responses to deliver the best possible heard sound - always an outcome of the speaker+room response interaction.
As to video, I don't have clue.

PS. What is this I read a few days ago about the Connect no longer being bit perfect? Does that only apply to new Connects or is it a software matter that affects all Connects?


It's a long story - see here. It applies to newer Connects, and is a software issue related to volume normalization. Even the digital outs are affected. Sonos are considering adding a switch to bypass all processing to restore bit perfect digital output.

Cheers, Peter.
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the trend has been more toward people using single apps - and Sonos seems to be worried about it.

1st they change the way the Sonos app plays and initiates songs (to be more like native apps)

Now they are pushing out thing like Spotify direct control etc.

It is kind of a catch 22 though. If people start using native apps - what differentiates Sonos from say Chromecast audio. From a native app persepective chromecast audio has a leg up on Sonos.

Sonos does have nice hardware (but its expensive).

What really differentiates Sonos - it is still the Sonos app. Ease of use is key here and there to me isn't anything much simpler then the Sonos app for controlling the music, zones, volume etc. all in a single app. To me that is frustrating then as they have changed the Sonos app now to be more like the native apps. - - but it was the way the sonos app worked previously that differentiated itself from the others. Moving away from the queue based playlists to me was a mistake in the long run.... as it just makes Sonos users more used to the native apps and once they get used to that method they may just leave the Sonos app all together (and then what use is Sonos).

I think Sonos needs to do a better job of differentiating, adding features, and promoting their stand alone app. They have been very slow to add features people have asked for over the past few years (like a party mode, super groups, alarm improvements etc.). Not devoting resources to make the Sonos app feature rich to me is their biggest issue (but I'm no expert - and I know what they have been doing does sell speakers but does it promote long term buy in to the Sonos system).
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I agree with all chris has said.
But all young people I know want to use the apps they already know before they saw sonos. People are lazy & do not like change so they will say in the shop something like "can I use spotify", "does it support bbc iplayer"....err no
Also sonos is stuffed, if like audible books, the service changes something and sonos no longer works...for months/years!!
Too many services, could be too many changes to keep up with.
A friend recently bought a Yamaha sound bar in preference to a Playbar. Apparently the Yamaha app can open other apps and use them (including Youtube). Seems like a good solution, although perhaps the universal search function gets lost.
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it plays YouTube because it is a Bluetooth speaker as well. No magic.

The app gets a strong two star rating in the app store.

Its a a Bluetooth speaker soundbar - nothing more.
And Airplay. The MusicCast app gets 3.8 stars in the Google Play store, and 3 stars in the Apple store. I suspect this is region dependent - I'm in Australia.
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So you can cast from a phone. Nothing new.
In my opinion there are 4 key areas that impact a successful strategy for a whole house music system: Ease of use, reliability, scalability, and maintainability (by the system owner, not just for Sonos support).

In the past Sonos addressed these with their unique technical features including simple controllers, Sonosnet, local indexing, and the queue. Since those all seem to be getting less emphasis now I wonder what the new plan will be to ensure the 4 key success attributes don’t suffer as things move ahead.
their unique technical features including simple controllers, Sonosnet, local indexing, and the queue. Since those all seem to be getting less emphasis now I wonder what the new plan will be to ensure the 4 key success attributes don’t suffer as things move ahead.
I don't understand; why would the new plan affect the 4 correctly identified attributes? By new plan I presume you refer to focus on voice control and streaming services.
I don't see Sonosnet going away; Wifi mode is still more of marketing check the box feature and Sonos net is still alive and well for the reliability it provides.
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Focus on queue is blown up.

I don't understand; why would the new plan affect the 4 correctly identified attributes? By new plan I presume you refer to focus on voice control and streaming services.
I don't see Sonosnet going away; Wifi mode is still more of marketing check the box feature and Sonos net is still alive and well for the reliability it provides.


It is not the focus on voice and streaming that I am wondering about (well streaming a little because user experience varies greatly by geography and other factors) but more about their differentiating technologies. Voice control will be the best thing they have ever done if it works seamlessly between streamed and local music sources.

I hope you are right about Sonosnet but the fact that they named the "marketing" option "standard mode" left me with the impression that Sonos was going to push towards Wi-Fi as their new standard going forward. Sonosnet is still there but is there any further development going on with it?

As Chris points out the queue seems to have been changed in ways that has some people questioning their strategy for "ease of use". Are folks going to have to go through a major learning curve every few months as the user interface keeps trying to keep up with the latest trends seen in native streaming apps? Hopefully there won't be a way to accidently clear the queue via voice command as apparently can now happen on a touch screen controller.

I'm just hoping there are some plans and maybe some new technology to make sure the stated strategy is rolled out in a way that keeps the system rock solid reliable and dead simple to use. A lot of what I'm reading here suggests people don't feel Sonos has fully maintained that standard during this transition period leading up to the new vision.

I hope you are right about Sonosnet

Are folks going to have to go through a major learning curve every few months as the user interface keeps trying to keep up with the latest trends seen in native streaming apps?


I understand that Sonosnet has not seen any development beyond the progress made in Boost, but then, no one else has anything like it even now. So it is still a potent differentiator.

As to the second part, I suppose that as the use of native apps in Sonos gets more widespread, there should be less need to keep changing the Sonos controller UI and features.

I agree that more should be done to bring the reliability/stability of the system closer to legacy wired kit so that all the "doesn't work" noise is further reduced. But I am not a techie, so I could be accused of wanting things without being able to offer any insights into how this can be done.
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My opinion....Amazon purchases Sonos in order to get the Echo further out ahead of the competition. I'm not sure if its an issue with Sonos or not, but Amazon can clearly provide R&D resources for Sonos.