Sonos sues Google

  • 7 January 2020
  • 30 replies
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Sonos is getting quite litigious, Denon, bluesound, now Google and soon Amazon

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/07/technology/sonos-sues-google.html


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And their insistence on alienating long-term customers with "voice control" and streaming which many never wanted

Voice control and streaming are very popular. And you don’t have to enable them if you don’t want to, so nobody is being alienated. It’s seems clear, however, that you have an agenda and aren’t going to let facts get in the way of making your point ;)

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And their insistence on alienating long-term customers with "voice control" and streaming which many never wanted

Voice control and streaming are very popular. And you don’t have to enable them if you don’t want to, so nobody is being alienated. It’s seems clear, however, that you have an agenda and aren’t going to let facts get in the way of making your point ;)

I have no interest in voice control, unless it can be accomplished fully locally.  That being said, I don’t care if Sonos includes it, as long as I can turn it off and they keep developing the music playback aspects of the ecosystem.  And if voice control increases sales so they can afford to keep improving everything else, more power to ‘em.

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The clean sheet of paper is disingenuous, not copying someone has nothing to do with violating their patents.

A design process should at some point include a patent survey to insure nothing you are using infringes. Think of patents as landmines, you may waltz through a field of them if you are lucky, but to pass safely you’ll be on your knees probing every inch of the ground ahead of you looking for buried trouble.

More than one patent holder has noticed an infringement and not said a word until the infringer has gotten to the point of selling their infringing gear. Then they pop up and want paid or they will stop you from selling and demand punitive damages on any gear you do sell.

Wow. Did not see that coming

 

Doesn’t actually say for sure that Amazon will be sued, just that they feel patents have been violated.  I imagine that if they are successful against Google, then Amazon will want to negotiate out of court.  If they aren’t, then Amazon has nothing to fear.

They say they can only sue one at a time, we'll see what happens with Amazon. What's going to happen with the voice assistants, status quo?

 

Right, I’m just predicted that Amazon won’t want to get sued if things turn out poorly for Google.  It’s bad PR for a large company to be found guilty for stealing from a small companies.  Makes them look like bullies.  Amazon would then be smart to just work out a license fee with Sonos instead of fighting it.

 

That’s assuming that there isn’t a significant difference between the Google and Amazon tech.  Being that Sonos seems to sue everyone who does multiroom, seems like Sonos owns the only way, or has patent for all the ways it can be done.

 

As far as voice assistants go, I imagine there is a contract in place so Google can’t just pull services.  On top of that, they would be damaging their own customers in the process.  The would even be hurting themselves a bit as part of what sells their stuff is the notion that it can be used everywhere.  Perhaps they can put in some sort of exit strategy, but I don’t think it would just happen overnight.  

 

Besides that, Sonos recently bought a company called Snips that specializes in voice control from local devices, no cloud involved.  I  would bet that Sonos has this as a backup/replacement in case things go sour with Google and then maybe Amazon.  Heck Snips may actually be better than Alexa/Google in the long run if it does not have the same limitations in music playback that these do.  

 

I think Google, and all the tech giants really, need to be careful that their actions against small companies don’t appear to be retaliations for being sued and such.  Again, looking like a bully is bad for business.

 

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I must be in the minority when it comes to not giving a toss about voice integration. I bought my Sonos system for music alone. The fact that I can use voice control is a bonus, same with TV surround. None of it was a factor in me spending a considerable sum on their products over many years. If anything, I wish Sonos would stop chasing voice control integration with the likes of Amazon and Google, (it’s not their USP) and just concentrate on making the best audio products they can. I don’t want to see them waste cash and ultimately fail because of focusing on the wrong thing.

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Over the last decade I have come to realise, one step at a time, that there is no difference in sound quality from CDs/SACDs to wireless play of lossless rips on a NAS to lossy 256 kbps iTunes purchases stored on the NAS, to Apple Music streamed via the net. Part of the reason for that may be the simultaneous aging of the ears, but I suspect that is a small part. Sound quality really gets down to source mastering and speaker quality for the most part.

On the other hand there are still those that do not think that Sonos sound quality is good enough, in a similar manner that you refer to Amazon products; and that sound quality worth listening to demands better products, and from better sources than lossless CDs rips on a NAS.

Sonos runs the risk of being squeezed between these two sides at a time when Echo devices have made progress on the sound quality front in the last 4-5 years, while Sonos has not. Nothing against Sonos for that, I happen to think that at each price point, Sonos sound quality does not leave much to be desired, but the gap between Amazon and Sonos has been closing steadily over the years. And if one were to see just the voice control feature set, I have a feeling that the pioneer in this, Amazon, still has a lead over Sonos.

Yes, I sort of agree with the whole sound quality argument. My (nearly) 50 year old ears wouldn’t benefit from hi-res or so-called audiophile equipment but they can tell the difference between my FLAC CD rips on my NAS vs Spotify (can’t speak for Apple, not heard it). It’s not much but it’s there (some more noticeable than others) and I’d rather have my own library anyway but that probably says more about my generation and music ownership.

 

Sonos are no doubt caught between a rock and a hard place. Let’s just hope there’s still room for them in the market in the coming years.

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The only real winner in this will be the lawyers.

As a user of Sonos, Google, Amazon and Apple products, among many others, I hope the parties come to a quick resolution that has minimal impact on consumers who have already invested time and money on a myriad of ecosystems to be entertained in the best and sometimes easiest way possible.

Anything else would be considered a loss.

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Hope this doesn't go badly wrong, and Google assistant gets pulled.  But there is no doubt the big tech companies are getting too much power. That's why I like to use other companies like SONOS and Spotify, who built the space they occupy, and keep competition.

 

Merged from duplicate thread by moderator.

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I am with SONOS in this. I don’t think that they would have gone so far if they weren’t sure about it. I love my SONOS speakers, they are superior to every other multi room Wi-Fi speaker and system I have ever used and I don’t care if google pull the plug in google assistant support. SONOS controller app is excellent.

I must be in the minority when it comes to not giving a toss about voice integration. I bought my Sonos system for music alone. The fact that I can use voice control is a bonus, same with TV surround. None of it was a factor in me spending a considerable sum on their products over many years. If anything, I wish Sonos would stop chasing voice control integration with the likes of Amazon and Google, (it’s not their USP) and just concentrate on making the best audio products they can. I don’t want to see them waste cash and ultimately fail because of focusing on the wrong thing.

 

While I get the sentiment, and don’t completely disagree, stats show that smart speakers with voice control dominate the market.  I don’t know that Sonos could survive without some level of voice integration.  You really can’t make much of an argument that ignoring voice control is a good business strategy right now.

 

I don’t see why Sonos can't concentrate of voice control and best audio products at the same time. I think that’s what they’ve been trying to do the past few years.  Since voice control came out, they’ve actually created 2 products with built in voice, Sonos One and Beam.  In the same period, they came out with  Sonos Amp, Port, Sonos One SL...not even factoring in the iKea and Sonance products.

 

Snip - A lot of bitter, angry rhetoric

 

 

What a wonderful person you are to wish unemployment on thousands of workers because of your lost time. 

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Amazon responds to Sonos allegations andsays they didn't infringe on Sonos parents.

https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/8/21056851/amazon-dave-limp-interview-sonos-google-response

From the article:

"I’m confident that we did not infringe on their IP. We built our solutions from a clean sheet of paper. We were the first person out with a connected, voice-enabled speaker. And that was done from a clean sheet of paper. So I’m as confident as I can be."

 

"I’m confident that we did not infringe on their IP. We built our solutions from a clean sheet of paper. We were the first person out with a connected, voice-enabled speaker. And that was done from a clean sheet of paper. So I’m as confident as I can be."

That bit makes sense. But there may be something in the grouped play of Echo speakers that has issues. 

What I also discount in the article is the Amazon claim of customer choice being holy to them and that they would therefore be ok to see multiple voice assistants on Sonos speakers.

As to voice control, I started off thinking this is a gimmick, but now find myself using it as an additional way of getting music from the speakers. There are times when this is more convenient than laying hands on the physical device to access the app to do so. But there are also times when voice commands are not appropriate, I agree.

 Again, I’m probably in a minority but the current implementation of voice control is actually pretty useless to me as it assumes you are playing music from a streaming service whereas I play mostly from my own CD quality collection on a NAS drive.


I also think if someone puts voice control at the top of their must-haves above sound quality then why go to the expense of Sonos? you might as well buy the cheaper/inferior Amazon or Google products.

Over the last decade I have come to realise, one step at a time, that there is no difference in sound quality from CDs/SACDs to wireless play of lossless rips on a NAS to lossy 256 kbps iTunes purchases stored on the NAS, to Apple Music streamed via the net. Part of the reason for that may be the simultaneous aging of the ears, but I suspect that is a small part. Sound quality really gets down to source mastering and speaker quality for the most part.

On the other hand there are still those that do not think that Sonos sound quality is good enough, in a similar manner that you refer to Amazon products; and that sound quality worth listening to demands better products, and from better sources than lossless CDs rips on a NAS.

Sonos runs the risk of being squeezed between these two sides at a time when Echo devices have made progress on the sound quality front in the last 4-5 years, while Sonos has not. Nothing against Sonos for that, I happen to think that at each price point, Sonos sound quality does not leave much to be desired, but the gap between Amazon and Sonos has been closing steadily over the years. And if one were to see just the voice control feature set, I have a feeling that the pioneer in this, Amazon, still has a lead over Sonos.

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Sonos CEO to testify at anti trust hearing on January 17.

https://www.theverge.com/2020/1/8/21057151/sonos-ceo-spence-testify-lawmakers-antitrust-google-lawsuit-speaker-patent

"Only a day after Sonos officially sued Google for stealing its tech designs, House antitrust leaders have invited the speaker company to air its grievances in an open hearing." (From the article)

Sonos are no doubt caught between a rock and a hard place. Let’s just hope there’s still room for them in the market in the coming years.

+1 to that. Spence came to Sonos from Blackberry, and he was there when smartphones made those seen everywhere devices obsolete in a very short time, so this is a kind of deja vu for him, I suppose.

Sonos are no doubt caught between a rock and a hard place. Let’s just hope there’s still room for them in the market in the coming years.

+1 to that. Spence came to Sonos from Blackberry, and he was there when smartphones made those seen everywhere devices obsolete in a very short time, so this is a kind of deja vu for him, I suppose.

 

I don’t think we have stats on the sale of Amazon and Google’s more high end speakers, but I don’t hear a ton of buzz about it.  I wouldn’t guess that Sonos is terribly concerned about those themselves.  However, more traditional companies like Polk, Bose, etc are licensing Alexa access and using MRM, for example that would be more of a threat.  And of course, the lower end Echo and Google devices are pulling away some of those that are willing to settle for slightly lower sound quality.

 

The way I see it, it’s quite clear that Google and Amazon have had great success in the smart speaker market by leveraging there brand, tie ins with other products and services, large amounts of cash, and apparently not having to be too concerned about patent laws.  Whether these practices are fair to competitors and good for consumers is the debate.  The lawsuit is focusing on the patent issues, but there seems to be a larger anti-trust question also going on as well.

 

As a consumer, I know I’ve benefitted greatly from all the tech infrastrucure these companies have created, that couldn’t have been done without the perhaps questionable business practices.  At the same time, it’s not hard to imagine there would be a lot of additional successful companies doing a lot of great work that we are not seeing because of the dominance of big tech.

@vansmack : I agree, well said. I am in the same boat because no one company has the ability to meet all my needs.

Wow. Did not see that coming

 

Doesn’t actually say for sure that Amazon will be sued, just that they feel patents have been violated.  I imagine that if they are successful against Google, then Amazon will want to negotiate out of court.  If they aren’t, then Amazon has nothing to fear.

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Wow. Did not see that coming

 

Doesn’t actually say for sure that Amazon will be sued, just that they feel patents have been violated.  I imagine that if they are successful against Google, then Amazon will want to negotiate out of court.  If they aren’t, then Amazon has nothing to fear.

They say they can only sue one at a time, we'll see what happens with Amazon. What's going to happen with the voice assistants, status quo?

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One wonders if Google cares whether they look like a bully - i know that I care and am disheartened … but not surprised at Google’s behaviour.   Amazon is not unblemished either - corporate greed !  

i love to support smaller companies (i work for a small software company) and will be a Sonos diehard fan and purchaser for as long as i am able .

Best of luck to Sonos in this endeavour!

One wonders if Google cares whether they look like a bully - i know that I care and am disheartened … but not surprised at Google’s behaviour.   Amazon is not unblemished either - corporate greed !  

 

 

I wouldn’t say I disagree with you, but I’m not a huge fan of the term ‘corporate greed’.   Anytime a company makes a decision some individual doesn’t like is labeled corporate greed.  Besides, it’s a corporations job to make as much money as possible within the rules.  It’s the government’s job to enforce the rules.

In my opinion, these Big tech companies got where they are because the government never knocked them down with anti-trust laws.  Google should not be able to leverage their voice assistant, music service, phone OS, etc against a company like Sonos from protecting themselves against theft of multiroom audio patents.  

 

i love to support smaller companies (i work for a small software company) and will be a Sonos diehard fan and purchaser for as long as i am able .

Best of luck to Sonos in this endeavour!

 

I don’t see a big downside to anyone (except Google execs) for Sonos to win.  In the Denon case, Denon could keep going but had to pay license to Sonos.  Google would likely have to do the same I imagine...just a lot more money.  Probably not enough to stop production of Google voice assistants though.  So consumers of Google would keep their features, but Sonos would be rightly compensated for use of their intellectual property.

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Billion dollar company sues multi Billion dollar company. I’m not a Google fan and they should pay if they are violating the patents - but Sonos is not some small upstart company, they are a huge (greedy lol) corp in their own right. 

Sonos former CEO admitted a while ago that they were slow when it comes to innovation and had been chasing the tail end of massive change driven by Amazon and Google in the space.  So when this happens they typical play is to sue your competitors, rightly or wrongly the courts will decide.  Hopefully us customers are the losers here. 

But I’m nervous about Google Assistant, if it goes from the platform I’m probably gone as a customer as well. 

Who’s going to be next? Apple does multiroom does it not? Will they sue Logitech over the Squeezebox patents for their multiroom? Open source developers who use the Squeezebox stuff in their homebrew multiroom? 

 

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Billion dollar company sues multi Billion dollar company. I’m not a Google fan and they should pay if they are violating the patents - but Sonos is not some small upstart company, they are a huge (greedy lol) corp in their own right. 

Sonos former CEO admitted a while ago that they were slow when it comes to innovation and had been chasing the tail end of massive change driven by Amazon and Google in the space.  So when this happens they typical play is to sue your competitors, rightly or wrongly the courts will decide.  Hopefully us customers are the losers here. 

But I’m nervous about Google Assistant, if it goes from the platform I’m probably gone as a customer as well. 

Who’s going to be next? Apple does multiroom does it not? Will they sue Logitech over the Squeezebox patents for their multiroom? Open source developers who use the Squeezebox stuff in their homebrew multiroom? 

 

This seems very disingenuous to me

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Sonos is definitely in a tricky spot here, needing Google but also suing them. I’m sure it was a tough decision. I’m glad that I use Alexa on my Sonos system