You gotta give credit where the credit is due. With Sonos, that means acknowledging the company sparked a revolution in how people access and consume their music. It's name is practically synonymous with wireless, networked audio, and the company's competitors have scrambled to field their own variant of a wireless, networked, multi-room streaming-music ecosystem.
In what was billed as the first-ever Sonos press conference, the company announced quite a few exciting features that are in the pipeline, but no new hardware. Indeed, the company proudly stated a desire to buck the rapid-obsolescence trend in tech by enhancing and evolving its products through software.
Now, thanks to partnerships with Spotify and Amazon, Sonos is upping the ante on making access to music as easy and seamless as possible.
Sonos says smart homes represent a rapidly-growing market segment--faster than smartphones and tablets. By partnering with Amazon, Sonos plans to bring the Alexa-enabled voice experience to its line of audio playback products.
During today's press event, Micheal George, the VP of Echo, Alexa, and Appstore at Amazon.com, talked about how Amazon's Alexa voice service is inspired by the computer in Star Trek. It uses far-field voice recognition as its primary means of input. That means soon you will be able to simply talk to Alexa and ask it to play your favorite song, album, or playlist on your Sonos system; you can even specify which room or rooms you want the music to play in. Since Alexa can discern commands over background noise, you can also use it to pause, skip tracks, adjust the volume, and otherwise control the system, even while music plays.
Micheal George, the VP of Echo, Alexa, and Appstore at Amazon.com, speaking about Sonos.
There is a catch to controlling Sonos with Alexa, which is that you need an Amazon Echo device to serve as the voice interface. But, in the grand scheme of things, being able to search and control a collection containins millions of streaming tunes with just your voice sure feels like science fiction. If the cost of entry to that capability is an Amazon Echo or Tap speaker and a few Echo Dots, I'm interested.
Spotify has been a Sonos partner since 2010. Sonos users love Spotify and vice versa. Soon, Spotify users will enjoy full control of Sonos devices directly from the Spotify app. What's more, this control capability does not require that the device running Spotify be on a Wi-Fi network.
In addition to the aforementioned partnerships, Sonos will also be integrated with the offerings of custom integration/home automation companies, I plan to check that out at CEDIA, which is just a couple of weeks away.
While the new partnerships are exciting, Sonos also demonstrated what may be the most useful update to its own software. Now, when you tap on a track, it starts to play right away. And, amazingly, the music will keep playing when that track finishes. The company also mentioned that lock-screen control is coming to iOS (Android already has it).
All in all, a big news day for Sonos and for music lovers alike. It will be interesting to see how the system evolves, especially since it's not that hard to view the company's recent moves as a response to Google's incredibly affordable Chromecast Audio, which is hi-res capable and allows direct control from the native apps of various streaming services.
From its founding in 2002 to it's current, enviable position at the top of the wireless multi-room lifestyle audio food chain, Sonos is a force to be reckoned with. By wholeheartedly embracing streaming and voice search, the company appears poised to maintain it's disruptive leadership position in what's become a crowded and competitive race to bring music to the masses as effortlessly as possible.