Sonos is well known for its hardware and trying its best to be platform agnostic by letting its speakers connect with as many music streaming services as it possibly can, and that includes Apple Music and support for the proprietary AirPlay protocol.
Sonos CEO Patrick Spence sat down with Axios, and talked about how Sonos is different from Apple, but also how important software plays a role in its ecosystem of speakers.
First, Spence was asked how Sonos plans to compete with Apple in this space. He says that the company is on a completely different agenda, arguing that HomePod is a great product, but requires an iPod and an Apple Music subscription.
It’s different because of strategic intent. I don’t see them building a set of products that fulfills what everyone needs. Homepod is good, but you also need iPod and Apple Music. To me that’s supporting a different strategic agenda, which is how to sell more iPhones.
When asked about building its own services, he says the company remains open to the idea, but doesn’t want to pre-announce products just in case they don’t turn out. He believes the Sonos base is “very loyal” but will only add services if customers start requesting it.
I’ll remain open to it. But I’ve seen a lot of companies get caught up in the IPO process and promise to become things that they’re not, so I think we have built a very loyal base of seven million homes and I think we have an opportunity to both grow the number of homes and, as we do that, see in the future if there are opportunities to add services. But, again, I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and attract investors on that basis.
On the topic of loyalty, Spence was asked about backwards compatibility for some of Sonos’ older products. He says that Sonos will continue to support its products for as long as they possibly can, but notes that these speakers have “mini-computers” inside of them, so expecting support for something in their “10th or 13th year” may be “impossible to continue to support the software.”
Well, what we haven’t gone through yet that we’ll need to manage is some of the products that, as they reach the end of their useful life, how do we get customers to the next one. These are mini-computers and, as they reach their 10th or 13th year, it’s just impossible to continue to support the software. So that’s something we’ll have to bite off as we mature, but there’s no change to the philosophy of trying to continue to support devices for 5-10 years and support them over time.
Sonos recently rolled out AirPlay 2 support to select models of its speakers, making it the first major brand outside of Apple to adopt the updated audio protocol.