Sonos Reports Q2 Revenue Growth and will Launch with Google Assistant Next Week, but Not They Way They Originally Hoped
Sonos reported earnings yesterday for the second quarter of the company’s 2019 fiscal year. Revenue rose 13% to $210 million which the company says is a record for Q2 sales. There was also a reference in the shareholder letter indicating that Google Assistant would come to the Sonos One and Beam products next week.
“This quarter we would like to highlight the much-anticipated launch of the Google Assistant on Sonos. We’ve been working on this for quite a while and are thrilled to be rolling it out next week. Through a software upgrade, Sonos One and Beam will support the Google Assistant in the U.S., with more markets to come over the next few months. This feature will truly elevate the customer experience and marks the first time that consumers will be able to buy a single smart speaker and get to choose which voice assistant they want to use.”
The software update means that existing Sonos One and Beam device owners will be able to switch from their Alexa assistant configuration to Google Assistant if they choose. It means Sonos doesn’t have to duplicate product SKUs simply to support multiple assistants and offers many supply chain and manufacturing benefits.
A Long Journey to Google Assistant
Patrick Spence told Variety in January 2017 that he would like to integrate both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant in Sonos products one day. Less than ten months later, Sonos introduced the Sonos One smart speaker with Alexa integration. At the time, it said Google Assistant would be added in 2018, but that didn’t happen.
Sonos CEO Patrick Spence declined to confirm the 2018 launch in a June interview with The Verge as the company was preparing for its IPO. That is despite the fact that the Sonos social media team had been saying a 2018 ship date would come for the product just eight weeks earlier. The company confirmed later in the year that it wouldn’t ship with Google Assistant until 2019 and then Google announced at CES it would happen in 2019 but declined to give a ship date. Google said Assistant would ship on Sonos One and Beam products as per Sonos’ investor letter this week.
Not the Original Multi-Assistant Vision
However, Voicebot has learned that Google Assistant and Alexa will not run in parallel on the speaker devices. This was a core objective of the Sonos team from the start. In a June 2018 interview by Dieter Bohn of The Verge, Mieko Kusana, Senior Director of Experience Strategy at Sonos, was clear that
“A home sound system for us means shared. We believe many different people would want to use it. And, we don’t want to dominate what the right control paradigm for people is nor the right assistant. We’ve already been here before with phones…In sharing your home sound system maybe one person has an Android phone the other one has an iOS phone, we never said okay we are only going to support iOS, and the whole household, please go iOS. Or, we are only going to support apps in Android and the whole household go to Android. We just don’t believe that it is very consumer friendly.”
It has been Sonos’ vision to have multiple assistants running in parallel. The Information reported the company even attempted to leverage its patent portfolio to nudge Google into enabling support for Alexa alongside Assistant. However, next week’s launch is not expected to be as “consumer friendly” as Kusana anticipated. Both Alexa and Google may be options at set up, but the configuration will need to be set as one or the other. You will not be able to interchangeably say “Alexa,” or “Hey Google.” You will need to set one voice assistant as the default and to use the other will require a settings change. So, the entire household will not have to go iOS or Android, but they won’t be able to just invoke their favorite voice assistant either.
There is not a technical limitation to having access to both assistants active simultaneously. There are chipsets that enable multiple wake words running in parallel. However, there are business restrictions on what the assistant providers allow. So, Sonos will next week conclude a journey spanning more than two years and finally introduce Google Assistant in two of its flagship products. And, these will provide consumer choice on which assistant they prefer. They will just need to select one of those assistants as the default which means the other assistant will not be accessible without an update to settings every time they want to switch. For all practical purposes, that means Sonos can have the same smart speaker SKU for both Alexa and Google Assistant, but consumers are still buying a single-assistant experience on a day-to-day basis.
Discovered via Android Police.