Sonos CEO Apologizes After Uproar Over Ending Legacy Product Support
Thanks for all the feedback & my apologies for not responding sooner. I wanted to make sure we get it right. All Sonos products will continue to work past May: https://t.co/bmwQQgPd86
— Patrick Spence (@Patrick_Spence) January 23, 2020
Sonos CEO Patrick Spence apologized in a blog post just two days after the company’s announcement that it would stop updating the software of its earliest products in May caused a furor among customers. The selected legacy products, sold between 2006 and 2015, will still work, but many were upset at what they saw as Sonos trying to force obsolescence on the products to force people to buy new ones.
The original announcement urged owners of the legacy devices to deactivate and return their old devices for a new one with a 30% discount. The list includes the Sonos Zone Player, the Connect and Connect:Amp, the first version of the Play:5, the CR200 controller, and the Sonos Bridge. Sonos cited the limited power of these older devices to handle modern services as a problem, especially when people connect multiple devices. As part of that change, connecting newer devices to the legacy products means the new ones won’t get software updates either, further encouraging a trade-in, but making some Sonos customers even more upset. The angry customers started using #sonosboycott as seen below.
Well I guess that’s the last @Sonos kit I’ll ever buy.
Any other manufacturers want to cash in on this? 30% trade up to your brand to steal me away from someone who wants to stealth-kill my hardware with software updates?#sonosfail #sonosgate #sonosboycott pic.twitter.com/6t7v9hDiAm
— Dr Scott Ramsay (@UofGScottRamsay) January 22, 2020
well apparently @sonos has just decided it did not want its existing customers to buy new speakers ever again. all with a simple email. I have never seen a company commit suicide like that ! #sonosboycott #neveragain
— damase (@damase) January 21, 2020
Sonos Apologizes, Offers New Plan
The backlash prompted Spence’s apology post, which he used as a chance to try and clarify what Sonos is doing and why. He emphasized that the legacy products will still work and that Sonos will push out security patches and bug fixes as long as they can, even if they don’t get new features and bigger upgrades. And Sonos is working on a system to partially isolate legacy devices connected to newer models so that the new products can still get updated despite being networked with the obsolete speakers.
“We heard you. We did not get this right from the start. My apologies for that and I wanted to personally assure you of the path forward,” Spence wrote. “Many of you have invested heavily in your Sonos systems, and we intend to honor that investment for as long as possible.”
Bad Time to Lose Customer Loyalty
There’s no good moment for a company to anger its customers, but this week was a particularly awkward moment for Sonos to upset its most loyal consumers. Spence testified to Congress last week that tech giants like Amazon and Google are unfairly pressuring companies like Sonos to limit competition and force them to do whatever the larger company tells them. The hearing took place just two weeks after Sonos filed a lawsuit against Google for patent infringement. Sonos alleges that Google’s smart speakers use Sonos patents without permission or licensing, getting away with it because of their overwhelming economic leverage. Sonos has also accused Amazon of patent theft but cited the power of these tech giants and the risk of retaliation as the reason for not simultaneously suing both companies.
With such high-stakes policy and legal battles starting up this month, the last thing Sonos needs is bad publicity and rejection by its most loyal customers. The apology and updated plans for Sonos’ legacy devices may placate some of those who are upset, but it’s hard to gauge how many people would have continued to buy Sonos products and will no longer do so. The circumstances do lend a bit more pathos to his plea for forgiveness than the average CEO apology.
“I hope that you’ll forgive our misstep, and let us earn back your trust,” Spence wrote. “Without you, Sonos wouldn’t exist and we’ll work harder than ever to earn your loyalty every single day.”