Apple doesn't play nicely with Sonos… and that could be bad news next month

Sonos soundbar playbarYouTubeSonos has the WiFi speaker locked up. Will Apple play nice with it?

As Apple prepares a new streaming music service to compete with Spotify, it might find itself competing on other platforms too.

For example, Sonos speakers are a great way to listen to music in your home from streaming services

The speakers connect to your home’s WiFi network, and you use an app on your phone, tablet or computer to control what you hear. If you have multiple speakers in your home, you can listen to different music in different rooms. Sonos works with all the major music services like Pandora, Spotify, SoundCloud, and many others.

But one service is missing: iTunes Radio, Apple’s internet radio service that was announced to much fanfare at the company’s annual developers’ conference nearly two years ago. You can listen to your iTunes library — songs you’ve downloaded from the iTunes store or files you’ve imported from CDs — through your Sonos app, but iTunes Radio doesn’t connect to Sonos speakers through the Sonos app. And it will likely be the same story for Apple’s new on-demand streaming music service, which could launch as early as this June.

Eric Nielsen, a Sonos spokesperson, told Business Insider that it’s Apple’s choice whether or not it wants to integrate iTunes Radio into the speaker company’s app, and Sonos is “not sure the exact reasons why” Apple doesn’t do it already. However, you can listen to Beats, which Apple bought last year for $US3 billion, through the Sonos app.

As iMore’s Allyson Kazmucha writes, it’s technically possible to listen to iTunes Radio using a workaround, but the it requires you to have either an Apple TV or an AirPlay Express, Apple’s mini WiFi base station.

Right now, this is probably not a big deal for most Sonos customers. Despite proclamations that iTunes Radio, which, like other Internet radio services, allows you to create stations based on artists, genres and music you listen to, was going to be a Pandora-killer, the service has not caught on. Among the major music streaming services, iTunes Radio accounted for only 4% of streaming listening hours among those 13 and older during the second half of last year, according to MusicWatch, a music industry market research group.

The free, ad-based version of Pandora, by contrast, was the most popular among the major streaming services — it accounted for 32% of streaming listening hours among those 13 and older.

Apple beatsAppleApple bought Beats Music for $US3 billion so it could launch its own streaming service.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment about iTunes Radio isn’t available in the Sonos app, but it seems like the company only wants its streaming services to play through its own hardware. Meanwhile, the Beats acquisition also means Apple now has a sizeable speaker business to play around with.Beats makes its own line of connected speakers, but they’re Bluetooth, not smart WiFi speakers like Sonos’ products.

Also, Apple has made no secret of its desire to get into the so-called smart home. The first products that will be controlled by Apple’s Home Kit platform will be released this summer, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, and the next version of the Apple TV is rumoured to be a hub for controlling everyday appliances like lights and door locks through the internet.

Sonos, for its part, is confident that Apple will make whatever the company ends up launching available on Sonos.

“We assume that when they focus on the home and appear on Sonos that their complete service offerings will be available on Sonos,” Nielsen told Business Insider.

Apple’s forthcoming on-demand streaming service is by no means a guaranteed success, even though it will have the power of the Apple brand behind it. The iPhone is the bestselling smartphone in the world, and it’s likely that Apple Music will also be available on Android, but other streaming music services have a huge lead on Apple. Pandora has 79.2 million active users in the US, and Spotify has over 15 million paying subscribers around the world.

Even though major consumer electronics companies like Samsung make WiFi-connected speakers, Sonos pretty much owns the market, Paul Erikson, a senior analyst at the research firm IHS told Business Insider. He estimates that the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based company has between 90 and 93 per cent of the global market.

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