The big changes Sonos promised are coming in a few weeks.
On August 30, the company will announce its first steps into voice control and improvements to how you control music from third-party apps, according to a person familiar with the company’s plans.
There will be no new hardware announcements at the event. The new voice and app features are designed to work with existing hardware.
We’re also told some of Sonos’ third-party partners will be at the event. Sonos already works with Spotify, Napster, Pandora, Apple Music, and several other major music services, so expect to see some of those show up.
We’ve heard that Sonos’ goal is to make it so third-party services can integrate better with the platform instead of making users control music from the Sonos app, which has been panned for its clunky interface. For example, instead of using the Sonos app to listen to your Spotify music through your Sonos speaker, you’ll be able to use the Spotify app. It’s likely we’ll see that in action at the event.
Voice control will be another big shift for Sonos, and we’re told the company plans to unveil more details on how it will work at the August 30 event. Sonos speakers don’t have long-range microphones, so it’s likely you’ll have to talk into your phone or another accessory.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’ve been following Sonos this year. In March, the company’s CEO John MacFarlane announced a round of layoffs as the company planned to shift its focus to voice control and AI like you see in Amazon’s Echo and Google’s upcoming Home speakers.
“We’re fans of what Amazon has done with Alexa and the Echo product line,” wrote in a blog post at the time. “Voice recognition isn’t new; today it’s nearly ubiquitous with Siri, OK Google, and Cortana. But the Echo found a sweet spot in the home and will impact how we navigate music, weather, and many, many other things as developers bring new ideas and more content to the Alexa platform.”
The Echo has turned into a surprise hit for Amazon, proving that it’s possible to build a new kind of computing platform with a device you just control with your voice. Now Sonos is trying to tap into that trend. It’s unclear what kind of AI system Sonos plans to use, but Amazon’s Alexa is open to third parties.
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