Sonos warns that Amazon has the power to disable Alexa on Sonos speakers with 'limited notice,' posing a risk to its business

SonosSonos One devices with Amazon’s Alexa built-in.

  • In filing to go public on Friday, Sonos mentioned some important concerns and potential risks to its business.
  • The company said Amazon could disable its Alexa voice assistant on specific Sonos speakers with “limited notice,” something that could harm its products’ desirability.
  • Amazon could also demand licensing fees for Alexa that could hurt Sonos’ bottom line.

As part of its filing to go public, the audio hardware company Sonos on Friday said the success of some of its products depended on Amazon’s playing nice.

Sonos has a range of speakers that come with Amazon’s popular voice assistant, Alexa, built-in, including the Sonos One smart speaker and the Sonos Beam soundbar. With Alexa-powered Sonos speakers, customers can use voice commands to play music and operate other smart devices.

Sonos notes in its S-1 filing that Amazon is also competing with Sonos’ products with devices like the Amazon Echo and that its agreement with Amazon “allows Amazon to disable the Alexa integration in our Sonos One and Sonos Beam products with limited notice.”

Sonos also expressed concern that Amazon could charge Sonos to include Alexa in its products, “which would harm our operating results.”

So far, there hasn’t been any indication that Amazon plans to remove or modify Alexa on competing devices. But as Sonos goes public, it’s required to disclose any potential risks to its business.

In some respects, removing Alexa from Sonos speakers might not make sense for Amazon. Allowing Alexa to operate freely in third-party devices like Sonos speakers means it can end up in more homes than if it were restricted to Amazon’s Echo devices. Indeed, Sonos speakers offer a tempting alternative to the Amazon Echo for customers who want to use Alexa, as Sonos speakers offer better sound quality.

Yet Sonos is surely aware of Amazon’s recent spat with Google, in which Amazon stopped featuring Google’s Chromecast products – which compete directly with Amazon’s Fire TV products – because the two companies couldn’t come to an agreement.

At the same time, Sonos isn’t exclusively offering Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, so a Sonos speaker doesn’t guarantee an Alexa presence. Soon, Sonos is expected to add Google’s Assistant and Apple’s Siri, each of which has similar functionality as Alexa.

Sonos one vs amazon echoAntonio Villas-Boas/Business InsiderAn Amazon Echo, left, and a Sonos One.

Apple users, however, won’t be able to use Siri as freely as one could use Alexa or Google Assistant. They will need to issue commands via Apple’s AirPlay 2 standard with Apple devices like the iPhone, the iPad, or Mac computers rather than issuing commands directly to the speaker.

Sonos’ concerns with Amazon and Alexa were just one example; the same dependencies apply to Google and Apple for their voice assistants.

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