Sonos announced a variety of new partnerships at a press event earlier this week. First up is the integration of voice control through Amazon Alexa-enabled products. Owners of the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, or Fire TV will soon be able to control their whole-home Sonos music system using voice commands. Sonos also announced better integration with Spotify Connect, allowing users to control the playback experience directly through the Spotify app. Finally, the company announced its first endorsed partner integrations with custom installation stalwarts like Crestron, Lutron, Savant, Control4, and iPort--making it easier to incorporate Sonos control into these platforms.
Flanked by music and tech industry leaders at an event in Manhattan, Sonos unveiled software innovations including voice control and partner app integrations that make it easier than ever for listeners to navigate, discover and share music in their homes. The company also demonstrated how partners are building new connected home experiences on the Sonos platform, further bolstering its leadership in multi-room home audio.
"With the unprecedented growth in streaming, music has become abundant and immediate," said Sonos Chief Executive Officer John MacFarlane. "Together with a growing ecosystem of partners, we're making sure Sonos owners can easily play the music they love out loud in every room in the home, and intuitively control that experience using our app, our partners' apps, touch and voice."
Alexa, Turn It Up!
Sonos owners with an Alexa-enabled device such as an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot will soon be able to use Amazon's popular Alexa service to control their Sonos sound system, the companies announced. The software integration - collaboratively built from the ground up using the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) SDK - taps into both Sonos' and Alexa's existing music capabilities, so owners don't have to learn additional commands or key words. Simply ask Alexa to play your music from Amazon Music, Spotify and more, and it will flow to any group of Sonos speakers in the home. By integrating Alexa into their Sonos sound systems, owners can use their voice to play, pause, skip, control volume and more.
"Our Amazon customers love listening to music. With Echo and Alexa, we combined that love of music with the ease of hands-free voice control, and today, music is one of the most-used features on Alexa-enabled devices," said Mike George, vice president, Amazon. "We're thrilled to collaborate with Sonos to combine the magic of Alexa with an incredible way to listen to music in every room in the home."
"Our mission is to fill every home with music," said Sonos President Patrick Spence. "We don't care what you listen to, how you get to it, or in what room - we just want it to be effortless, quick and epic. Alexa on Sonos will be all that, and fun too."
These new voice capabilities will be delivered in a software update that will work with new and previously purchased Sonos and Alexa-enabled devices such as Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Tap, and Amazon Fire TV. The companies will begin rolling out the experience through an invite-only beta test later this year, with general availability in 2017.
I Want My Spotify
Sonos also announced a Spotify Connect integration with additional functionality that will make it the only whole-home sound system that can be fully controlled directly from the feature-rich Spotify app, including play controls and easy access to grouping and ungrouping of rooms. Spotify will be the first music streaming service that allows Spotify Premium listeners to have full control of the music all over their homes outside the Sonos app.
The inherently social listening experience also makes it possible for everyone in the home to control a listening session with both the Spotify and Sonos apps, which stay linked with one another. Friends coming over? They can connect to your Wi-Fi and use their own Spotify app to instantly play music to your Sonos speakers without downloading the Sonos app. And since you can control your Sonos system when you're away from your home Wi-Fi, you can now have music playing for you as soon as you come home.
"Fifty percent of all Sonos households use Spotify," said Sonos Vice President of Software Antoine Leblond. "By tightly integrating the Spotify experience with the Sonos system, we've created an easier way for Sonos owners to get music out of their phones and playing all around their homes."
"We're excited to partner with Sonos and enhance the at-home listening experience," said Gustav Söderström, chief product officer at Spotify. "Spotify listeners can now seamlessly transition their listening throughout the day from their headphones, to the car, to their computers, to their Sonos system at home with complete control of all their favorite Spotify features directly from the Spotify app."
This free software update will be available in October as part of the Sonos public beta program.
More to Come
Rapid innovation is happening across native apps from all the streaming services. Sonos also announced its commitment to enable direct control experiences across its entire lineup of music service partners, including Pandora.
"We've collaborated with Sonos for years to create a delightful, personal in-home experience for Pandora listeners," said Tim Westergren, Pandora CEO and founder. "Using your Pandora app to control Sonos will take this unique music experience one step further - making it easier to use than ever before. We're excited to continue our quest with Sonos for the ultimate home music solution."
Sonos: The Heart of the Connected Home
Sonos also announced the company's first-ever endorsed partner integrations with connected home leaders Crestron, Lutron, Savant, Control4, iPort and Deutsche Telekom's QIVICON. These joint collaborations seamlessly integrate Sonos' sound platform into the connected home, making it even easier for customers to control their music at home, whether from a touchscreen panel, a light switch or a remote control, all with the simple push of a button.
"Custom installers are at the vanguard of making the connected home a reality," said Spence. "For years they have worked tirelessly to bring disparate technologies together, and are pushing hard to make smart homes both accessible and ubiquitous. Our work together ensures our sound platform integrates well with their systems now and in the future."
Advocates for Quality Listening at Home
Sonos also announced a series of initiatives to advocate for higher-quality music listening experiences at home, both through consumer education and industry activism.
"There's a huge gap between how people feel about music and how they experience it at home," said Sonos Chief Marketing Officer Joy Howard. "We're using the weight of our brand and our unique position in the industry to create a better future for music."
The effort kicks off with a new global marketing campaign that pokes fun at the absurdities of modern listening and exposes the problems that stand between us and the music we love. The hilarity of listening on "craptop" speakers, the frustration of a phone tethered to a speaker by Bluetooth and the irony of wiring a home for sound in the age of Wi-Fi are all part of the campaign. The work premieres on TV, online and out of home on September 1.
Sonos will also partner with Airbnb to use the power of music to make everywhere feel even more like home. The companies will work together to enhance the home listening experience, not only for Airbnb's host community, but for their 100+ million guest arrivals around the world. Sonos has been offering Sonos systems to new Airbnb hosts, and together the two brands recently piloted a Sonos Home pop-up activation with promising early results.
Finally, Sonos announced it has joined the Open Music Initiative, an organization founded in June 2016 by Berklee's Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship with the goal of dramatically simplifying the way music creators and rights owners are identified and compensated for their art. As a member, Sonos will champion high-quality music experiences worth paying for, a major hurdle for continued growth.
"Sonos is the perfect partner for OMI - it's a company that deeply and genuinely cares about the power of music in our daily lives and sees the long-term health of the entire music industry as something worth fighting for," said Panos Panay, founder, Open Music Initiative and founding managing director of BerkleeICE. "With the brainpower of companies like Sonos, OMI will more quickly bring solutions to ensure proper compensation for all creators, performers and rights holders of music."
• Sonos Introduces Play:5 Speaker and TruePlay Tuning Software at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Which Multi-room Wireless Audio System Is Right for You? at HomeTheaterReview.com.