The time is right for Apple to buy Sonos – TechSwitch

    It’s been a busy couple of months for sensible audio system — Amazon launched a bunch simply this week, together with up to date variations of its present Echo {hardware} and a brand new Echo Studio with premium sound. Sonos additionally launched its first transportable speaker with Bluetooth help, the Sonos Move, and in August launched its collaboration assortment with Ikea. Meanwhile, Apple didn’t say something in regards to the HomePod at its newest huge product occasion — an omission that makes it all of the extra apparent the sensible transfer could be for Apple to accumulate an organization that is aware of what they’re doing on this class: Sonos.
    Highly aligned
    From an outsider perspective, it’s onerous to search out two corporations that appear extra philosophically aligned than Sonos and Apple in relation to product design and enterprise mannequin. Both are clearly targeted on delivering premium {hardware} (at a value level that’s usually on the increased finish of the mass market) and each use companies to reinforce and complement the attraction of their {hardware}, even when Apple’s been shifting that blend a bit with a fast-growing companies enterprise.
    Sonos, like Apple, clearly has a robust focus and deep funding in industrial design, and places a number of effort into really distinctive product appear and feel that stands out from the group — and is immediately identifiable as soon as you recognize what to search for. Even the corporate’s choice for a principally black and white palette feels distinctly Apple — no less than Apple main as much as the prior renaissance of multi-color palettes for a few of its extra widespread gadgets, together with the iPhone.
    From a technical perspective, Apple and Sonos appear eager to work collectively — and the outcomes of their collaboration has been nice for customers who use each ecosystems. AirPlay 2 help is successfully commonplace on all trendy Sonos {hardware}, and actually Sonos is actually the default alternative already for anybody trying to do AirPlay 2-based multiform audio, due to the wide selection of choices accessible in numerous type elements and at completely different value factors. Sonos and Apple additionally supply an Apple Music integration for Sonos’ controller app, and now you should utilize voice management through Alexa to play Apple Music, too.
    Competitive strikes
    The major situation that an Apple-owned Sonos hasn’t made a lot sense prior to now, no less than from Sonos’ perspective, is that the speaker maker has reaped the advantages of being a platform that performs good with all the most important streaming service suppliers and digital assistants. Recent Sonos audio system supply each Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant help, as an example, and Sonos’ software program has connections with nearly each main music and audio streaming service accessible.
    What’s modified, particularly in gentle of Amazon’s slew of bulletins this week, is that rivals like Amazon are wanting extra like they wish to personal extra of the enterprise that at present falls inside Sonos’ area. Amazon’s Echo Studio is a brand new premium speaker that straight competes with Sonos in a approach that earlier Echos actually haven’t, and the corporate has persistently been releasing better-sounding variations of its different, extra reasonably priced Echos. It’s additionally been rolling out extra feature-rich multi-room audio options, together with wi-fi encompass help for residence theater use — all issues squarely within the Sonos wheelhouse.

    For now, Sonos and Amazon appear to be comfortably in “frenemy” territory, however more and more, it doesn’t look like Amazon is content material to go away them their higher-end market phase in relation to the speaker {hardware} class. Amazon nonetheless most likely will do no matter it might to maximise use of Alexa, on each its personal and third-party gadgets, but it surely additionally appears to be intent on strengthening and increasing its personal first-party gadget lineup, with audio system as low-hanging fruit.
    Other rivals, together with Google and Apple, don’t appear to have had as a lot success with their merchandise that line up as direct rivals to Sonos, however the speaker-maker additionally faces perennial challenges from hi-fi and audio business stalwarts, and in addition appears prone to go up towards newer gadget makers with audio ambitions and clear price benefits, like Anker.
    Missing components/work to be carried out
    Of course, there are some huge challenges and potential crimson flags that stand in the way in which of Apple ever shopping for Sonos, or of that ensuing union understanding nicely for customers. Sonos works so nicely as a result of it’s service-agnostic, as an example, and the important thing to its success with current merchandise appears to even be integration with the sensible residence assistants that individuals appear to truly wish to use most — particularly Alexa and Google Assistant.
    Under Apple possession, it’s extremely doable that Apple Music would no less than get preferential therapy, if not turn out to be the lone streaming service on supply. It’s possible that Siri would substitute Alexa and Assistant as the one digital voice service accessible, and virtually unthinkable that Apple would proceed to help competing companies if it did make this purchase.
    That stated, there’s most likely important overlap between Apple and Sonos clients already, and so long as there was some service flexibility (in the identical approach there’s for streaming rivals on iOS gadgets, together with Spotify), then being locked into Siri most likely wouldn’t sting as a lot. And it could serve to present Siri the foothold at residence that the HomePod hasn’t managed to offer. Apple would even be higher incentivized to work on bettering Siri’s efficiency as a basic home-based assistant, which might in the end be good for Apple ecosystem clients.
    Another sensible adjacency
    Apple’s greater acquisitions are few and much between, however the ones it does make are sometimes clearly adjoining to its core enterprise. A Sonos acquisition has a fairly robust precedent within the Beats buy Apple made in 2014, albeit with out the robust motivator of offering the underlying product and relationship foundation for launching a streaming service.

    What Sonos is, nevertheless, is an inversion of the historic Apple mannequin of utilizing nice companies to promote {hardware}. The Sonos ecosystem is a superb, straightforward to make use of, premium-feel technique of profiting from Apple’s music and video streaming companies (and model new video games subscription providing), all of that are extra essential than ever to the corporate because it diversifies from its monolithic iPhone enterprise.
    I’m hardly the primary to recommend an Apple-Sonos deal is smart: J.P. Morgan analyst Samik Chatterjee prompt it earlier this yr, the truth is. From my perspective, nevertheless, the timing has by no means been higher for this acquisition to happen, and the motivations by no means stronger for both get together concerned.
    Disclosure: I labored briefly for Apple in its communications division in 2015-2016, however the above evaluation is predicated totally on publicly accessible info, and I maintain no inventory in both firm.

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