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This article was published on March 10, 2016

Sonos looks to voice control as it lays off employees

Sonos looks to voice control as it lays off employees Image by: Napier Lopez
Owen Williams
Story by

Owen Williams

Former TNW employee

Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their word Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their words friendlier. In his spare time he codes, writes newsletters and cycles around the city.

I’m a huge fan of Sonos’ speakers and have a number of them in my home, but there’s some bad news out of the company today: it’s laying off employees to refocus in the long term.

In an announcement today, the company’s CEO, John Macfarlane, said that “we’re making a decision to substantially and confidently increase our investment in the future of music” so will be “letting go of some Sonos employees who have played important roles getting us to this point.”

That’s in part because the music industry has rapidly changed. Sonos started out betting that people would use ripped music libraries for almost ten years, but invested in working with subscription services like Spotify and others as well as that shift started to happen.

Macfarlane said that shift fundamentally happened in 2015 when Apple entered the mix and caused labels, artists and management companies to “embrace and advance streaming all over the world.”

He admits that streaming is “inevitable now” but thinks the last question is “how fast the growth” of paid streaming will be.

The post specifically calls out Amazon’s Echo product line as being an inspiration for the company, saying that “Echo found a sweet spot in the home and will impact how we navigate music, weather, and many, many other things.”

Sonos is planning to invest massive resources into voice, and the company specifically calling out Alexa is interesting – it would be great to see future Sonos speakers working with Amazon’s Echo, rather than yet another voice service.

An interesting hint that Sonos has already been considering this for some time is that its newest speaker, the Play:5, is equipped with a yet-to-be-activated microphone array that could be used for such a service.

It’s sad news that the company is letting go of employees, but it’s fantastic that it’s paying attention to what’s going on in the market. I’ve been incredibly vocal in the past that Sonos was at risk of being left behind and today’s news shows it’s paying attention.

Navigating an industry in transition [Sonos]