Sonos Embeds Alexa Adding Smart Home Control

Subscribe To Download This Insight

By Jonathan Collins | 4Q 2017 | IN-4770

The strategy by Sonos of embedding Alexa into its latest smart home speaker is an act of defending the company’s core market as voice control begins to permeates the connected home audio market.

Registered users can unlock up to five pieces of premium content each month.

Log in or register to unlock this Insight.


Sonos Embeds Alexa into Its Next-Generation Sonos One Speaker


Sonos, the connected speaker specialist that helped pioneer the connected home audio market, has announced its first device to have embedded voice control. The latest generation Sonos One speaker has Amazon’s Alexa integrated into the device and is a key part of the company’s efforts to defend its place in the market ahead of direct competition from Apple’s HomePod, which will start shipping later this year.

Alexa First, Google Assistant and Others to Follow


Sonos announced its plans to integrate with Alexa last year. According to the company, it also has plans for other smart home voice platforms, including Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, and Google Assistant. The first of those will be Google Assistant, which is scheduled for the first half of 2018.

Until now, some Sonos speakers have been able to integrate with Alexa devices through a line-in connection. However, with the new Sonos One, Alexa is hosted on the speaker itself, with embedded microphones and additional hardware buttons supporting Alexa interaction. On the software side, Sonos stresses that the level of integration goes beyond what was previously possible when Alexa was supported via Alexa Skills. The new integration means that a long string of Alexa skill commands such as “Alexa, ask Sonos to play Young Americans by David Bowie” becomes “Alexa, play Young Americans by David Bowie.”

Sonos looks to differentiate its speakers, not just through traditional audio capabilities, but also in the way that Alexa is integrated. For example, Sonos has developed its own software to collect and manage voice recognition within its devices. The new Sonos One has a six-microphone array and leverages the company’s Trueplay audio testing technology to align those microphones to focus in the direction they detect a voice. In addition, while Alexa is in use, it lowers, instead of interrupting any audio currently being played.

The new Sonos One device will retail at the same US$199 as the previous PLAY:1 model on which it is based. The new speaker can be integrated with existing Sonos equipment to add Alexa control across the system. 

Managing Competition When the Smart Home Enters Your Market


Ostensibly a home audio hardware company, Sonos has found its core market the focus of significant smart home investing and competition from some of the largest companies in the world. Leveraging the smart home’s potential has drawn Amazon, Apple, Google, and others into the space. So far, the key hardware for spearheading voice control has been home speakers. Sonos’s strategy aims to integrate its hardware with all of those players and more. Just as the company cannot and does not compete with audio streaming companies, Sonos knows it must leverage partner voice control platforms in a similar manner and is looking to distinguish itself by the audio and control experience on its devices. This strategy cedes the key smart home data relationship, which draws in players like Amazon and Google, to its larger partners, but also enables Sonos to compete on its core strength of home audio quality.

Launching voice control integration with Alexa makes sense given the greater popularity of Amazon’s platform over its rivals. The most direct competition for Sonos will come from Apple. Sonos believes that 70% of its installed user base uses at least one iOS device to manage the home Sonos system. Later this year, Apple’s HomePod will directly challenge Sonos, as the device targets that very Apple user base by tightly integrating Apple Music streaming and the new speaker. While the Sonos One will include support for Apple AirPlay 2 next year, it is notable that Google Assistant, and not Siri, is the next voice platform set to be hosted on the Sonos One device.

Voice control and AI platforms in the home are in their earliest days. Increasingly, microphones connected to these systems will be found not just in speakers but in a range of devices and form factors. Sonos’s efforts to defend its core market from the entry of voice control into its home audio market will be a valuable lesson for a host of other home appliance and device vendors as they increasingly look to bring voice control into their products.


Companies Mentioned