I didn’t see this one coming: Sonos announced today that it will open up its excellent connected speaker solutions to partners, starting with Amazon Echo and Spotify. This means that Sonos users will no longer be stuck with the middling Sonos Controller apps they currently need to use to access the speakers.
“With the unprecedented growth in streaming, music has become abundant and immediate,” Sonos CEO John MacFarlane said in a prepared statement. “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.”
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This move was clearly designed to counter competition from Google Cast and the firm’s inexpensive Chromecast devices, which let users easily connect to speakers around one’s home and control playback from the apps of their choosing. Sonos speakers, by comparison, are quite expensive. And to date, they’ve been somewhat hobbled by the reliance on the Sonos Controller apps, which are available on Android, iOS, Mac and Windows (PC only).
As I wrote in Hands-On: Groove + Sonos last year, the Sonos Controller app does have some advantages: It lets you mix and match music from multiple services, for example. But most people simply stick to a single service, and what they really want to do is use the familiar interface of the service/app they prefer, and just “cast” the music to their speakers.
And that’s about to happen, though the rollout will be limited to Amazon Echo and Spotify at first.
On Echo, Sonos will support the voice control that these devices are famous for. “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,” Sonos notes. “By integrating Alexa into their Sonos sound systems, owners can use their voice to play, pause, skip, control volume and more.”
Echo support will will be delivered via 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, Sonos says. There will be an invite-only beta test later this year, with general availability expected in 2017.
As for Spotify, Sonos is integrating with Spotify Connect to allow its users to control their whole-home speaker solutions directly from the Spotify app on Android and iPhone.
“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,” Sonos says.
Spotify support for Sonos will be available in October as part of the Sonos public beta program, Sonos says. There’s no word on the public release.
And this is just the beginning, Sonos says. Pandora has signed on and will offer Sonos control through its apps as well, and Sonos support is coming to products from connected home vendors such as Crestron, Lutron, Savant, Control4, iPort and QIVICON.
Hopefully, Microsoft will update Groove to control Sonos speakers as well.