Sonos Apologies, Reverses Course on Legacy Devices

Posted on January 24, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Sonos with 17 Comments

Sonos has responded to criticism of its recently-announced support policy for legacy products. And it’s doing the right thing.

In fact, it’s arguably doing more than it needs to. But given the outpouring of rage—much of it from people who don’t even own Sonos equipment—that occurred in the wake of the firm’s announcement this past week, it had little choice.

“We heard you,” an open letter from Sonos CEO Patrick Spence reads. “We did not get this right from the start. My apologies for that and I wanted to personally assure you of the path forward.”

Spence says that Sonos products will continue to work as they do today when they exit support, and are no longer receiving software updates. That’s a subtle but important shift from the previous policy, where out-of-support products could lead to a situation where newer Sonos products on the same network would also no longer receive updates. “We are not bricking them, we are not forcing them into obsolescence, and we are not taking anything away,” he notes, emphasizing the point.

Another change: Sonos will try to deliver bug fixes and security patches to legacy products —i.e. those that are no longer receiving feature updates—for “as long as possible.” That, too, is a subtle but important change: Previously, legacy Sonos products would not get any updates at all.

More vaguely, Spence also says that Sonos will “work to offer an alternative solution” when it can’t fix an issue that is “core to the experience.” I assume this basically means offering more than a 30 percent trade-in value on used equipment, but we’ll see.

But the biggest change, perhaps, is that Sonos is now investigating a way for legacy and fully-supported products to co-exist on the same network.

“We are working on a way to split your system so that modern products work together and get the latest features, while legacy products work together and remain in their current state,” he writes. “We’re finalizing details on this plan and will share more in the coming weeks.”

Given the venom of the feedback Sonos received to its support note this week, it’s unlikely that this will satisfy everyone. But it’s good news for actual Sonos customers, and should alleviate the concerns that some had about their years-long investments in the company’s products.

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Comments (17)

17 responses to “Sonos Apologies, Reverses Course on Legacy Devices”

  1. Avatar

    jbinaz

    I still have no clue how Sonos works. I know it's more than just a Bluetooth speaker, and it somehow works with apps, but I have zero idea what makes it so great or how to use it. And one of my best friends worked for them a few years ago.


    It always has seemed expensive, too.

    • Avatar

      reformedctrlz

      In reply to jbinaz:

      It's similar to how chromecasts work, the speakers connect to wifi and your music services to stream from the internet for a higher quality sound than what is afforded over a bluetooth connection.


      They're definitely expensive, I like the idea of a sonos system but I'll never be able to afford them so I don't bother paying much attention to them.

  2. Avatar

    jwpear

    I don't own a Sonos speaker as I've always found them to be way too expensive for something that plays sound. I say that as someone still feeling the burn of the Jawbone Koolaid I sipped as a younger, more naïve me.


    I didn't express any public rage over this, but my first thought was "what a way to screw over your loyal customers." If someone is willing to pay that much for a speaker, the least you can do is make them feel valued and important.


    Perhaps their biggest problem was in how they communicated this. It doesn't seem unreasonable for them to announce that they're not going to issue feature or security updates on products that are very old. But my perception of the message was more like "you're on your own and we really don't care." It really put another seed of doubt in Sonos and reaffirmed that I had made the right decision to pass on them (which I should have done with Jawbone).


    Good to see them making the correction. Too bad they didn't think this through more and it took all this bad air to get it right.

  3. Avatar

    chaad_losan

    Absolute and total morons run sonos. Who the F ever thought this was a good idea.

    "Hey all of you who paid through the nose for our products and paid 5 times as much as our competitors. Thank you but we are going to end of life all your products for you because I need a new Ferrari and I can't get that unless you re-buy all of your sonos speakers with the "New-ish" versions of speakers that NEVER even ware out. So we will force it to self destruct so you HAVE to re-buy all of your perfectly good speakers so we can get a cool new super car. Thank you for your support. " - Sonos Press Release.

  4. Avatar

    Sihaz

    I saved like mad for a pair of Tannoy 609 speakers when I was a student 30 years ago. Although my power amps have changed from stereo to 5.1 over the years, they are still my main front pair and sound as good now as they ever did. Nobody can break them with software either!

  5. Avatar

    mattbg

    I'm not too surprised about the backlash. At one point, Pocket Casts wanted to discontinue lifetime service of their web-based player and a bunch of people who paid $5 a few years ago were flipping out about their contractual rights. You can imagine what reddit was like.


    I'm not surprised the same happened with a $300+ speaker.


    But, really - what has changed about audio in the last 10 years that requires a significant uplift in CPU and memory? Video and user interfaces have changed a lot. It makes sense why a Roku or Smart TV software would become obsolete. Sonos has neither of these concerns.


    Sending so many toxic things to the landfill every few years because of software limitations seems to be a bit much when you think about what this looks like at scale. Almost everything "smart" seems to be on a replacement cycle now, and it's longer or shorter depending on whether or not it has a non-replaceable battery inside. At the individual level, it might not look too bad, but we need someone to show us what this looks like when 1 billion people are behaving this way.

    • Avatar

      infloop

      In reply to mattbg:


      "Sending so many toxic things to the landfill every few years because of software limitations seems to be a bit much when you think about what this looks like at scale."


      ^ This.


      I think we need to start putting the brakes on how fast so many things churn these days, especially when it comes to physical goods. Things like the smartphone upgrade cycles, televisions, and now the coming IoT wave of devices really start to build up when you think about it. There's also a thing called fast fashion, where new designs of clothing are released every few months, maybe even weeks, to replace the previous looks that were all the rage then. And not to mention that a lot of the time we are just shipping our junk around the world.

  6. Avatar

    orbsitron

    This is exactly what I was hoping for. My current products to continue to work even if they don't improve in the future and products that are still in the "new feature" window, continue to get updates. That's perfect.


    Also, well done on the public apology and acknowledgement of the mistake.


    The original policy was a poor one but this was responded to well, in my opinion.

  7. Avatar

    red.radar

    Two observations:


    1. Sonos must have really hit an architectural wall with their system to basically be willing to buy back old devices and then dispose them. The only benefit to this is effectively remove from circulation old hardware. OR... This was some finance move to hide the bottom line charge for the 30% discount.
    2. I don't think I have a problem with the terms of the original deal. They are buying back the device. Not mass bricking hardware without some sort of customer engagement and a transaction. I think the real issue is that they announced this during a calm period in the tech cycle. They should have announced this during the next Iphone launch when the press is consumed with competing for all the latest clicks. No one would have run a story about this or have been able to make such a stink about it. I guess the term is "Bury the lead". Perhaps I am wrong..
  8. Avatar

    Daekar

    It amazes me that people have embraced this and similar products the way they have. We have a few Bose bluetooth speakers and I can't imagine needing more than that, especially because they're small and portable - we can move them wherever we want them if for some reason their usual spots aren't what we need for that moment. We often take them outside while doing work in the garden. They're not IoT devices, don't need an Internet connection, don't present a security risk, and don't need firmware updates. They just work.

    Other than that... since we don't often entertain large groups of people that wouldn't all comfortably fit within the reach of our bluetooth speakers, there is really very little utility offered by whole-house audio solutions for us. If I'm wandering around the house doing chores and want music/podcasts, I do what everyone under the age of 40 does - I put on headphones/headset if I don't want to bother my wife, and I just play things through my phone speakers if that's not an issue.

    It boggles the mind to hear people talk about spending hundreds of dollars on speakers that are limited to a single location and only the services which are officially supported. Kind of like spending over 500 dollars on a TV seems a sign of significant brain damage unless you're using it for productivity.

    • Avatar

      olavgm

      In reply to Daekar:

      There are people with other necessities and taste. Don't dismiss them because you found a solution that fits you well.


      Also, if you can't see the difference between a $500 TV and a $1000 TV, I think you might need a visit to an oculist. Don't discard neurologist either.

      • Avatar

        Daekar

        In reply to olavgm:

        Oh, absolutely. My needs are not those of others. It is simply fascinating that circumstances should so different for so many.

        And I didn't say that I couldn't tell the difference in TVs at different price points. I simply feel that the fundamental user experience is almost identical past a certain point. I am not going to enjoy the content I watch any more on a $2000 set than I am on a $400 set. Technology is so good now, it's not like the difference between VHS and DVD. Ultimately, the incremental value proposition becomes very poor.

  9. Avatar

    Yannick

    They still need to reverse on that ridiculous "recycle mode" thing, tho.

  10. Avatar

    Thomas Parkison

    I don't care, they can put the car in reverse all they want. Sonos is dead in my book.

  11. Avatar

    veermaharaj

    They need to offer a product like an echo input with some sort of on off trigger. Additionally, building their speakers with a upgradeable computer module that houses the computer parts of the speaker would also be a very forward thinking and serious improvement.

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