Wireless speaker provider Sonos announced today that it has let go of an undisclosed number of employees as it begins to shift its focus within the music industry. Company CEO John MacFarlane explained that as his team invests in future projects, Sonos will be looking at two particular areas: streaming music services and voice control.
The company declined to provide specifics about which departments would be affected by the layoffs, saying only that they were a short-term consequence of the decision to “substantially and confidently increase our investment in the future of music.” MacFarlane stated that Sonos is doing “everything we can to make [these employees’] transition as smooth as possible.”
Streaming music is the new black
For the past decade, MacFarlane’s team has produced wireless speakers with amazing sound quality that rivals that of Bose and other high-quality audio devices. The focus has been on people who have their entire music library on their computers and want to hear the songs throughout their home. But trends have shifted toward subscription services, and while Sonos has supported services like Spotify, Pandora, and Slacker, the company felt that its business model wasn’t quite right.
With that in mind, MacFarlane declared that Sonos will be “doubling down on our long-held conviction that streaming music is the dominant form of consumption now and in the future. We believe that listeners will grow increasingly dissatisfied with the solutions they’ve cobbled together for listening at home.”
He didn’t offer specifics about whether Sonos will be launching its own streaming service (or maybe buying one?) to compete against Samsung Milk, Google Play Music, Pandora, and Apple Music. However, MacFarlane did say that the company would focus on “building incredibly rich experiences that were all but unimaginable when we started…and will be the vanguard of what it means to listen to music at home.”
The next area of evolution for Sonos involves voice control, something that Amazon seems to have a good handle on in the home through its Alexa-enabled products. In fact, MacFarlane says as much in his post: “We’re fans of what Amazon has done with Alexa and the Echo product line.”
As voice recognition proliferates throughout the home and becomes available on services like Google Now, Hound, Siri, and Cortana, what role will Sonos play? MacFarlane reiterated that the company’s mission is to fill every home with music. It’s possible there might be an integration coming in the future, or perhaps the next generation speakers will be built using Alexa SDKs and APIs, something that Amazon recently released new tools around.
A few years ago, Sonos had an edge because of its integrations with services and high-quality speakers, but as the field has become crowded with competitors such as Samsung, Bose, and now Amazon, it’s going to be increasingly difficult to stand out. So MacFarlane is now looking at how to differentiate the company in the long-term as he charts Sonos’ course for the next decade.
Sonos has raised $323.95 million in venture funding.