Last week the United States International Trade Commission ruled that Google was infringing on five of Sonos' patients, rumored to be around grouping functionality. While it is without devastating consequences for users of google nest speakers, this acts as a testament to the home audio hegemony of Sonos.
Context: Nest Speakers
Nest has long been a mainstay for smart home enthusiasts looking to keep their setup budget-friendly and who are firmly integrated into the Google ecosystem. Widely considered a great mid to entry-level smart speaker, nest speakers are sleek, compact, and provide decent audio for the price tag of just under $100 depending on where you shop. Integrated with their renowned voice assistant that can aid in a plethora of tasks. These speakers are truly great options.
Context: Sonos Speakers
If you've read our previous article about the Sonos world, you'll know that we are huge fans of their products and platform. The speakers themselves produce amazing sound with a deep, robust delivery coupled with a surprising bass. What has set them apart is the tech behind the product. Their speaker control through the Sonos app in conjunction with 3rd party apps allows for easy controllable and synchronous sound throughout your home, but with a much higher price tag compared to the Nest Speakers.
The suit started over 2 years ago coming from claims that google speakers blatantly and deliberately copied Sonos' technology. Room grouping, synchronization, and volume control were principle violations being addressed.
With Sonos having officially won the suit last week, the repercussions are as follows for google and the users of their speakers.
1.) Google can no longer import the products that infringe on those patents. (Effective in roughly 50 days).
2) Speaker groups will no longer be volume controlled together or by phone rocker. They will have to be manually and individually adjusted.
3.) The stereo feature may lose its current cohesiveness with the speakers violating the grouping feature, however, it is unclear as to how Google is handling that and the effect it will have on synchronization
4.) The biggest of all: Loss of audio control via voice command.
*While these are the rumored changes, we won't know for certain until the update is released.*
Google's ecosystem certainly takes a hit with this ruling, and while it won't make their product obsolete, it acts as a noticeable downgrade to their home audio offerings. The most interesting impact that we have yet to see is the reaction from the consumers once the update to remove the features releases. However, the conversation has already kicked off throughout many forums, and Reddit pages.
We spoke with an Industry professional closely tied to the space who asked to remain anonymous. He stated, "No one wins with the current arrangement. Personally, I think the courts should force a licenses agreement so people get the full functionality they paid for. A partial cash refund doesn't solve the problems created by removing features. The refund amount would have to be enough to buy Sonos equipment in my opinion. If you buy a product and then Google removes features, the product is no longer the same. It's unacceptable for Google to just say 'oh sorry' and move on. The consumers deserve more"
Sonos isn't just here to stay - they're dominating.
One of the main takeaways from this decision is the statement Sonos makes to the goliaths of the tech industry. Their impact in the home tech space has been monumental and it's only going to continue. With a feature-rich physical and digital product with tech patents that have already held up in court, it now becomes innovate or sink for the other home audio companies.