Sonos just announced a new soundbar speaker for the living room, a part of your house which the company says has been underserved in the smart speaker craze. But the new speaker, called “Beam,” is not the most important thing. It’s really a way for Sonos to tell the world that its gear doesn’t care which of the leading digital voice assistants you use–it talks Alexa, Assistant, or Siri.
In the demo at the San Francisco event today, Sonos VP of software Antoine Leblond (was he in Duran Duran?) asked Siri to play a song on the Beam, then asked Alexa for some help identifying the song’s name and artist. Actually, the speaker will ship next month with Alexa native support, then add Siri support in July. Sonos says support for Google’s Assistant will come later but didn’t say how much later.
Sonos is at once playing to its original strength of selling great-sounding smart speakers for every room in the home, and doing the sensible thing of remaining agnostic to the growing array of increasingly popular voice digital assistants. Consumers will increasingly be faced with having several competing assistants in devices in their homes and on their bodies and in their cars, all of which have no incentive for interacting with each other, or with the consumer, in any complementary or standardized way. The best thing for Sonos to do is support all of them.
That says nothing of the technical hoops Sonos and companies like it might have to jump through to support all major assistants. And those hurdles might translate into a confusing set-up and user experience for consumers.
We won’t really know that until we get a unit later this year, set it up, and begin using our Alexa, Siri, and Assistant accounts with the device. I’ve no doubt the $399 Beam speaker sounds great–especially compared to the TVs it’ll plug into–but it might be wise to understand the headache factor with the assistants before plunking down the cash.
Sorta kinda. It's undeniably cool and they're on the right track, but for now, all the limitations and roadblocks of this scenario are more confusing to consumers than helpful. https://t.co/Qn7bwgon3P
— Avi Greengart (@greengart) June 6, 2018