LAS VEGAS -- It's been 10 years since Sonos began selling its music-streaming hardware, but after a decade of being shielded from any credible competition, the startup is now facing an onslaught of rival products from big-name challengers, led primarily by Google, at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
Sonos' product line includes Internet-connected speakers and hubs that are capable of playing music from more than 60 Internet services, including Spotify, Apple's Beats Music and Pandora. Users control the Sonos units, which range in price from $199 to $699, via Wi-Fi using their smartphones and tablets, giving them the freedom to enjoy music without having to put their devices aside.
It's a sound concept -- no pun intended -- that has allowed Sonos to reach millions of users, but going forward, the Santa Barbara startup will have to show its true grit. Over the past year, numerous big-name rivals -- including Monster and Bose -- have unveiled similar products. And at CES this week, Google announced Cast for audio, a technology that will be built into upcoming speakers. The new tech works a lot like Sonos' and will allow users to stream music through their speakers while controlling the tunes with their devices.
It's the biggest challenge Sonos has faced yet, and already Sony, LG and Denon have signed up to release Cast for audio-ready speakers later this year. But Sonos isn't sweating the threat. The company is confident in its products and believes its 10-year head start gives it an edge. The company also says that its single-minded focus on music streaming gives it a strength not shared by Google or other audio companies. Additionally, Sonos seems to understand that it will likely benefit from the attention Google will be bringing to its market.
“We were very early in the game of streaming music, and we're just excited that that there's more people that are feeling the joy of listening to music out loud and finding more ways to get there,” said Ben Smith, Sonos' product manager for user and developer experiences, in an interview with International Business Times.
The audio startup also made sure to point out that it and Google are partners considering Sonos supports the Google Play Music streaming service. But for all the cordiality, Sonos couldn't keep from getting in a jab at its new rival.
"Google has come in before -- let's be clear -- with the Nexus Q," said spokesman Eric Nielsen with a sly smile, while recalling 2012 memories of the failed $299 digital media player Google was forced to cancel after receiving poor reviews from developers.
With music streaming services all the rage these days, 2015 could be a big year for the streaming speaker market, and already, subtle shots have been fired.