Sonos CEO to depart company after 14 years amid increased competition

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The CEO of wireless speaker maker Sonos, John MacFarlane, is resigning from the company he founded in 2002 due to increased competition from the likes of Amazon and other wireless speaker makers, a move that could potentially influence a close partnership with Apple.




MacFarlane is being replaced by a deputy, Patrick Spence, and will also leave the Sonos board of directors, the New York Times said on Tuesday. The executive will, however, remain employed at the company to work on mentoring and other projects.

Speaking with the Times, MacFarlane said that he actually wanted to resign earlier given the age of his parents and his wife's struggle with breast cancer, but decided to postpone a departure when Amazon's Echo speaker began making a serious dent in Sonos sales.

MacFarlane admitted that he ignored the threat Echo might pose to his company. Sonos specializes in high-quality, multi-room Wi-Fi systems, while the Echo is a single-room Bluetooth speaker built around Alexa, Amazon's voice assistant. Voice control appears to be a key differentiator, however. While Sonos speakers offer native app-based control for more music services, people can simply ask an Echo to stream a station or song from services like Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon Music.

"I fell into that trap where I've been watching voice recognition for years," MacFarlane said. "I tried Echo in the beginning and wrote it off. I had too many distractions at that time. I wasn't playing at the level I should have been playing at in all frankness."

In March 2016 the CEO announced a round of layoffs, and since then Sonos has revealed a collaboration with Amazon that will eventually let people control its speakers with Alexa. Third-party Alexa integration was a popular feature at this year's Consumer Electronics Show.

Apple and Sonos have become increasingly close. The latter's speakers have been a staple of Apple's online and retail stores for some time, and in tandem with native Apple Music support coming to the speakers in Feb. 2016, the two companies launched a collaborative ad campaign.

Spence's leadership style could take Sonos in a different direction, particularly if Apple decides it doesn't want Alexa-based devices in its stores. That might invite direct comparisons with its own voice assistant, Siri, particularly if a rumored Echo competitor comes to fruition.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    Please let this be true. I love my Sonos set up, if there was ever a good marriage, this is it. 
    I also want Sonos and Phillips Hue to have babies, just because I want a high quality speaker bulb for my bathroom. Bathrooms generally don't have 240v sockets, but the lighting does.
  • Reply 2 of 13
    If Apple made the iPods wifi+music+siri they could turn the army of existing iPod speakers out there into Alexa competitors in months.
    cali
  • Reply 3 of 13
    What Apple should do that Amazon can't do is come out with a speaker that is controlled by your iPhone in a similar way that an Apple Watch is controlled by the iPhone.  This would make the speaker a more powerful computer.  It would avoid the problem of your TV or a kid ordering stuff because there would not be a paired iPhone in range.  What this does is allow you to leave your phone in your pocket at times when you don't want to be putzing with it or your hands are busy.  It would play music from your phone's library and more.  Amazon?  They don't have a phone!  Bam!  Get them where they're weakest!


    cali
  • Reply 4 of 13
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 11,950member
    I'd be all for Apple acquiring Sonos provided they actually have plans for extending the product.   Sonos issue as I see it is that they can only spend so much money on R&D.  Their Play 5 revamp was expertly done but it "feels" like they don't have the same inclination to revamp the Play 3 and Play 1.  

    What Sonos has done well is work with integrators and that could be a boon to Apple because they should be looking to push HomeKit as a near complete solution for Connected Home in the new few years. 

    Problem is Apple doesn't like managing too many gadgets and Sonos needs a smaller more functional pre-amp and amp for legacy systems.   Apple could also license out the Sonos IP under a revamped Airplay plus like protocol and let third party vendors manage the amplification stages. 
  • Reply 5 of 13
    Beats .......................................................................
  • Reply 6 of 13
    calicali Posts: 2,981member
    Beats .......................................................................
    Beats Sonos?

    Beats really needs to get into the high end home market.
  • Reply 7 of 13
    What Apple should do that Amazon can't do is come out with a speaker that is controlled by your iPhone in a similar way that an Apple Watch is controlled by the iPhone.  This would make the speaker a more powerful computer.  It would avoid the problem of your TV or a kid ordering stuff because there would not be a paired iPhone in range.  What this does is allow you to leave your phone in your pocket at times when you don't want to be putzing with it or your hands are busy.  It would play music from your phone's library and more.  Amazon?  They don't have a phone!  Bam!  Get them where they're weakest!
    I'm not so sure that's a good idea. The iPhone isn't the center of the hub, the cloud is. iCloud Music Library is my media source, not my phone. The only reason the AW is dependent on the iPhone is because it's still too young and underdeveloped (due to current tech limitations) to be an independent device.
    edited January 10
  • Reply 8 of 13
    Apple lost a major acquisition opportunity in allowing Harman to be acquired by Samsung.

    I hope that something similar will not happen with Sonos. I can see Google or Amazon coming with a bid pretty quickly. 
    pscooter63cali
  • Reply 9 of 13
    ...funny I just don't get all this... I don't want my data, song requests or other info in some government penetrable cloud, and prefer simple direct inexpensive lamp cord that always works with unlimited bandwidth vs potentially problematic wifi or bluetooth connections that again, might be hacked, and don't want to stream highly compressed audio in favour of at worst lossless if not CD quality (I still also have a turntable) - my vintage audio I am able to get repaired if needed (caps and transistors) while a much more expensive (not Sonos) BT/WiFi integrated designer AIO system I tried spent months in the shop with a probable and irreparable manufacturer's defect board failure (no parts available either) - I assume convenience drives this for many, and maybe style, but at what costs financially, environmentally and at a most basic level in audio quality...?
    edited January 10
  • Reply 10 of 13
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 599member
    Apple lost a major acquisition opportunity in allowing Harman to be acquired by Samsung.

    I hope that something similar will not happen with Sonos. I can see Google or Amazon coming with a bid pretty quickly. 
    I read the article and wondered if SONOS is a dead company.

    Seems like Apple has the talent to handle the WIFI networking and Beats would be able to do the Speaker manufacturing.

    What would be gained by buying SONOS as they appear to be behind the times and probably their talent could be hired by Apple?

    Hoping Apple can really release a new enhanced SIRI as part of a multi-room Mesh router/Audio system.
    Start with a one speaker system like a Play 1 and allow Beats to come out with components similar to the Play 3, Play 5, SoundBar,
    and SubWoofer.   Apple will need to go higher end than the Echo or a Google Wifi/Home system (starting $400).


  • Reply 11 of 13
    calicali Posts: 2,981member
    k2kw said:
    Apple lost a major acquisition opportunity in allowing Harman to be acquired by Samsung.

    I hope that something similar will not happen with Sonos. I can see Google or Amazon coming with a bid pretty quickly. 
    I read the article and wondered if SONOS is a dead company.

    Seems like Apple has the talent to handle the WIFI networking and Beats would be able to do the Speaker manufacturing.

    What would be gained by buying SONOS as they appear to be behind the times and probably their talent could be hired by Apple?

    Hoping Apple can really release a new enhanced SIRI as part of a multi-room Mesh router/Audio system.
    Start with a one speaker system like a Play 1 and allow Beats to come out with components similar to the Play 3, Play 5, SoundBar,
    and SubWoofer.   Apple will need to go higher end than the Echo or a Google Wifi/Home system (starting $400).


    I was thinking the same. Why would Apple buy Sonos?

    Beats is gigantically bigger and the low quality audio stigma of Beats is going away.
  • Reply 12 of 13
    MacProMacPro Posts: 16,197member
    k2kw said:
    Apple lost a major acquisition opportunity in allowing Harman to be acquired by Samsung.

    I hope that something similar will not happen with Sonos. I can see Google or Amazon coming with a bid pretty quickly. 
    I read the article and wondered if SONOS is a dead company.

    Seems like Apple has the talent to handle the WIFI networking and Beats would be able to do the Speaker manufacturing.

    What would be gained by buying SONOS as they appear to be behind the times and probably their talent could be hired by Apple?

    Hoping Apple can really release a new enhanced SIRI as part of a multi-room Mesh router/Audio system.
    Start with a one speaker system like a Play 1 and allow Beats to come out with components similar to the Play 3, Play 5, SoundBar,
    and SubWoofer.   Apple will need to go higher end than the Echo or a Google Wifi/Home system (starting $400).


    I've never heard of a CEO and founder of a company resigning 'due to increased competition'!  This is a privately held company, I don't get why MacFarlane would leave saying such a thing it makes no sense at all.  Even if true no CEO and private equity holder would openly admit that and damage the company's reputation.  I'd totally believe he was leaving because of his wife's health but there would be no reason to say disparaging things about the company's future viability.  There is something else going on here I suspect, if the story is true.  Or was the 'due to increased competition' simply added as click bait by the writer?
    edited January 11 satchmo
  • Reply 13 of 13
    MacPro said:
    I've never heard of a CEO and founder of a company resigning 'due to increased competition'!  

    I think that's just AI's (incorrect) interpretation. What was said was:
    he actually wanted to resign earlier given the age of his parents and his wife's struggle with breast cancer, but decided to postpone a departure when Amazon's Echo speaker began making a serious dent in Sonos sales.
    To me, that says it's because of his parents' age and wife's illness he wants to resign. He just delayed it a bit to work on fighting the Amazon threat. To say that he resigned because he's giving up on fighting Amazon is quite a stretch.
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