Sonos announces layoffs and new focus on paid streaming and voice control

Sonos Play:5
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends
If you think of multi-room home audio systems, chances are fairly good that Sonos is going to be one of the first companies you think of, and with good reason. The company pioneered wireless multi-room systems as we know them, and is the obvious inspiration behind the systems offered by many of its competitors.

For some companies that might be enough, but apparently that isn’t the case for Sonos. Perhaps because of the growth in competition from bigger companies offering similar systems, the company has decided that it is going to shift its direction moving forward.

“Today, the entire music ecosystem is in transition — ultimately for the better — and so is Sonos. We have a good idea of how this will evolve over time, and we’ve never been more bullish on what it means for music fans,” Sonos CEO John MacFarlane wrote in a post on the Sonos blog. “But we also know that to continue to innovate and bring compelling new experiences to market, we need to invest heavily against the opportunity.”

Part of the company’s new direction is a focus on paid streaming. MacFarlane writes that during the company’s early days, most of its customers were playing either digital downloads or music ripped from CDs, and that’s obviously not the case now. Pointing to the Beatles catalog’s availability on streaming services as an example, MacFarlane says that customers’ general move to paid streaming services is inevitable.

The other, arguably more interesting new focus for the company moving forward is voice control – MacFarlane even name-drops Amazon’s Alexa. Similar to paid streaming, the CEO says that while voice control is still somewhat novel now, it won’t be long before it becomes commonplace, and Sonos wants to be among the first companies to bring voice-powered music to the home. Unfortunately, the company’s shift in focus isn’t without consequences.

“The short term — and very difficult — consequence of this decision is we’ve had to make some changes to our team,” MacFarlane wrote. “We do this with a heavy heart, as we are in the process of letting go of some Sonos employees who have played important roles getting us to this point. We wish them well, and we’re doing everything we can to make their transition as smooth as possible.”

MacFarlane says that the past few weeks have been tough for everyone at Sonos, but he’s confident that this new direction is the right one for the company. For the sake of the employees still with the company, he’d better be right.

Product Review

Ring Alarm makes DIY home security simple and affordable enough for everyone

Ring first made waves with its video doorbell, and now the Amazon-owned company is moving on to home security with the Ring Alarm. You can install the sensors and keypads yourself, then have Ring professionally monitor your home.
Movies & TV

'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' is one of the hero's best movies ever

One of Spider-Man's most memorable big-screen adventures, animated feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse simultaneously feels like nothing we've ever seen before and a tale that feels familiar in all the best ways.
Home Theater

These top-line smart speakers conduct the most sophisticated symphony: Your life

Stuck talking to yourself? Get an A.I. assistant to keep you company! Whether you put your stock in Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, we've picked out the best smart speaker for any smart home ecosystem.
Business

Chinese court upholds Qualcomm's complaint that Apple infringed on two patents

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best true wireless earbuds around.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

Streaming services blast past networks for the most scripted TV shows in 2018

For the first time in history, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, produced more original scripted series than broadcast or cable channels, setting a new record for the number of TV shows on the air.
Home Theater

Block the outside world, tune into your own with the best in-ear headphones

Over-the-ear headphones offer top-flight sound, but they're not so easy to take along with you. If you're looking to upgrade your portable sound, check out our favorite in-ear headphones -- there's a model for every user and every budget.
Home Theater

These awesome A/V receivers will swarm you with surround sound at any budget

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to shopping for a receiver, so we assembled our favorites for 2018, at multiple price points and all loaded with features, from Dolby Atmos to 4K HDR, and much more.
Movies & TV

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of ‘The X-Files’ with the show’s 10 best episodes

The X-Files premiered 25 years ago, so here are the 10 best episodes of the award-winning sci-fi series. From alien-abduction drama to hilarious satires, these are the best episodes from all 11 seasons of the hit series.
Movies & TV

Can't get enough lightsaber action? Here's how to get your Star Wars fix online

Few of us want to deal with DVDs or Blu-ray discs anymore. Unfortunately, the Star Wars movies are few and far between when it comes to streaming. If you want to watch Star Wars online, check out our guide on where to find the films online.
Home Theater

Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Battle of the streaming giants

Trying to figure out which subscription streaming service to use while sticking to a frugal entertainment budget? Check out our updated comparison of the big three: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu.
Home Theater

How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

You may know what an EQ is, but do you know how to adjust equalizer settings for the best possible sound? We go through the basics of the modern EQ and lay out some guidelines for how to achieve tip-top sound from your system.
Home Theater

Confused about LED vs. LCD TVs? Here's everything you need to know

Our LED vs. LCD TV buying guide explains why these two common types of displays are fundamentally connected, how they differ, what to look for in buying an LED TV, and what's on the horizon for TVs.