Sonos confident in Alexa partnership despite competition from Amazon in smart speakers

Sonos Beam
Sonos Beam

Amazon and Sonos are more friends than enemies, according to a top executive with the smart speaker company.

Sonos has integrated Alexa into two of its products so far, leveraging the popularity of Amazon’s voice assistant to boost the appeal of its Sonos One and Sonos Beam speakers. At the same time, Amazon’s own Echo speakers compete with Sonos in the smart speaker market, causing Sonos to list the future possibility of Amazon pulling Alexa from its speakers a risk factor in its recent IPO filing.

However, a top executive for Sonos told GeekWire this week that he considers Amazon more friend than enemy.

“It’s not a spirit of competition,” said Antoine Leblond, vice president of software at Sonos. “It’s really a spirit of partnering. And the reason for that is really in the end, our products, they’re complementary. Our products and our businesses are complementary.”

The filing points out the risk that Amazon could disable Alexa on the two speakers, the $199 Sonos One and the $399 Sonos Beam smart TV sound bar, without notice. That would leave those speakers with no voice capabilities.

But in a call after the company’s IPO, Leblond pointed out that such regulatory filings require companies to err on the side of caution and transparency. He added that the company doesn’t think of the possibility of Amazon pulling voice integration as a huge risk, in reality, and cited 10 years of Sonos partnering with tech companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google.

Another point Leblond raised was that the companies look at smart speakers in different ways. According to Leblond, tech companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google are entering the smart speaker business as a gateway for users to get into their own services, like the voice assistant, search, or e-commerce.

On the other hand, Sonos is more interested in using voice assistants to enhance the “listening experience” on its speakers.

“The business models are really not in conflict,” Leblond said. “If you’re Amazon, Sonos has 7 million really, really valuable households that they’d love to have access to, and for us, we obviously love the power of the voice assistants they’re building. And because those things aren’t in conflict, they can support each other. That’s really the basis of these partnerships with these companies.”

Sonos has a Seattle engineering office, its fastest-growing location as it nears 120 employees. The location allows Sonos to leverage its proximity with Amazon as the two companies continue to work on Alexa integration. Anna Fraser, Sonos vice president of people strategy and operations, said that the office has seen “explosive growth” with the engineering talent available.

After a successful IPO yesterday, Sonos closed trading at $20.95/share on Friday, up more than 5 percent for the day, after opening trading at $16 in its market debut.