Sonos is fighting a war to stay relevant

This puts Sonos in the unenviable position of both battling it out in the courtroom against Google, as well as fighting off stronger competition in the smart speaker market. Sonos hasn’t needed to compete in the low end of the market to be successful, but it also hasn’t faced such strong challenges from big-name competitors either. 

A licensing deal earlier this week between Sonos and digital infrastructure company Legrand could foreshadow what Sonos hopes to achieve with its lawsuits. Legrand is now paying to license Sonos patents for its own multi-room audio solutions. If the company managed to land a similar agreement from Amazon and Google, it would surely bolster Sonos’ bottom line and make the competition easier to weather.

“We believe in a fair marketplace where companies compete on a level playing field and contribute with their own innovations and experiences,” Sonos chief legal officer Eddie Lazarus said in a statement earlier this week. “We’re pleased to see more companies such as Legrand recognizing the strength and value of our IP and providing appropriate compensation.” It’s not hard to read this as a message to Google and Amazon.

Given how long a complicated legal battle can take to resolve, it’ll likely be months or longer before we find out if Sonos can address its issues either through a settlement or a court ruling. Sonos had no comment on its ongoing litigation

In the meantime, Sonos will likely stick to its existing strategy — but if this new wave of smart speakers make a dent in its business, a $100-ish Sonos speaker could become a reality. This wouldn’t be the first time Sonos embraced a technology it had previously dismissed. The company released its first portable speaker with Bluetooth in 2019, an expansion to a part of the speaker segment where it previously didn’t compete. 

To be clear, I don’t think Sonos is going anywhere soon — the company has millions of devoted users and its stock price has surged throughout much of 2020 after bottoming out earlier in the year. But, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the company diversify its offerings in the next year or so to better compete against Amazon, Google and Apple’s less expensive offerings. If those companies can make small speakers that sound great, Sonos should be able to take its years of experience to punch back as the big guys move in on its turf.

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