Will Google Smart Speaker owners go nuts, or understand

This will be an interesting story, I’m interested to see how Google customers respond.

A product they bought has just been downgraded and functionality removed. i.e. they no longer have what they paid for. In the EU they should be able to return the product and get a refund if they wish, but not elsewhere.

As much I respect IP ownership and dislike patent bullying by big companies against smaller companies (to be clear: Sonos is the much smaller company in this fight), I think the effect of this will be minimal.

Google claims they already have workarounds. A lot of FUD, so not really clear which patent features at risk versus having an alternative infringement-free implementation.

FWIW, I have some insight into the bigger picture.

Sonos products support Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant and Google’s voice assistant.

Sonos wants the ability to have multiple voice assistants active in a single smart speaker simultaneously.

Amazon has allowed Sonos to do this; Google has refused.

The reason Sonos has sued Google (a partner), but not sued Amazon (a partner) may be due to this subtle difference in cooperation.

Now that Apple has allowed 3rd party integration (kinda / sorta) of Siri by Ecobee thermostats, this only gets more interesting. Rumor has it Apple also bans multiple simultaneous voice assistants by 3rd parties.

(Apple only allows Ecobee to have a remote microphone interface. The audio is routed to a must-be-present-locally HomePod that does the actual processing and then the result is routed back to be played by the Ecobee internal speaker.)

To bring this full circle, long-standing rumor is that the reason Sonos has Apple Music direct from cloud native streaming support, when almost nobody else did (and only a few others do now), has been due to Apple needing Sonos patents cross-licensing to avoid infringing.

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It appears Sonos was expecting money if they won, not the removal of features. And since “the preliminary ruling in August approved alternative product designs that work around the patents” they may not get the payoff they wanted. Which means Google may be in a better position to negotiate the use of Sonos technology.

This strategy worked in Spain. When faced with paying publishers for using snippets in Google News they pulled out of the country and Spanish publishers lost around 20% of their traffic. Now seven years later Google is getting a better deal with those same publishers.