Sonos Snaps Snips
Sonos announced yesterday that it was acquiring France-based Snips for $37M. This is less than its last round valuation but still higher than any investments. Snips had been working on edge based natural language understanding, what we used to call local speech recognition. It’s not clear whether Sonos will hoard the technology for its own applications or keep it going as a line of business.
Sonos in the past missed an opportunity to leapfrog Amazon when Alexa was just in its infancy. It could have put out its own voice first device and music service. It had the know how, sales channels, and integration with music services.
Instead, Amazing continued to gain market share in the smart speaker space, eventually becoming an end point for the same music services that users of Sonos speakers were accessing. Google followed suit. It became easier to interface with a Sonos through a Google Home or Alexa device than with the Sonos app.
Eventually, Sonos went the route of Alexa Built-In and Google Assistant. It put in far field microphones, acoustic echo cancellation, and other tools to make voice on hardware worked. However, it really just made another speaker with Alexa or Google on it. The differentiation was meagre.
Now, with Sonos acquiring Snips, maybe there’s a way for it to have some differentiation with fully private voice-based device that (this is my wishlist) has integration with all the music services. “Hi Sonos, play the Beatles” (or any other music) is the killer use case for voice. If you add on top of it privacy and offline capability, maybe it’s enough to differentiate Sonos from the pack.