CEO Patrick Spence on the Sonos One, Voice Control, Retail and a Possible IPO

Sonos One
Industrial Color Tech / Sonos

Sonos officially unveiled its new voice activated Sonos One speaker today, which offers access to Amazon’s Alexa assistant at launch, but also is going to get Google’s Assistant some time next year. CEO Patrick Spence told Variety that his company wants to compete with others in the market by building smart speakers for music lovers.

The new Sonos One, which was internally known by the code name Bootleg, closely resembles the company’s existing Play:1 speaker. It packs two digital amplifiers, one tweeter and one woofer. In addition, the Sonos one also comes with six integrated microphones for far-field voice control. It works with Alexa out of the box, and actually lowers the music when consumers are addressing it to make sure no one has to shout their voice commands.

In addition to the introduction of the Sonos One, the company is also opening up its Alexa beta test, which allows Sonos owners to control their existing speakers with voice commands spoken to an Echo or Echo Dot. “This really is us entering the voice area,” said Spence.

Sonos also followed through on its promise not to tie customers to a single voice assistant. Some time in 2018, owners of the One will be able to control it with the Google Assistant as well. “We are trying to be open,” said Spence. However, the company is still trying to figure out how to best implement two assistants on the same device, and Spence didn’t have any additional details to share  on how the experience will look like to consumers.

Spence said that Sonos will continue to sell the Play:1 for markets where voice control isn’t available, and consumers that don’t have any interest in adding microphones to their home. Still, it’s safe to assume that the company may add additional voice-capable speakers to its line-up in the future. “We are in a period of transition,” he said.

Sonos also announced Wednesday that it will begin to support AirPlay 2 next year, and Spence said that the company worked closely with Apple on the second version of the wireless streaming protocol. And the company announced that Pandora and Tidal users will now be able to play music directly out of those service’s apps on their Sonos speakers, without the need for the Sonos app. The same functionality will come to additional apps, including Audible, iHeart Radio, and Kuke Music, early next year.

Finally, Sonos is also expanding its retail push. After opening a flagship store in New York last year, the company is now getting ready to open a London store later this year, and a Berlin location next year. Spence explained that Sonos had been experimenting with a number of different retail formats, and that the company may one day just operate show rooms that don’t stock any product, but help consumers to experience speakers before they order them online.

Spence said that Sonos has enough cash on hand to finance its retail expansion, but he reiterated that an IPO would be one of the options for the company going forward. “We are considering whether an IPO would be the next best thing,” he said, adding: “We are in a strong place, growing, profitable.”