On Apple and Sonos 

My wife and I recently bought a Sonos PLAY:1 to put in our kitchen, replacing a Bluetooth speaker that’s been acting up.

If you aren’t super familiar with Sonos, in a nutshell, the company sells a range of Wi-Fi equipped smart speakers that can be used individually or together.

Instead of relying on a Bluetooth connection or AirPlay, Sonos built their own app, which can be used from any smartphone or computer to stream music from the device over Wi-Fi. While the bigger speakers have a line-in port, the PLAY:1 we bought doesn’t have one, so I’m not able to route audio to it except via the Sonos app.

(On the iPhone, it can play podcasts downloaded within Apple’s own Podcasts.app. I’d like to see this expanded in the future, as I can play shows from my podcast app of choice, Overcast.)

It doesn’t take long to realize the whole thing is very Apple-like in many ways. The whole thing — from hardware to software — is well done. The speaker looks and sounds great, the app works well and even the set up process is well thought out.

While I don’t think Apple would scoop up Sonos, the question in my mind is this: Why isn’t Apple in the home audio space?

According to sources, Beats had a Sonos killer in the works when Apple bought the company, but that the product never saw the light of day:

The product was supposed to be introduced in time for the holidays last year, but was effectively killed post acquisition. Some of the engineers working on the project have since left the company, while others have been shuffled to other projects, according to sources as well as information available on Linkedin and elsewhere.

[…]

Insiders say that the company ran into numerous problems, switching chipset vendors along the line, and postponing the project’s launch date more than once. Given these issues, Apple made the call to scrap the project, according to some sources, while another source close to Apple said it was put on hiatus due to a joint decision of executives at both Beats and Apple.

Even before Apple bought Beats, the company had dabbled in the space, most recently with the iPod Hi-Fi.

Today, however, Apple’s noticeably absent from the home audio market. Yes, the Apple TV can be the center of a family’s TV experience, and yes, the AirPort Express can be used an AirPlay bridge, but both devices are basically smart inputs.

There’s no doubt that Apple could build something attractive that sounded great, so my assumption is that the company just doesn’t think this is an area worth of focusing on right now. With an expanding product portfolio, I think that’s okay, but if Apple does make a move here, Sonos is going to be tough competition.