Sonos Steps Back from Big Misstep

I am a Sonos customer. I love my Sonos speakers and my in-house wireless entertainment setup.

Earlier this week, I received an email from Sonos that two of my products, my Play:5 (Gen 1) speakers would no longer receive updates after May 1. The last sentence of the first paragraph stated "This will affect your listening experience."

I was not pleased to read this. The message went on to describe what was happening and why, but not to worry. My system will continue to operate as it does today, it just won't be as a good as it could be if I bought new speakers. Sonos offered a 30% discount to trade in my Play:5's for the latest generation.

The message closed by stating "You have options." Here are what those options are:

Continue using legacy products

You can continue using legacy products after May, but your system will no longer receive software updates and new features. Over time this is likely to disrupt access to services and overall functionality.

Trade up legacy products

Save 30% on a new product when you upgrade through the Sonos Trade Up program.

OK, so Sonos is providing some options, but here again, the last sentence of that first option, "Over time this is likely to disrupt access to services and overall functionality" creates a lot of concern about the viability of my system, which has worked beautifully since I bought in many years ago.

30% is a nice offer, but we are still talking about feeling like I'm being forced to spend $700 to keep what I already have. Not exactly welcome news. In fact, not customer friendly at all. You don't invest in a high end wireless entertainment system with the expectation of replacing it. Especially not one that is wireless and software based.

It seems that Sonos received quite a bit of negative press and feedback on this program. Today, I received the following email from the Sonos CEO:

Subject: All Sonos products will continue to work past May

We heard you. We did not get this right from the start. My apologies for that and I wanted to personally assure you of the path forward:

First, rest assured that come May, when we end new software updates for our legacy products, they will continue to work just as they do today. We are not bricking them, we are not forcing them into obsolescence, and we are not taking anything away. Many of you have invested heavily in your Sonos systems, and we intend to honor that investment for as long as possible. While legacy Sonos products won’t get new software features, we pledge to keep them updated with bug fixes and security patches for as long as possible. If we run into something core to the experience that can’t be addressed, we’ll work to offer an alternative solution and let you know about any changes you’ll see in your experience.

Secondly, we heard you on the issue of legacy products and modern products not being able to coexist in your home. We are working on a way to split your system so that modern products work together and get the latest features, while legacy products work together and remain in their current state. We’re finalizing details on this plan and will share more in the coming weeks.

While we have a lot of great products and features in the pipeline, we want our customers to upgrade to our latest and greatest products when they’re excited by what the new products offer, not because they feel forced to do so. That’s the intent of the trade up program we launched for our loyal customers.

Thank you for being a Sonos customer. Thank you for taking the time to give us your feedback. I hope that you’ll forgive our misstep, and let us earn back your trust. Without you, Sonos wouldn't exist and we’ll work harder than ever to earn your loyalty every single day.

If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely, Patrick

Patrick Spence CEO, Sonos

I appreciate the prompt acknowledgment of this error and the apology from the CEO. I am still concerned about what the final solution to this development will be, but I am willing to give Sonos the benefit of the doubt. Someone didn't think this strategy through and in the wake of customer outrage, the company has taken a step back and is reevaluating how to address supporting older generation products along with current, without ruining what works well today. I will reserve final judgement until I see what Sonos proposes. If there will truly be loss of functionality in the future, then the company will need to do far better than a 30% incentive to upgrade to current hardware. If they can architect a strategy to preserve all generations of hardware while taking advantage of the newest capabilities on the newest hardware without compromising the prior, that would be ideal. It will be interesting to see what happens, but for now, Sonos deserves the benefit of the doubt. I'll be looking forward to the next update on these developments.