The Sonos One became the world’s first speaker to support both Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant late last year but the Santa Barbara, California-based audio company had to press Google in an aggressive manner in order to deliver such a product, The Information reports. While Alphabet’s subsidiary historically opposes devices supporting both Alexa and Google Assistant, it made an exception for Sonos due to its vast patent portfolio that the company threatened to leverage in order to either get what it wants or draw Google into a lengthy legal battle, according to unnamed industry veterans.
The exact patents in question remain unclear, though they were likely related to the Google Home Max speaker given the timing of the talks between the two. Sonos holds a wide variety of patents in the audio segment, with arguably its most important one being a method of controlling multi-speaker setups described and secured in 2004. Both Apple and Google now use such solutions, among other electronics manufacturers. Sonos IP Vice President Mark Triplett declined confirming playing patent hardball with Google when questioned by The Information, having only noted that “IP is somewhat intended to level the playing field,” thus reflecting on the fact that Sonos is presently competing in a market where much larger companies such as Amazon and Google already have a significant presence and much more money to throw around.
Sonos is still the only company in the industry offering a smart speaker that supports both Alexa and Google Assistant, with the unique manner in which it reportedly managed to deliver such a product making new rivals offering identical features unlikely to appear anytime soon. That state of affair bodes well for its planned initial public offering meant to take place next month, increasing the chances that investors see Sonos as the safest smart speaker bet capable of keeping up with industry trends regardless of whether Google Assistant ends up pushing out Alexa, the opposite happens, or the two end up sharing comparable market share. Founded in 2002, Sonos raised some $250 million over the next fifteen years and struck a major partnership with Swedish furniture and appliances giant IKEA last year that’s believed to have resulted in the recently announced ENEBY speaker lineup. The company’s annual revenue reached $1 billion last year, with the current industry consensus being that Sonos is mature enough for a stable public market listing.