Sonos vs Google is a lot more than just copyright infringement

Sonos Google lawsuit
Sonos has partnered with the likes of Google and Amazon, but is now threatened by their vast ecosystems. Photo: Amazon.

Fundamentally different

It should be noted firstly that Sonos has filed patent infringements previously. But the issue with Google feels fundamentally different; an acknowledgement from a large company that it pales into insignificance next to Google, and that the entire Google operation indeed threatens its existence.

There is significance in the fact that Sonos also mentioned Amazon in its lawsuit, without going as far as to take legal action at this point in time. It could be considered debatable that two major companies would both infringe the copyright of Sonos, and the company’s concerns are probably far more related to the ecosystem power of the likes of Google and Amazon.

It is already known that Google has been able to subsidize its speaker system by collecting vast amounts of data from its established operation. And Amazon is in a very similar position, able to lean on its privileged status as being the world’s largest retailer.

This means that the two mega-corporations have been able to build ecosystems that enable then to completely swallow up and consume entire industries. Amazon appears to have no limit to its business interests, and is continually moving into new fields. While Google has been frequently criticized for his monopolistic policies, and has treated the personal data of the general population as pretty much its own fiefdom.

Sonos Google ecosystem
Sonos produces a range of speakers that enable multi-room playback of content. Photo: Sonos.

New playing field

Sonos now finds itself not merely competing against bigger companies, but operating on a playing field designed by untouchable behemoths. It is reported that Sonos has already been blocked from delivering simultaneous support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, and already the situation has been compared to the monopolizing policies of Microsoft with relation to its Windows software.

Google and Amazon both have huge huge voice assistant divisions, which provide them with a vast competitive advantage, which is then coupled with the fact that they can treat any product as a loss-leader, and subsidize pricing in a variety of ways. This makes it almost impossible for even billion-dollar companies such as Sonos to compete in a marketplace that becomes defined by the biggest players.

Regulator decisions

What this means for the future is that regulators may even consider breaking up some of the biggest technology companies. This is something that is unlikely to emanate from the current White House, but the 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has already announced plans to do so. And even Republican lawmakers have mused on the possibility of breaking up Facebook and Google.

Sonos Google lawsuit
AI software such as Google Assistant has enabled Google to undercut Sonos in the speaker market. Photo: Maurizio Pesce via Wikimedia.

Another less drastic solution would be to ensure that systems are no longer interoperable, meaning that Sonos could use products such as Google Assistant without approval. This can be compared to the television broadcasting niche, where providers are often granted access to premium channels of competitors in order to maintain market competitiveness.

What is certain is that the outcome of this particular lawsuit will be critical to the future of Sonos, and will provide us with an insight into the possible direction of the biggest technology companies on the planet.

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