Executive Briefing

Sonos, the future of ownership, and reasonable expectations

Should smart devices ship with a use-by date?


Sonos, the high-end connected speaker company, learned something this week: There’s a wrong way to give loyal customers bad news about when you’re going to stop supporting their old products.

On Tuesday, Sonos emailed customers — whose accounts were tied to certain old products, introduced between 2005 and 2011 — with an impersonal message: In May, their old products will be “classified as legacy and no longer receive software updates and new features.” This, the note said, “will affect your listening experience.”

Sonos then listed a couple of options: Customers could continue using their old speakers after May, but they won’t receive software updates or new features, which, over time, “is likely to disrupt access to services and overall functionality.” Or they could “trade up” to something new, with a 30% discount, and “recycle” their old speakers.

Cue the usual how dare you! blowback response cycle to news like this, and then a second email Thursday afternoon signed by Sonos CEO Patrick Spence: “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…” As for the speakers, “We are not bricking them, we are not forcing them into obsolescence, and we are not taking anything away.”

But it’s an interesting consumer problem that goes way beyond speakers.

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Dan Frommer

Hi, I’m Dan Frommer and this is The New Consumer, a publication about how and why people spend their time and money.

I’m a longtime tech and business journalist, and I’m excited to focus my attention on how technology continues to profoundly change how things are created, experienced, bought, and sold. The New Consumer is supported entirely by your membership — join now to receive my reporting, analysis, and commentary directly in your inbox, via my twice-weekly, member-exclusive newsletter. Thanks in advance.

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