Sonos to Customers: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

“It's not you. It's me.”
“We can still be friends.”
“I think you love me more than I love you.”
“You should be free to meet your special someone.”
“I'm so sorry, but my cat just doesn't like you.”

Trust me, I've heard all of those lines, and many more. Unfortunately, some Sonos customers are hearing them too, from Sonos. The company announced that some older Sonos products will stop receiving over-the-air updates.

Starting in May, new software will no longer be recognized by the hardware used in some older Sonos devices. Four models are affected, sold between 2006 and 2015, including the Play:5, Connect:Amp, and Connect. According to Sonos, the hardware has been "stretched to its technical limits in terms of memory and processing power."

A device made in 2015 doesn't seem particularly old and ready for the scrap heap, but it is what it is. I assume these products were built on an older platform, or were simply designed with a bare-bones approach which would inherently limit them. This is not welcome news, but the reality is that as technology evolves, this kind of incompatibility and obsolescence is inevitable. And, seemingly, the higher the tech, the faster it becomes obsolete.

If you are a Sonos customer, there are some things you need to know: If you have a system with both older and newer speakers, you will need to divide them into two speaker groups, old and new. If any speaker in a group is old and cannot receive updates, it will prevent the rest of the speakers in its group from receiving updates.

Understandably, some Sonos customers have been cheesed to learn about this break-up. Their concern is that without updates, the speakers may eventually lose functionality. However, Sonos has assured customers that even after software updates are no longer available, the devices would not be bricked (deactivated). CEO Patrick Spence said that Sonos would deliver updates to all products “for as long as possible.” Also, Sonos said it will continue to provide fixes for bugs and security patches for older products. So, apparently, although the devices will not be updating, they will continue to be usable.

If it's any consolation, Sonos is offering a 30% discount on new products if you follow steps to deactivate your eligible older products (Connect, Connect:Amp, ZP80, ZP90, ZP100, ZP120, and the first generation Play:5). You agree to put the devices in Recycle Mode; this bricks your old speakers, and you properly recycle them. Although, there has been environmentally-conscious grumbling about a policy that would deep-six products that are otherwise perfectly usable.

As I noted in this blog last time, Sonos is officially accusing Google of infringing their patents. I wonder if Google-made, Sonos-compatible wireless products will encounter the same break-up issues as these Sonos devices. It's impossible to say, of course, without knowing the hardware/software used in the Google devices.

In the When it Rains it Pours Department, Sonos didn't exactly win over any hearts when recently they accidentally disclosed the email addresses of some customers. A Sonos employee sent out an email responding to customers complaining about the decision to withdraw support. Instead of using a blind copy, they used a regular copy. As a result, about 450 customers could see each other's email addresses. Sonos apologized to its customers. Oops.

Finally, I'll leave you on this note:

Girl: “Your ex is so attractive.”
Boy: “Which one?”
Girl: “Me. Goodbye.”

Related:

Official Sonos Announcement

Sonos Support: End of Software Updates for Legacy Product

Mea Culpa from Sonos CEO Patrick Spence

COMMENTS
jeffhenning's picture

I can understand 15 year old equipment not having the processing capability to deal with their latest software, but, I agree, that a 5 year old Sonos unit being obsolete is rather odd.

What it most likely means is the Sonos was using the same platform for a decade with no upgrades to the processor what so ever.

While doing that is the best thing for the company because it allows them to maximize profit, it's pretty shabby for the users.

Billy's picture

Is it any wonder? It is the Microsoft/Apple model of business. Keep making your customers upgrade with questionable improvements and making older stuff obsolete.

jeffhenning's picture

Microsoft's planned obsolescence methodology is a lot more ingrained than Apple's. I have a 2011 MacBook Pro that has no problem running OS X Catalina. Yes, the day will come when it won't upgrade anymore, but it hasn't arrived yet.

The only thing that I ever ran into with an Apple product was not being able to install some iOS apps that couldn't be installed on an iPhone 4 (minimum was an iPhone 5). Of course, that was on the app developer, not Apple.

hk2000's picture

I have 2 TVs that are supposedly smart TV's and already not receiving updates any more. I just have all my TVs connected to PCs, and use local network to stream between them or from streaming sites. Sonos, Roku and others never appealed to me.

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