Sonos demands action against Google to force voice interoperability on smart speakers
Eddie Lazarus, Chief Legal Officer at Sonos, has demanded legislative action against Amazon and Google to force voice interoperability between Alexa and the Google Assistant. Sonos has developed a technology that allows the concurrent use of multiple voice assistants. This means that you would be able to call the Google Assistant in one sentence and then call Alexa in the next, without needing to select one or the other exclusively. The problem is that Google prohibits this.
A report from Protocol details how Google is open to discussing the issue, but it doesn’t seem to want to budge for now. “Google contractually prohibits us from using that technology,” Lazarus told lawmakers on Tuesday. “You can’t mix and match between the big companies.” Google also acknowledged that it does allow voice interoperability on the likes of Samsung smartphones between Bixby and the Google Assistant, but that “there are some technical challenges around having two voice assistants that are listening at the same time,” when it comes to smart speakers.
Lazarus disagreed. “We have the technology that solves the problems that he described.” Lazarus also added that Sonos had offered to demonstrate the technology to Google and already had to regulators globally. Google’s senior public policy director, Wilson White, said that he would love to see a demo and offered the company an informal invitation to talk things out. White also signaled that Google’s position could change and evolve in the future, adding that “we will get to a place where we are bringing more innovation to consumers.”
Amazon is a lot more open with its platform and even founded the Voice Interoperability Initiative, which encourages the development of solutions like the one developed by Sonos. The Voice Interoperability Initiative states that “we believe customers should have the freedom to choose their preferred service for any task,” which is exactly what Sonos wishes to promote with the technology it has developed.
Lazarus also spoke with Protocol and outlined that this was merely one small issue of a bigger picture that Sonos wants regulators to address. Other problems brought up include the larger companies’ ability to sell products below cost and allegedly pressuring smaller companies to divulge trade secrets to integrate with smart home platforms. “This is an easy one, but one that would be great for consumers,” Lazarus said.
This isn’t Sonos’ first spat with Google, as the company sued Google in the latter half of last year for allegedly stealing patents. Sonos also accused Google and Amazon of sabotaging their attempts to make a device that would have allowed users to use both Google Assistant and Alexa. In fact, Sonos claims Amazon has also violated its patents, but the company didn’t want to be “battling two tech giants in court at once.”