For what feels like forever, Sonos has been promising to add Google Assistant support to its smart speakers, the Sonos One and the Sonos Beam. After committing to 2018, Sonos pushed the launch back into the new year. But it really is coming. I know because I got to see it working in beta on a Sonos Beam at CES 2019, where the company also revealed more about how this is all going to work.
Sonos already offers Alexa on the One and the beam, and thatâs partly the reason why itâs taking this long to bake in the Google Assistant. Sonos is blending together two ecosystems â three if you count its own platform/app â and from that arises some painful, occasionally interesting, headaches. âWhen youâre looking at a platform that supports multiple assistants, itâs just new work,â said Dane Estes, Sonos's director of global marketing.
Before I get into some of those headaches, Iâll say that the Assistant experience on Sonos seems to be working great. During the demo Estes turned to the Sonos Beam and asked it to play some music, change the volume, and asked for some driving directions â all of which worked as smoothly as could be hoped.
Most of the Google Assistant functionality will be there out of the gate
So how will this all work alongside Alexa? Well, it will and it wonât. Youâre only going to be allowed to have one voice assistant running on each Sonos speaker at one time, and Estes said youâll choose your assistant during the setup process. You can, however, mix and match; you could have Alexa on one Sonos speaker and Google Assistant on the other, and theyâll work together. So you could ask Alexa on the Sonos One to play a song across all your speakers, and then ask Google on the Beam to tell you the name of the artist playing.
Estes says the one-assistant-per-speaker system may change down the line, but this is whatâs currently being tested. And if you are a user of both Alexa and the Google Assistant, it sounds like there wonât be an easy way to switch between them. âI think itâs safe to say it wonât be as easy as just hitting a button,â he said.
Most of the Google Assistant functionality will be there out of the gate, but voice profiles wonât be available on day one. Google Cast also won't work here either, but Assistant on Sonos will work with other Assistant devices, so while it won't slip into Google's own multi-room system, youâll be able to talk to your Google Home or Assistant on your smartphone and have it play on your Sonos speakers. Room grouping sounds like it could get a little complicated as what Google considers a room and what Sonos considers a room will differ.
However, as you can with Alexa, you can use the Google Assistant on the One or beam to control music playing on any âdumbâ Sonos speakers you have, so long as theyâre grouped together on the same network.
Oh, and if you have a Sonos Beam you can use the Assistant for some basic playback controls there too. The only service that still won't play nicely with all of this is Apple Music. But hey, Apple is having a moment of sharing its services across third-party hardware â so who knows what could happen?
And so to the obvious next questionâŚ when do we get it? Sonos has just moved into private beta with the Assistant, so while it still wonât give us a concrete date, itâs firmly in the bug-crushing phase. Estes says this marks a significant milestone in the journey to launch. âWe now have a path to getting this shipped.â