back to article Well, well, well. Internet-of-Things speaker biz Sonos to continue some software support for legacy kit after all

Sonos has said it will continue to support legacy products in an apparent reversal of a statement made earlier this week. The smart-speaker biz said on Tuesday it planned to drop support for some legacy gear, starting in May. The decision would not have immediately bricked old kit, but it did mean that customers with a mix of …

  1. Brian Miller

    Drop support, make it open source

    Simple concept here, just drop all support and make it all open source. The newer products won't be backwards-compatible, so what's the harm?

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Drop support, make it open source

      Two things come to mind right off the bat:

      1) They won't be able to remote-brick "obsolete" gear, thus won't be able to strongarm existing customers to break open their wallet and buy new overpriced tat.

      2) New and old internals maybe aren't actually that different, so they could well end up effectively open-sourcing large chunks for code for their new products too. Which they simply won't do.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Drop support, make it open source

        > They won't be able to remote-brick "obsolete" gear

        As much as it pains me to defend Sonos (and it does), they weren't remote-bricking anybody's gear without permission. They were offering a discount on replacement gear in exchange for users voluntarily bricking the old gear.

        1. JDX Gold badge

          Re: Drop support, make it open source

          Well pointed out. This would actually be illegal, I believe. It's still a weird solution rather than getting you to return the old gear.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Drop support, make it open source

            I do think that their bricking policy is extremely ill-advised and certainly environmentally unwelcome. I think less of Sonos because of it.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Drop support, make it open source

            "It's still a weird solution rather than getting you to return the old gear."

            If you get your customers to return the gear to you, one of you has to pay postage (and the customer won't be overly happy with it if it's them), and you have to pay for disposal. If you make it your customer's problem, it becomes the local public authority's problem (or whoever deals with waste collection). I guess the "bricking it" part is to stop the customer from selling it on as a used item, which may make their upgrade !close to free!. :/

        2. K

          Re: Drop support, make it open source

          That's not the point, they have so far failed to answer:

          1) why ruin a perfectly decent working product

          2) I'm the last person to shout "What about the environment"... But, what about the environment?

          This is a general problem with all IOT devices that require internet connectivity.

        3. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: Drop support, make it open source

          My question here is: are they bricking the entire unit, amplifier and all? Or just the remote-services function? Because if the latter, you just take the old kit, wire in an auxiliary input directly to the amp (if it doesn't have it already) and use them as powered speakers. it's the only way I would use such a device anyway, as I would never buy hardware completely reliant upon an internet service, readily subject to being cancelled at any time.

    2. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Drop support, make it open source

      We don't know they have the legal right to open their codebase, and of course doing this will take time and therefore cost Sonos money.

      Interesting idea though.

      1. DCFusor Silver badge

        Re: Drop support, make it open source

        Another possible issue with closed source going open.

        What are the chances they've been abusing licenses for existing open source, and/or are also using some swiped (from some other outfit) closed source in their product? 100% or thereabouts?

        As soon as you admit this big bunch of code has been shipped in a ton of products..you become open to being sued by trolls - or legit originators. Either way, it's a cost and a distraction.

    3. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Re: Drop support, make it open source

      That's a huge security risk for their non-techie customers.

      With the code base in the open, bad actors can scour it for vulnerabilities to the latest cracks. These bad actors will not be publishing the results of their work, the will be weaponizing it.

      There is no reason to even expect that a coherent community would develop around such code, so even for the techies, security fixes from the common repo are far less likely that for an ex-nilo software project.

      1. Hans 1 Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Drop support, make it open source

        With the code base in the open, bad actors can scour it for vulnerabilities to the latest cracks. These bad actors will not be publishing the results of their work, the will be weaponizing it.

        Quick, tell Linus, Linux will be doomed before the end of 1992!

        The 90's called, they want their MS FUD back ...

        1. Chromanin

          Re: Drop support, make it open source

          Well, the difference is that linux usually is implemented by techies, while I would think a good chunk of Sonos customer base is in the "it just works" area. I consider myself a techie, but I don't think I would be interested in manually update a smart speaker, and by manually I mean download, compile and update code for appliances that were never designed for that in the first place.

          It is the same with routers, they (almost) all run linux, but they are regularly being powned by script kiddies...why? because it is not simple nor convenient to keep them updated, and yet, everyone needs one to get online....

        2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

          Re: Drop support, make it open source

          WAT? Okay. I'm going to assume by all the down votes that you are representative of what people think I was saying.

          My problem is that this proposal requires the spontaneous generation of an OS community to support the project which also somehow manages to push the results of their work out to the masses who are clearly NOT techies.

          I've been running nothing but Linux on my home system for decades. (How time flies.) But I know that what is being proposed here is unworkable.

  2. Snake Silver badge

    "For now"

    until we can slip our desire to drop your old kit from updates like a cheap Tinder date though the system without anyone [worthwhile] noticing.

    There, fixed.

    1. simonlb Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: "For now"

      Ha! Too late now: I'll never be one of their customers after this level of twattishness.

      1. EVP Bronze badge

        Re: "For now"

        Yes.

        As soon as the dust settles, their old gear will be buried again.

  3. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    It's easy to lose customers.

    Just guessing, but it sounds like the original problem might have been a triumph of marketing over common sense. Marketing came up with loads of new features that customers would want. Customers didn't want them - at least, not at the price being asked, so they hang on to the kit they've got which does everything they want. Sonos has an embarrassing gap between product investment and sales, so someone came up with the idea of bricking old kit in the firm belief that forcing people to buy new kit would somehow appeal to previously loyal customers.

    Sonos might have dug themselves out of this hole but the problem is that people have long memories and even if Sonos end up doing the right thing now, there will be many who remember this and won't spend any more money on their stuff when it comes time to upgrade or extend.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: It's easy to lose customers.

      This coupled with their other misfire a few weeks back about bribing people to deliberately brick their old gear in exchange for a discount on new tat really shows the disconnect between their marketing and reality.

      All their attempts to stop supporting their old gear only seems to have convinced many people to stop supporting their new gear with their wallets. I know I wouldn't shell out for any of their stuff now.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: It's easy to lose customers.

        How is this 'bribing'? Many companies will give you a discount on new kit in return for the old kit back. Apple stores are an obvious example.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: It's easy to lose customers.

          That wasn't what Sonos was doing, though. Sonos was rendering the old gear into instant e-waste. If they were to disable the old gear in a way that made it possible for subsequent owners to reenable and reuse it (they could even do the refurbishing and reselling themselves for a little extra income), everything would have been fine.

  4. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Pint

    Just charge customers a token £1 a month subscription for updates and support. It's cheap for the customers, but it's a good revenue stream for the company, and will help them to justify supporting the products for longer.

    No one will buy into this smart home scam unless products are supported for the long term, or until they break at least.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "or until they break at least"

      That can be arranged - or so they thought.

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

        RE: Doctor Syntax

        Planned Obsolescence really should be illegal.

    2. Richocet Bronze badge

      I'm not a fan of that model. If the initial produce is expensive, I don't want to be shelling out every month to use it afterwards. Plus it's inefficient. With the little fees that financial institutions charge, it makes small payments inefficient.

  5. Dr Who

    I'm 51 and I've got a so called "old" Sonos speaker (I think it's 3 years old).

    I also have an amp and speakers I bought when I was a teenager ... and they still work brilliantly ... even with smart TVs and smartphones.

    1. Martin

      I still use well-over-ten-year-old Squeezeboxen with my amp and speakers.

      Sonos has always seemed an expensive solution for what it actually does.

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        >I still use well-over-ten-year-old Squeezeboxen with my amp and speakers....

        A truly marvellous device -- it is astonishingly well designed. I jealously guard my two against any 'upgrades' (especially to UE).

        One of the reasons why I regard the "can't support modern stuff" mantra as bogus is that these units can coordinate through a local server which offers even in its earliest incarnation audio transcoding and wireless stereo pairing. The server is written in Perl, its not very attractive or busy by modern standards (no scrolling adverts.....), but its functional and easy to use. You really don't need a huge amount of horsepower to play audio so any feature enhancements can be put into the cloud, they don't need to be propagated to local devices.

        1. Havin_it
          Thumb Up

          Yup. If there's one thing I'll always thank El Reg for it's having made me aware of the Squeezebox. Two original units left in service here (a pair of Radios operating as a stereo set). My original SB went dark a few years ago, but by then I had a Raspberry Pi Kodi box sat next to it, so just added the software client (Squeezeslave) to that and ran it into the amp. Miss the remote (and playing Tetris on the retro LCD display) but the phone app suffices; there is a Kodi module to provide UI, but I've never gotten it to play nice.

          I suspect the software ecosystem may outlast the hardware! There was some concern when the online companion portal was shuttered that this would stop the server or devices from working, but this seems to have been averted. In any case there remains a strong dev and user community, so even if this should happen later a workaround can probably be found. With the server and client apps being open-source, there's always hope; even if/when bit-rot sets in to the point they can't be easily installed on modern devices/OSes, they can be kept as VM images or slapped on an RPi as an appliance.

          For all of these reasons, I've never viewed the Sonos "experience" with anything beyond pity.

    2. David Bird

      I have got a 35 year old amp (newer speakers) and a Pi with a DAC-hat. The amp is so old it has got a tape copy output that i can plug into a sub woofer. Feel no need for anything more fancy. And I have probably jinxed the amp now.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        That's nice. Most of their customers are younger than your amp so they probably can't fall back on such things.

        A decent DAC+amp+speakers probably costs the same as Sonos, especially if you want to add a media streamer.

        I'm a fan of Chromecast Audio to bring my kit into the modern world but it's still not as slick as Sonos and some people like that slickness.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          > Most of their customers are younger than your amp so they probably can't fall back on such things.

          Amps like that are readily available on the used gear market. You don't have to be old to enjoy such things.

      2. BenDwire

        Same here, but I've got mine hooked up to huge speakers in the office, no extra sub-woofer required. On the rare days I need to 'feel' the moog bass pedals I turn up the (synced) surround sound system in the living room and leave the doors open. Another happy squeezebox system owner, also running a couple of Pis with the excellent PiCore client.

        BUT after 35 years my volume knob has gone all crackly, and Servisol doesn't help any more. Anyone know where I can get a vintage ALPS 50KXA2 pot with concentric splined shafts? (The idiots re-used the part number for a modern non-equivalent, just to really help matters).

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          "Anyone know where I can get a vintage ALPS 50KXA2 pot with concentric splined shafts? ("

          There are heaps of Alps knock offs on eBay. You may need to be creative with search terms. Another tactic is to identify something that uses the same pots you can get cheap and harvest what you need. It's not such an odd part that you won't be able to find a replacement.

  6. Detective Emil
    Meh

    Ho hum. Sonos' update sites remain blocked at my router for now

    Tuesday's mail spurred me to put in the block, which I've been considering for a while: I've been getting teed off by frequent updates that have no discernible effect.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We did not get this right from the start

    plain English: and they (...) taught me there's no bad publicity!

  8. PBobUK

    The issue most have with the approach the company are STILL taking is the notion that 'legacy' devices will need to be on a separate network to 'modern' devices. In effect, this breaks the Whole Home Audio selling point as, well, it won't be. 2 networks, 2 controllers required, no synchronous streaming between the two.

    Still smells like a cash grab as there would surely be a reasonably simple technical solution to this problem.

    1. Hugh McIntyre

      Exactly. I guess we will see what is actually proposed.

      If the solution is that as long as you have at least one modern device then all of the legacy devices can just grab a slave copy of the audio from this one then you would still have whole-home audio, and the modern device can deal with any new audio services and OS updates.

      If not there are going to be a lot of very unhappy ex-customers.

      I actually doubt this was a cash grab or at least not thought out well if so. I think Sonos are a lot more worried about new potential customers buying Alexa and similar smart speakers. At least this seems to be why there are so many recent software updates which are all irrelevant to those of us who are almost always just streaming local music from a NAS.

  9. DaveN007

    I'm spooked

    I have made a big "investment" in SONOS kit. My rationale? Sound quality is plenty good enough for me. Interface and features are good enough for me. The idea that this baseline will degrade over time is not something I want to deal with. It looks like "smart" speakers are a "dumb" choice. Better to get dumb speakers with stupid wires and connect them to disposable sources. That's the genius I'll go forward with. Lesson learned for less than $10k. I have experienced worse. Come to think of it, I hate Apple Music. We peaked at "iPod hard wired into your audio system with remote control of the iPod". Go ahead and say it. "OK, Gen X. Time for your nap."

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I'm spooked

      Much the same thing applies to "smart" TVs.

  10. Rich 2 Silver badge

    Strange

    The thing I don’t really get about this is why the new software won’t talk to the old. Or rather, if there is an incompatibility then why can’t they release one last upgrade to the old software so that it will work with the new?

    When you make stuff like this, you generally don’t wholesale change the comms protocols that much between updates - it’s just not something you do. And I’d you have any sense at all you make it so that new features are just ignored by old kit, but the old features s should still work. Anything else represents either stupidity or designed-in obsolescence in which case they need dragging into court.

    1. Anonymous Crowbar

      Re: Strange

      Winamp with remote control on a Palm Treo 650.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Strange

      I believe the underlying HW in the older products do not have the processing power for newer features. So I think they might need to spend money qualifying newer products with the older feature sets, and when the newer features cause problems with the older ones, there is not much that can be done.

      Most of the comments about "i can do this with a Pi" are dumb, because none of those are wirelessly synced multi room audio on hw from a pi v1 generation. I can only imagine none use a sonos or have even bothered to try one, and think it is the same as (one) alexa echo.

      Sonos weren't sold as smart speakers, it had no voice assistant, they were wireless *multi channel* speaker products. The alexa/google assistant integration are a recent feature of the newer products.

      That feature - wireless multi speaker synced audoio setups - is now being commoditised by Amazon, Google etc because the data harvesting there "subsidises" the engineering costs. If you note you cannot easily control those devices without the voice UI.

      Some of the other comments seems to imply obsolscence cannot happen in this industry.

      I think the problem here isn't planned obsolescence but how best to manage obsolescence. The support subscription model is a sensible option, much like extended warranties.

      I would really like that for my phone for eg.

      1. whitepines Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Strange

        Everyone goes on and on about this "sync" feature. It's really nothing all that special, heck if you want a crude way to do it just stream RTSP and make sure you have identical DACs (which, bluntly, is probably what Sonos is doing and could explain some of the "upgrade the entire system at once" pressure).

        This is what I call the "stupid way". It works, but you can do oh so much more with the processing power on even an older Pi.

        The reason I know this is that I have an binary (sadly not open source) of an older tool that runs on Linux and broadcasts audio in absolutely perfect sync to other Linux boxes across a standard LAN. Differing DACs? No problem, it all stays perfectly synced. Seems to use UDP under the hood, it does require NTP sync and introduces a slight delay from the source, but anyone tuning DAB has already got used to that. I should prod the author to see if he'll release it open source or not at some point...maybe a beer fund would do the trick?

        1. Getmo
          Devil

          Re: Strange

          If you want an "even cruder" way to do this, just buy a miniture FM transmitter. Not the 12v car ones, those are junk. Just one of those tissue box size, black boxes with an antenna and 2-ch input, from Amazon for about ~$70.

          Sync issues, gone! Compatibility issues, gone. Multi-room becomes multi-device, any device, even ye olde cassette deck boomboxes. Any old set of amps & speakers, really. Even any possible network congestion issues are also gone, with FM not even being on same bandwidth as the rest of your network.

          Hook the transmitter up to a Pi with DAC hat, and you're set. Only requires 1 audio source for practically infinite devices & rooms. Remote control the pi using any of the standard methods, like Home Assistant from any device.

          The thing I love about this system is it also scales extremely well. Even the 1W transmitters can do about a mile, and Amazon's selling 5W models for essentially the same price. If you wanted multi-room audio for 2 different sources, say if you did own a mansion, you and your wife were fighting, and she wants to stroll the entire east wing while listening to her music and cursing your name; you want to do the same but with your music and in the west wing. All it would require is 2 FM transmitters.

          The ONLY possible downside, you probably have already been thinking about: audio quality. No, it won't be "perfect". Yes, it will be limited to FM's bandwidth. But keep in mind, most radio stations down-sample their recordings for broadcast, to get clearer signal for longer distances. So right out of the gate, you'll get better quality than practically all stereo FM stations, not counting the quality of your source files.

          The only REAL downside is the legality of unlicensed FM broadcast. Here in the US at least, the FCC's only written rule on it is the transmission must not reach "greater than 200 feet". I presume something similar for the UK. From my research so far, it looks like others have achieved this by using a 50dB attenuator on the antenna of the 1W transmitter models. For a good attenuator that promises no signal quality loss, they look to be about $85. So, the only real downside is to make it legal, it practically doubles the price. But, I think that's still cheaper than most Sonos products, and it's a 1-shot buy that enables the whole house with multi-room "synced" audio.

    3. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Strange

      I was wondering about this myself. Where I work, we produce networked products that are much more complex than anything that Sonos has going on, and we always able to retain backward compatibility and correct operation in mixed-version environments. It requires effort and engineering, of course, but it's an essential aspect of such things.

      Even protocol changes can be done in a backwards-compatible way, although it does mean that older installations won't be able to respond to newer protocol features.

      The most charitable explanation I can think of is that the original protocols that Sonos implemented were not engineered with any of this in mind, and they got burned by it. Or it could be what it appears on the surface to be -- planned obsolescence in an effort to soak their customers to the greatest degree possible.

  11. The Brewer

    Hardware likits

    The main issue facing Sonos is that the older kit is built on 16 bit architecture. One of the limits this imposes, for instance is a song limit of 65535 indexed items - a work around was to index m3u vs mp3, but this only worked for that format so left flac users out. My issue as an invested user is that I have no reason to upgrade - my kit works fine. If I can't use new services then that's my loss - it shouldn't make the system past using. I've only just got over the fact that it can't change any setting on my trusty (if slow) S5. And let's not mention the debacle of the PC app.......

    1. DCFusor Silver badge

      Re: Hardware likits

      The C compiler for any number of 8 bit micros supports 32 bit and larger variables for those times you need them. Even going back to Z80.

  12. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    Ahem, from 2017:

    https://www.zdnet.com/article/sonos-accept-new-privacy-policy-speakers-cease-to-function/

    Skip past the "old stuff may stop working" bit and look to the data harvesting aspects:

    But users will not be able to switch off data that the company considers necessary for each Sonos device to perform its basic functions.

    That "functional data" includes email addresses, IP addresses, and account login information -- as well as device data, information about Wi-Fi antennas and other hardware information, room names, and error data.

    This isn't the only reason to not trust Sonos. Nor even the primary one.

    1. Lusty

      That was me that spotted the privacy policy change and they eventually backtracked there too. Original articles were on el reg.

      It’s worrying that the Reg have misinterpreted this new appology though which clearly states that old and new will continue to work but only separately. That’s the same message the original mail had just sugar coated with an apology.

      1. Friar

        Exactly. I can see no change of policy at all.

  13. Andy Non Silver badge
    FAIL

    All I know is

    when I'm in the market for a new sound system it won't be from Sonos. After all the dodgy dealing trying to leverage more money out of customers in underhand ways and "accidentally" bricked kit, I wouldn't touch them now with a barge pole. Simply don't trust them.

  14. commonsense

    Yeah right

    I thought this time last week they'd realised that the old hardware had been stretched to its technical limits?

    What's the betting that interoperability between legacy (i.e. a little bit old) and new kit will get glitchier and glitchier as updates come along?

  15. Mud5hark

    I've had Sonos kit for at least 10 years now. Since an issue with the Android controller on the Significant Others pad going titsup we have stopped updating the firmware. We are stuck in version 6 (latest is 10.something) and happy for it. Don't give a rats arse about Hellexa or whatever. It still does what it did when we bought it. So happy happy.

  16. davealford

    As more and more device get connected to the Internet it's about time manufacturers were forced to support ALL equipment for a minimum 10 years or longer. Is it really environmentally friendly to be throwing away 3 and 4 year old electronics just because the manufacture wants to sell you the latest model? Of course not. And then there is the vulnerability of equipment out of support being compromised just because the manufacturer decided they didn't want to support it any more.

    1. Lusty

      "support ALL equipment for a minimum 10 years or longer"

      support ALL equipment for a minimum 10 years or longer AFTER THE LAST UNIT GETS SOLD.

      FTFY. They did support it for 10 years after the first unit shipped. The problem here is that units were still in shops last year.

  17. PhilipN Silver badge

    Legacy should mean never obsolete

    My first hi-if cost about 13 quid from High Street Woolies. Lasted for years.

    And the (separate - wow!) speakers were great for standing on when I was painting the ceiling.

    Irreplaceable.

  18. Aussie Doc
    Paris Hilton

    Ah...

    "TOO LATE." she cried. ------->

    Methinks the damage may be done already.

  19. XcOM987

    There goes another option

    So I was planning on buying Sonos for my home media needs, but I feel after this being the second time they have killed off old kit, and this seems highly suspect to be announced just after they tried to get people to kill their kit themselves, I feel I will be better off building my own amp and distributed audio setup using opensource software running in several Raspberry Pi's or Wemos boards.

  20. fobskid

    Sonos has pre planned this months ago ... they knew their kit was/will be obsolete {legacy}as the competition {Google Amazon}has 24bt against there 16bt plus bigger memory. The old "legacy" kit is doomed. Even the newer kit will go "legacy over a short time .

    So a conscious decision was made at the top ....

    They decided to lose the existing customer as they cant be upgraded .Sonos knew there would be a customer storm BUT they were all considered as expendable. They also decided to try and cut out the middle man {shops stores and distributors} and shift what would become OLD equipment by offering a 30% discount off the Recommended Retail Price, RRP, IF you buy it direct from them and only them at full price . Make more money and get rid of OLD stock at the same time .

    Genius !

    BUT

    What a massive storm on the internet ... so much anger ... could be the makings of a horror movie !

    I wish i was a fly on the Sonos boardroom wall ... what a self inflicted total nightmare .

    But seriously ...

    It doesn't matter what Sonos does or says now ... the Sonos brand is now very toxic if not dead !

    Even if they roll back everything to "as was" I for one will not be buying any more of their kit.

    I have lost all trust in the product and the company. I realise if it goes bust nothing will work

    but i consider my existing kit as worthless now anyway ... even if i bought new ... it will eventually go "Legacy"

    SONOS = LEGACY = SCRAP . Lets call it what it really is !

    This whole Sonos debacle has made me realise that any Internet connected hardware from any company is time limited.

    Why spend top money on the best products { which Sonos was } when a cheaper alternative is available

    When it goes "Legacy" i wont lose so much of my hard earned money if i buy cheaper ...

    PS

    I hope that if it does go bust all the hard working innocent staff get re-employed in any Sonos alternative company .

    They are the ones who will really be paying the price for this crazy stupid mess ....

    Yours

    A Totally 100% angry pissed off disillusioned never ever again former Sonos advocate

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