LAS VEGAS - Sonos didn’t release anything new at CES 2019, but it did announce something special: Google Assistant is finally on its way to selected speakers in its range, in the form of a (currently private) beta.
Sonos is no stranger to voice assistants. The Sonos One and Sonos Beam both have Alexa control but it’s always been mooted that they will get Google Assistant, too.
The problem is, this has been a long time coming. "The complexity of the integration has meant that it has taken this long," a spokesperson at Sonos told us. "But now it’s available through private beta to a few thousand people."
It’s unknown how long it will be before the private beta shifts into public (here’s hoping weeks rather than months) but it’s certainly worth the wait. And what a wait it has been. Sonos had initially promised a 2018 launch for its Google Assistant integration.
But a blog post in November put the dampeners on this, explaining that "the reality is that we need a bit more time to get the experience right and will now look to lock down a date in 2019."
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I was shown to a bedroom in Sonos' rather palatial CES base and got to have a 'behind closed doors' listen to Google Assistant finally working on the Sonos Beam, thanks to a simple "Hey, Google."
The result is another seamless voice experience by Sonos, who has been working hard with Google and its beta testers to make sure there are no bugs in the final experience.
Those in private beta testing, a joint test with Google, have been doing at least 14 hours of listening per week and using 10 voice commands daily to test the system. This is all to make sure that the experience "knits together the full ecosystem of Google Assistant, with the full Sonos system," says Sonos.
Hey, Google, it's finally nice to hear you on Sonos
In our tests, Google told me the weather and played a number of songs from Spotify. I could also choose the room to play the music in and the whole experience was very similar to how Alexa is used through Sonos' devices. An addition here, though, is that you will be able to link up with Chromecast for more video and TV control.
While Sonos users will soon be able to choose between Alexa and Google on their devices, Sonos is hoping to go one further and eradicate that choice.
When Google Assistant arrives, you will have to choose between this and Alexa on each Sonos device you have. You can have Alexa on one and Google Assistant on another, but not both voice assistants working simultaneously.
This is something that Sonos wants to fix. "We believe in building a system where customers can use which ever voice service they care about in their home, and that’s what we’re working towards."
This would mean that you wouldn’t have to flip between voice assistants on each device, but just shout "Alexa or Hey, Google" and they would respond.
Given the complex nature of working with Google so far on its systems, we can’t see this happening anytime soon. But it’s great that Sonos is even contemplating breaking down the voice assistant barriers.