Sonos, the wireless music system has achieved what it calls the 1 million room milestone, meaning that more than a million Sonos endpoint are streaming music around the world. For a web service, such a milestone may not be as notable, but for a hardware maker that has been selling gear since January 2005, it’s a big deal.
It’s an even bigger deal when you consider that half of those million rooms were added in the last year. Tom Cullen, VP of sales and marketing and a co-founder of Sonos, attributes the success to all-in-one devices such as the Sonos S5 (now called the Play:5) released in late 2009 as well as a shift back to listening to music out loud in the home as opposed to over headphones on an MP3 player. He’s also not shy about predicting that Sonos will sell its next million devices in the next year, pointing out that retailers are now giving Sonos space in stores and online. Just last week, Sonos gear began appearing at Target.com.
The company, which expects to make about $ 250 million in sales this year, may never achieve the growth rates that an online service might, but it’s a pretty exceptional success story when you consider that devices it sold in 2005 can today be controlled by a handset operating system that didn’t even exist at the time. Given how quickly most hardware becomes obsolete today, that’s pretty amazing and speaks to some of the lessons the Sonos crew can teach entrepreneurs.
Sonos has also managed to hang around to create a product that seems like a perfect fit for the streaming future of music. It boasts on its web site that with Sonos, you can “stream all the music on earth,” a feat made possible by the web, digital music and Sonos’s efforts to become a platform.
As the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based company looks to the future with its latest Play:3 all-in-one system, it’s planning to make speakers smarter. For example, the Play:3 has sensors in it that determine the orientation of the unit, so it adjusts its sound based on whether it’s horizontal or vertical. Cullen says Sonos wants to add this level of intelligence to speakers everywhere. Sonos already has digital tuning technologies that make adjusting the speakers as easy as changing an algorithm at the factory as opposed to a manual process. What appears to be a simple consumer device actually has some pretty innovative stuff inside.
As Sonos grows, we’re likely to see those innovations occur in more and more places, effectively letting us listen to the web and whatever else we want.
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