Brilliant product, CEO hard of hearingThis is a five star review for two reasons: first, the system is truly excellent in terms of what it does, and with reasonable sound quality; secondly, amongst the sea of one star and emotive reviews, prompted by recent communications, I want to remain objective. But to be clear, I am critical of the communication from Sonos this week, and question whether the company will survive for long. The corporate email from Sonos on Tuesday 21 January informed me that I had 15 items that were going to be obsolete as of May: 9 Connect Amps, 2 Connnect/ZP90s, 2 Play 5s and 2 Bridges. Taking account of the 30% discount, the replacement cost is £5,169. Of course the specification and functionality is going to be improved, but I am happy with the performance today. We all know that electrical equipment has a limited shelf life, but I would not expect to have to replace an entire music system in such a short space of time. Following the backlash from Tuesday’s communication, we received a more personalised email from Patrick Spence, CEO, today, (25 January), informing us that “all Sonos products will continue to work past May”. He acknowledges that they got this wrong, mea culpa and all that. I would argue that Mr. Spence is paid a salary of $2,353,750 not to make such missteps, rather to have an acute sensitivity as to what his audience wants and to steer the company in the right direction. He has misread his audience. For the most part, I suspect, we are music lovers and are not so interested in the latest tech. Of the more recent updates, I would be surprised if many Sonos users have any idea as to what they achieve. If they are critical and achieve something noteworthy, then Sonos should make this clear. The Sonos situation is comparable to BlackBerry, formerly Research in Motion. Mr Spence will know all about BlackBerry as he worked there for 14 years until 2012, his last role being SVP, Managing Director, Global Sales & Regional Marketing (according to his LinkedIn). Those of us in the corporate world will remember the sequence of Palm (the Palm Pilot), BlackBerry, and then iPhone/Android. There was a strong element of first-mover advantage and little competition in the earlier years. But Palm and BlackBerry did not react, or maybe could not react, to changing consumer demand, with BlackBerry now a mere shadow of its former self. Mr. Spence should be worried that the same fate awaits Sonos, and they have just taken a major step in that direction. The reason why Sonos should survive is precisely the opposite to the Palm and BlackBerry experience; rather than wanting to upgrade to the latest handset, in the case of Sonos we want to retain the legacy hardware and continue to build out our systems around it. If we are then told that our legacy hardware is in fact obsolete, the very reason why we would otherwise remain loyal to Sonos brand is gone, at a stroke. Hence the communication we have all received this week is potentially catastrophic for the company. But it need not be, and here is my wish-list as an avid Sonos user as to how Mr. Spence can put this right, as I want to retain my Sonos system: (1) make sure that you clearly demonstrate to us how you are doing everything you can to give the “legacy” hardware the longest possible life-span, so that we are encouraged to purchase new equipment to complement it; (2) in any such communication, bring out the excellent work that Sonos is doing on carbon neutrality, as electrical waste is a major issue (note that Sonos has been carbon neutral since 2018 through purchase of renewable energy credits, or “RECs”); (3) think about the future design of your products, and whether it may be possible to achieve a more modular approach through being able to upgrade the relevant processing hardware without having to replace the amplification and other parts that have a much longer life-span, thereby offering consumers a cheaper route to upgrading their Sonos systems; and (4) be proud that 92% of the products that you have ever shipped are still in use today. Create a mission and make a target to see how high you can keep that number over time, as part of your ESG plan. If you get the above right, I will continue to purchase Sonos equipment. If you do not, I would rather spend my £5,169 with another firm. I stand by my 5 Star review because Sonos is excellent today, and the real test is whether I can give a 5 Star review in 12 months’ time. That may be just how long the firm has in order to turn the situation around. Wishing the Sonos team the best of luck in the task ahead.