Amazon devices chief on Sonos accusations: ‘We have tried to be a great partner to them’

Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services, speaking at the 2019 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)

Amazon’s head of devices is maintaining an amicable tone toward Sonos despite accusations of stolen technology and bullying from the speaker company.

In an interview with GeekWire at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, Dave Limp said Amazon has worked to maintain a strong partnership with Sonos from the beginning

“I would say our relationship with Sonos is incredibly valuable … we have tried to be a great partner to them to enable them to integrate with Alexa and then also sell their devices,” Limp said.

Sonos is less interested in playing nice. Executives told the New York Times that they believe both Google and Amazon’s smart speakers violate Sonos’ patents, but the company decided that it couldn’t take both of them on at once. Sonos chose to focus on Google, accusing the search giant of patent infringement in lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco and the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Patrick Spence, Sonos CEO, also plans to testify before the U.S. House Antitrust subcommittee on the power of Big Tech.

Sonos executives said that in collaborating with Amazon and Google, they provided details on their technology that the tech giants used when they entered the smart speaker space themselves. Sonos’ case focuses largely on multi-room music playback, claiming Google violated five of the speaker company’s patents.

Though Amazon isn’t named in the complaint, the New York Times story makes it clear that Sonos believes both companies are culpable. Limp dismissed the claim.

“As it relates to the multi-room audio, our implementation is very different than Sonos’ implementation,” he said.

Sonos executives said they don’t have the resources to take on both Amazon and Google, but it’s possible there is another reason the search giant is the focus of the lawsuit.

In 2016, Amazon was granted a patent under the title “Distributed speaker synchronization.” The patent describes a system that uses a “signal synchronization component” to perform calculations “to align signals corresponding to the output audio of the electronic audio devices and then determine a delay for the output audio transmitted from the electronic audio devices with respect to each other.”

Limp also stressed Amazon’s commitment to allowing its Alexa operating system to co-exist with other virtual assistants in smart speakers.

“I’ve been around since the beginning of Alexa. We never wanted anybody to be exclusive with Alexa,” he said. “If they choose to, we’re not going to say no, but we not going to mandate it. We want customers to have choice and Alexa needs to win on her merits.”

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