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Sonos' chief product officer takes a hike after two years

Ex-Xbox exec now ex-Sonos exec

Perhaps he disagreed with the voice-control strategy? Whatever the reason, Sonos’ high-profile chief product officer, Marc Whitten, has streamed right out of the company he joined two years ago, in March 2014.

Whitten goes after Sonos restructuring and layoffs announced a couple of weeks ago, as Sonos CEO John Macfarlane reacted to the rise of Amazon’s Echo Wi-Fi speaker, and its voice input smart assistant Alexa, as a surging success.

Compared to the simplicity and convenience, if somewhat unreliable convenience, of Alexa-Echo, Sonos’ smartphone/tablet controller is clunky and slow. Comments on Sonos’ community forum have praised Alexa’s convenience and discussed using Echo and its SDK as a Sonos speaker control input device.

The consensus view is that Sonos’ core competency is a combination of its speaker technology and music streaming/stored music playing software. Whether this system is accessed via a smartphone/tablet app or by an alternate Echo input device doesn’t affect this core competency; that’s just an input device discussion.

Of course that view might be hotly disputed inside Sonos.

The forum mentions that there is Echo Sonos control software on Github; not officially supported by Sonos, of course.

Whitten, who is credited with helping to bring the Play:5 product and the TruePlay sound balancing software feature into life, came to Sonos from Microsoft where he was a Chief Product Officer and Corporate Vice President in the Xbox One program.

He was an illustrious hire and is not being replaced. Our take is that his departure signal’s something serious has happened, either personally or professionally, with the Sonos-Echo situation and how to respond to that playing a key role.

Follow Marc Whitten on Twitter where he tweets relatively infrequently as @notwen. ®

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