Sonos Lets Google Put It To Work, Chromecast-Style

Just when we were looking at how to turn a Chromecast into a Sonos, Google turned the Sonos into a Chromecast.

Sonos and Google’s new partnership, touted on Google’s fairly elaborate launch page, means that you can now stream music to a Sonos speaker from the Google Play Music app. That feature launched as an Android exclusive, but now Google Play Music will pop up as an option on the Sonos app for iOS too. Apparently you’ll still need the Sonos app installed on Android, and of course you’ll need to be on the same Wi-Fi network that your Sonos rocks out on.

Control Sonos With Google Play Music

If you haven’t used a Sonos, this probably all sounds confusing. Historically, Sonos speakers are controlled only by the Sonos Controller app. To populate the Sonos app with music, you connect it to the music services you use, like Pandora or Spotify.

Doing so ends up circumventing those streaming-music apps entirely; instead, the Sonos apps controls those accounts, playlists and stations. It’s nice because everything is in one place. But even though Sonos has a fully redesigned app just around the corner, its controller still can’t capture the native experience of a fun app interface like Beats.

Google’s Chromecast comes at the same problem from the opposite direction: You can control a Chromecast through a special “cast” button that must be added into an existing app. If you want to watch video with Google’s Chromecast, an app like Netflix or Google Play turns into the controller. By contrast, to play music over a Sonos speaker, you had only one controller: the Sonos meta-app.

At least until Thursday, that was. Now, though, if you want to listen to music with a Sonos, Google Play Music can turn into the controller, too.

Google, Why Not Just Buy Sonos?

The result—playing music from Google’s service through a Sonos speaker—might be the same. But being able to control a Sonos system with a non-Sonos app is a meaningful move for both Sonos, the defending champion of streaming home audio hardware, and Google, a company with a growing appetite for defining the smart home through acquisitions like Nest and innovations like the $35 Chromecast.

It also proves that Google isn’t playing favorites with the Chromecast, its own digital streaming device that’s been adding more and more support for prominent music apps like Pandora, Rhapsody and Rdio. Priced at $35, the hardware isn’t raking in any profits for Google.

The same strategy is evident across its well-priced mobile Nexus line and its budget-level Chromebook computers, which all function—with the exception of the Chromebook Pixel— as very reasonably priced hardware platforms for Google’s multimedia and app store, Google Play.

With its newly open approach to music streaming, the Sonos digital home hi-fi family sure would look good next to the Chromecast in that line-up. Maybe this is just the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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