Sonos Prepares iPad App For Wireless Audio System

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New York - Sonos is preparing to launch its first iPad app, which will join a free iPhone/iPod Touch app already available to control its wireless multizone audio system.


The iPad app, previewed here at the Consumer Electronics Association's (CEA) annual Line Shows, will take advantage of the iPad's large screen to simultaneously display a user's music library, zone controls and "what's playing" window, said co-founder Thomas Cullen. That's a capability unavailable on the company's hand-held wireless-RF touchscreen controller or the company's app for the smaller screen iPhone/iPod Touch.

Sonos will submit the iPad app in August to Apple for approval and hopes to offer the app it free a month later, Cullen said.

The company began offering its iPhone/Touch app late last year with the launch of its $399-everyday

ZonePlayer S5,

the company's first one-piece tabletop client with built-in amp and stereo speakers. Like Sonos clients that connect to passive speakers or to existing stereo systems, the S5 wirelessly streams PC- and network-attached-storage (NAS)-stored music and, via networked broadband modem, Internet-based radio stations and music services.

The S5 is promoted as broadening Sonos' potential customer base with a more affordable solution for iPhone owners who don't want to spend $349 on Sonos' wireless-RF touchscreen controller, $499 amplified client, $399 unamplified client or the audio components needed to connect to these clients. The S3 is also billed as a way to extend existing Sonos systems into rooms, such as garages, where a hi-fi system or separate speakers aren't practical.

The iPhone app, however, controls all of Sonos' clients, not just the S5, and the iPad app will do so as well.

Publicity and advertising efforts behind the S5 and iPhone app, as well new retail partners for the product, turned the all-in-one device into "a huge success," Cullen said. The strategy also raised awareness of other Sonos products to the point that the company ran out of stock six times between December and May, is still not meeting all orders, but is "almost caught up" and will meet demand within a month, he said.

"We thought we would grow 60 percent this year," but for the year-to-date, worldwide sales are up more than 100 percent, and U.S. sales are up more than 140 percent, he said.

Cullen attributes much of the gain in Sonos' awareness to in-app ads appearing in the Pandora application for iPhones. "We're driving more traffic to the channel from our iPhone ads than from all the rest of our web advertising because the users are so qualified," he said.

Also boosting S5 awareness in particular and Sonos awareness in general was the addition of retailers that hadn't sold Sonos before but elected to stock and promote only the S5, he said. Those retailers include J&R, Nebraska Furniture Mart and Brookstone.

Although the iPhone app controls all Sonos clients, Cullen hasn't seen the app cannibalize sales of the company's wireless touchscreen controller. "Because our business is surging, it's hard to see if the app hurts our controller sales," he said. In addition, the dedicated controller offers multiple advantages to consumers buying any of the company's clients. For one thing, the controller's battery life is longer, and it's always connected to the Sonos system, whereas the apps require users to log onto a home's Wi-Fi network. The app can also complement the controller because consumers will use the device that's handy at the time, whether it's an iPhone, the controller, or Sonos software running on a networked PC, he said.


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