Details are scant, but today Sonos and Ikea are announcing a partnership meant to bring "music and sound" into all aspects of the home. Ikea calls the collaboration a third step for its Ikea Home Smart initiative. Step one was the integration of Qi wireless charging into its furniture back in 2015, and step two was the launch of its smart lighting products in 2016. The first realizations from the Sonos and Ikea partnership aren't expected to be in stores until 2019, however.
“At IKEA we strive to make solutions for life at home by integrating technology into our home furnishing offer that are easy to use and affordable, thereby making smart home technology accessible to the many people,” said Björn Block of IKEA's smart home division. “Together with Sonos we want to democratize music and sound in the home, and we want to create products designed for how people listen together at home. By teaming up with Sonos we want to combine IKEA home furnishing knowledge with Sonos’ expertise within great home sound.”
What this means is open to interpretation
What this means come 2019 is open to interpretation. At a minimum we can expect Ikea to initially sell Sonos' existing lineup of speakers. But it could also point to entirely new products developed in ways presently unforeseen using Sonos' intellectual property and Ikea's vast network of furniture designers. The latter could be years away, however.
The partnership's emphasis on "music and sound" is notable. We often think of Sonos in narrow terms as the company that delivers music anywhere in the home. But more generally speaking, it can also deliver sounds. It's already doing that by integrating Alexa's intelligent voice assistant inside the Sonos One speaker. But you can imagine Sonos speakers being used to deliver audio for all types of smart-home scenarios: as an electronic doorbell, an intercom system, or as a mechanism to deliver chimes alerting you to the end of the laundry cycle, for example. Or maybe as a siren connected to a home security system or smoke alarm. The options are many as Ikea looks to extend its burgeoning TRÅDFRI series of smart devices in the home.
As an audio partner for Ikea, Sonos is unique in that the company strives to be service agnostic. It's already integrated with just about any music service you can think of. More recently Sonos began integrating with all the major voice assistants: Amazon’s Alexa is already supported, Google Assistant is confirmed, and the company is actively courting Apple to bring over Siri, as it did with Apple Music a few years ago. By choosing Sonos as a partner, Ikea doesn't have to place a big bet on any one music or voice service winning the smart home.
Sonos is, of course, thrilled to have its products and name out in front of the more than 780 million people who shop Ikea's stores each year.
Whatever happens, the Ikea and Sonos partnership is one those things that seems so obvious and of such value to both companies that it makes you wonder why it didn't happen years ago.