Sonos will release a brand-new operating system in June

Sonos transitioning to a new operating system should come as no surprise. The first Sonos products came to market more than 15 years ago, and until now, almost every component has remained interoperable. That couldn’t last forever. What is surprising for a company that has operated with precision and discipline its entire existence is how poorly it has communicated to its customer base when, why, and how this transition will take place. Today, we finally get at least some clarification on that front.

A new Sonos operating system—Sonos S2—will roll out some time in June, and a new controller app will come with it. The company is offering only hints as to the improvements the new OS will enable, but in a briefing last week, Sonos spokesperson Jenisse Curry said it will “support higher-resolution audio and higher bandwidth connectivity.” Presumably, this means new hardware will move beyond the 16-bit/48kHz audio that Sonos has for years insisted is “good enough.” It could also mean that the company is looking to support object-based codecs such as Dolby Atmos and/or DTS:X.

sonos move primary 2 Michael Brown / IDG

All newer Sonos hardware, such as the Move—the company’s first battery-powered portable speaker—will be upgradeable to the new operating system.

Curry also said the new OS and app will have a new feature called “room groups,” which enable you to define a room containing several Sonos speakers and control all of them at the same time. This could be very useful for a home theater that has a soundbar, subwoofer, and satellite speakers. Instead of grouping those speakers individually, you’d bundle them together and call the group “Home Theater.” She said the new OS will also “remember frequently grouped speakers, such as ‘Upstairs,’ ‘Downstairs,’ ‘Front of House,’ and ‘Back of House,’” so you don’t need to repeatedly create those scenarios.

Every new Sonos product shipped after May will run Sonos S2 exclusively, and newer Sonos hardware will automatically be updated to the new OS after it launches in June. You’ll be able to control most Sonos hardware with the S2 app, which will be known simply as the Sonos app. (The current Sonos app will be renamed Sonos S1.) As Sonos previously announced, the older hardware listed below will not be compatible with the Sonos S2 operating system, and you won’t be able to control them with the S2 app:

  • Sonos Bridge
  • Sonos Connect and Sonos Connect:Amp
  • Sonos CR200 remote control (the even older CR100 remote was obsoleted some time ago)
  • Sonos Play:5 (first generation)
  • Sonos Zone Player ZP80, ZP90, ZP100, and ZP120

Sonos says its older hardware (now identified as S1 products) doesn’t have the processor power or memory required to run the new operating system. If you have only S1 components, you don’t need to do anything. But Curry said “we do recognize that some customers will have a mix of product, so they will have four options:”

Option 1: Remove S1 products from your system and wait for the new OS to be automatically installed in June.

Option 2: Trade-up your S1 products for S2-compatible equivalents. More on this in a bit.

Option 3: Run your existing system using the S1 app. You’ll still get bug fixes and security patches, but even compatible components won’t be updated to the S2 OS. This option won’t be available forever, but Sonos says it will support it “for as long as we can,” so customers can keep their “music and voice services working.”

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