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Is anyone surprised that Sonos is trying to force-retire stuff? I'm not, after the CR100 debacle. Unlike Apple and other hardware/software resellers, Sonos has always fixated on only shipping one firmware. Several types of events will require Sonos equipment to contact the mothership and subsequently download the latest firmware:
  • initial setup
  • adding a new system component
  • deep reset to deal with corrupted flash memory
On top of that, the official iOS, OS X, and Android Sonos apps will also refuse to work with zone players or speakers running older firmware. Your best alternative to the official Sonos iOS app is SonoPhone, which works with everything Sonos, old and new. Plus, I still have the right version of the desktop app here, just so I can set up a NAS share (the one thing Sonophone can't do).

Sonos customers have no control over their firmware, other than to sandbox their Sonos gear once it has been set up. I have my Sonos hardware port-blocked as well as DNS-blackholed (belts and suspenders). That way, I still get to use my CR100 controller without the fear that some guest decides to say "yes" when the "update now?" nag screen comes up, followed by said controller being irreversibly bricked by Sonos.

Now, Sonos is offering discounts in return for bricking your older, fully functioning zone player / speaker hardware. The only good thing I can say about this phenomenal waste of functioning resources is that allegedly the Sonos app or whatever is being used to trigger "recycle mode" in affected equipment does a better job this time around of informing customers in advance.

None of this would be necessary if Sonos could simply let users choose their firmware and live with the consequences (the way Apple does, by limiting software updates to obsolete iOS devices). Over time, I expect hifi enthusiasts to seek greener pastures at Bluesound and like higher-quality competitors. The remaining cohort of customers will have to be battled over by the big three (Apple, Google, Amazon).

However, Sonos isn't Google, Apple, or Amazon. Sonos doesn't have $$$ in the bank to subsidize gaining market share. My sense is that Sonos is setting themselves up as an eventual acquisition target to let one of the big three buy market share by buying them. Getting rid of older, non-voice hardware greases the skids by making more of Sonos customers' equipment voice-capable.

So, if you enjoy your Sonos as is, I suggest you, too, sandbox the thing, get Sonophone, and watch from a distance as Sonos burns its customer goodwill at the stake.
 


Is anyone surprised that Sonos is trying to force-retire stuff? I'm not, after the CR100 debacle.
I've also had to sandbox my Sonos setup to protect my CR100 controllers, because otherwise, the system software will update the firmware on perfectly functional (for me) hardware without my consent.

To be fair, the system is fairly complex; it's much easier to run components that are always updated to a known current firmware version. To eliminate the hassle of older firmware, the company simply needs to state that only the current version is supported and users of previous systems are on their own.

As for Apple, I'm not a fan of iOS downloading the installer for version 13 in the background when I have no intention of upgrading my iPhone SE running 12. If there were a Pi-hole implemented for iOS, I'd buy it in a flash.
 


To be fair, the system is fairly complex; it's much easier to run components that are always updated to a known current firmware version. To eliminate the hassle of older firmware, the company simply needs to state that only the current version is supported and users of previous systems are on their own.
Allow me to disagree a bit. Unless the hardware is seriously over-provisioned and some sage manages to predict every hardware need for the future, I'd argue that the company sets itself up for forced hardware retirements over time; unless multiple firmware revisions are allowed to coexist.

At the app level, we all know that this is not an issue; otherwise, Sonophone couldn't continue to do what Sonos allegedly couldn't: support multiple firmwares and hardware platforms without issues. Mine runs a set frozen at 6.3 and another at 8.4. If Sonophone can do that, so can the Sonos app or the desktop application.

At the zone player level, this shouldn't be an issue either. The control stack / API for the older Sonos system was remarkably light, easy to implement. No, this single-minded business model is about control.
  • Sonos v1 embraced early adopters that enjoyed their NAS-based music.
  • Sonos v2 transitioned to streaming (likely with the hope to collect rent some day).
  • Sonos v3 is trying to voice-enable everything.
With every company revision, the v1 customer base got increasingly marginalized. Sonos management had no qualms about retiring their handheld controllers, and I expect Sonos to force-retire the current optionally-rebated stuff in the future. The argument will be that the hardware in question is now such a small percentage of the overall hardware base that supporting it is no longer possible, etc. (same arguments as with the CR100).

They'll continue to give out rebates as a fig leaf, and at least this time around, there will be adequate replacements to buy. However, the real impetus seems to revolve around upgrading the customer fleet so more devices are Airplay 2, Homekit, Alexa, whatever enabled. For me, that suggests a management decision to set the company up for an acquisition.

Why else abandon your initial customer base? It would be trivial to let older hardware revisions soldier on at given firmware revisions, just as Apple does. It's not like the command and control aspects of the firmware have changed much over the years. However, the older hardware fleet is not valuable when it comes to the sale of the company - the big three want voice-enabled market share, not just music players.

Sonos was blind-sided by Echo, Alexa, and Siri, who quickly ate into Sonos' comfortable niche. Instead of enjoying fat margins on the initial hardware sales like Sonos, the big three put out cheap, subsidized product that leveraged each OEM's cloud services for smarts. Sonos has neither the reserves, the cloud, etc. to compete. The fat margins of yesteryear have disappeared; I'd wager that build quality is likely not far behind.

The good news is that once equipment has been set up, the umbilical cord to Sonos can be cut and the equipment will remain fully functional. So even if Sonos were to go out of business, you can enjoy your music until the equipment or the software running it gives out.
 


How long until hackers know the kill switch? This will become a colossal PR nightmare.
Makes me wonder how long before Sonos just quits supporting these devices? If they do, the devices will not be replaced here. We seem to have AirPlay in just about every room when that [wasn't] even the original purpose... :-)
 


I read that Sonos article, and I'm more inclined to side with Sonos in that they are offering a 30% discount (trade-up program) if you recycle your older Sonos. If you want both the discount and to give the unit to a friend/relative, well then you are in breach of the discount agreement, yes? Is it creepy they send an update to cripple the unit? Well, if you don't want the discount, then there isn't an issue. And if you have a 10-year-old Sonos product, chances are it's not working as well as when new, and more than likely you have replaced it already. Slippery slope perhaps. And what if someone nefarious hacked Sonos or even a mistaken engineer sent out wrong codes to valid owners?
 


I read that Sonos article, and I'm more inclined to side with Sonos in that they are offering a 30% discount (trade-up program) if you recycle your older Sonos
Correct – this time around, they gave users a choice, which is a step up from how they handled the CR100 forced requirement. But the discount is not that different from the 25%+ discount promos the company frequently features.

FWIW, I consider my present Sonos system to be working better than new. Back then, there was little to no streaming content, but by firmware 8.4, that part works well. My Sonos also no longer successfully sends its metrics to the mothership hundreds of times per day, despite settings to the contrary. Nor can it be inadvertently “updated” by a non-authorized user.

Unless the company allows multiple firmwares to coexist, more forced retirements are not a question of if but rather of when.

Inadvertent brickings can allegedly be undone remotely. But, yeah, clearly someone has put in the time to develop a effective bricking process that can be done remotely. I presume it’s tied to the MAC address via the user account. Sonos has all that on file since the day you activated your system. Plus, the equipment phones home when it can to transmit usage statistics.
 


I read that Sonos article, and I'm more inclined to side with Sonos in that they are offering a 30% discount (trade-up program) if you recycle your older Sonos. If you want both the discount and to give the unit to a friend/relative, well then you are in breach of the discount agreement, yes?
But one should ask: what's the real incentive to "recycling"/destroying the product? What's the net positive result? What's the real difference to the customer and Sonos whether the old product still "exists" or not, regardless of the rebate?

A few people have compared this to the "Cash for Clunkers" program, but there was a net benefit to destroying those older cars, because the main point of that program was to lower pollution produced by those cars by exchanging them with cars that produced lower emissions - that benefit would've been nullified if the older cars would've been allowed to be resold.

In this instance, I fail to see any benefit to "recycling"/destroying perfectly working electronics to a non-functional state, other than to produce more pollution and line Sono's pockets.

(And I'll add that claiming this is a "recycling" of the product in any fashion should be considered fraud, and investigated.)
 


Is anyone surprised that Sonos is trying to force-retire stuff? I'm not, after the CR100 debacle. Unlike Apple and other hardware/software resellers, Sonos has always fixated on only shipping one firmware. Several types of events will require Sonos equipment to contact the mothership and subsequently download the latest firmware. ... So, if you enjoy your Sonos as is, I suggest you, too, sandbox the thing, get Sonophone, and watch from a distance as Sonos burns its customer goodwill at the stake.
"Sandbox" is getting thrown around here a lot. What does it mean? The hardware? The software? What exactly is involved and how does a normal user do it (if a normal user can)?
 


"Sandbox" is getting thrown around here a lot. What does it mean? The hardware? The software? What exactly is involved and how does a normal user do it (if a normal user can)?
"Sandboxing" in this context would mean to isolate the device such that it can't be affected by external factors, such as the mothership trying to "upgrade" its software. In this context, it might mean isolating its access to the Internet, such that its local network cannot reach out/be reached externally....
 



Might the term "air-gapped" be more well known and accurate?
Air gap means that there is no physical connection from that computer / network / whatever to the broader internet (some military machines are secured this way). The idea is that without a physical connection, it's more difficult to exfiltrate data, hack, or otherwise harm the air-gapped machines. As the Stuxnet attack on Natanz illustrated, even air-gaps can be overcome with enough effort.

While air-gapping a Sonos after its initial setup is a possibility, an air-gapped Sonos would be difficult to stream music with. The likely closest approach is using the "audio in" from a computer or AirPort Express? Seems clunky. However, you can block access to/from Sonos.com and and enjoy streaming content via:
  • Port-blocking: Updating cannot happen, because the relevant ports in your firewall are closed. You can further refine this by assigning fixed IP addresses to your Sonos equipment and only block the relevant ports for that IP address range. This will allow other home equipment to still use those ports.
  • DNS-blackholing: Basically, treat Sonos.com and its many sub-domains as malware/spam/naughty sites. When your Sonos equipment tries to look up Sonos-related DNS addresses, it is sent to 0.0.0.0 instead. This happens hundreds of times per day yet, the equipment works just fine.
I do both, because I'd rather not rely on one approach alone. Plus, DNS blackholing is easy to test – just try to bring up the Sonos web site on your home computer or iPhone; it shouldn't work and time out instead. Testing port-blocking is a bit more involved.

My usage is likely not the most accurate definition of a sandbox (see the Wikipedia definition) but the intent is similar - allow the local Sonos equipment to run in a controlled environment that will hopefully protect it, as well as my privacy.

#security
 


Looks like Sonos got a message from the user-base. While the company is not backing down from obsoleting a large number of products; i.e. "the original Zone Players, the Connect and Connect:Amp, the first-generation Play:5, the CR200, and Bridge", it looks as though they are now reversing their stance on one firmware for all products.
Gizmodo said:
Instead of intentionally bricking legacy products (like their CR100 handheld controllers), Sonos allegedly now plans to classify the above products as "legacy", eliminating them from future firmware updates. Over time, the expectation is that stuff will start to break as providers like Spotify update their networks, something that the streamers among us may care about. However, crucially, Sonos will allegedly allow legacy products to coexist alongside newer firmware products.

No surprise that this is possible, since SonoPhone has shown that it can address devices running newer and older firmwares without issue. If a third-party app developer can do it, so can Sonos. I applaud Sonos for finally reversing their rote stand re forced obsolescence and coming back into line with most hardware/software OEMs.

I suspect the flood of bad press combined with a low uptake on their paltry "Trade Up" discount convinced Sonos management that they'd finally pushed their user base too far. I wonder how many folk threw up their hands, sold their existing systems, and defected to other platforms... I'd wager the money they got on eBay for used, functional Sonos equipment far exceeded the discount offered by Sonos.

Sonos management likely hates that their traditional markets are saturated, that old products still faithfully fulfill their tasks, and that other competitors are likely eating their lunch (and profit margins) in the segments that have growth left in them. But instead of coming up with artificial reasons to brick existing, functional hardware, Sonos should focus on developing new compelling products that consumers would want to upgrade to.
 


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