How Sonos Got It Right: Up Close With A Survivor
John MacFarlane had a dream: to send music from one box to every room in the house. In 2002, the only way to do this – sanely – was to run speaker wire from room to room, creating an install headache or a rats nest of wires. Instead, his company, Sonos, succeeded at sending the audio wirelessly, a feat that has been replicated many times but has never resulted in a product as successful and popular as the Sonos Multi-Room Music System.
There’s a dirty secret in gadget start-ups: they fail. Constantly and catastrophically. Unlike web or web service start-ups, gadget start-ups require R&D, manufacturing, and distribution. The Gizmondo, the most famous of all flame-outs, involved unkept promises, horrible hardware, and an exec with organized crime ties wrapping a Ferrari Enzo around a light pole.
Making hardware is hard. It takes time, and MacFarlane and his team took three years to finally launch the ZonePlayer 100 and remote control. During this time multiple vendors tried and failed to ship similar products. However, thanks to a unique design aesthetic, some nice software, and a lot of luck, Sonos survived and is now thriving.