SIRI AND ALEXA are bunking up and playing nice with each other thanks to the Sonos Beam smart speaker.
While Amazon is quite happy to whore Alexa out to basically any device with even the slightest connection to a network, Apple is a lot more guarded with Siri, perhaps because the virtual helper is often left in the dunce's corner when compared to the likes of the Google Assistant.
But Apple has let Siri out of its walled garden to play with the other assistants, where it appears to have made friends with Alexa.
The folks at Sonos clearly noticed the blooming friendship and decided that the Sonos Beam will use both the assistants rather than just adopt Alexa, as is the case with other Sonos Smart speakers; in the UK the Sonos One comes with Alexa but is also expected to add support for Google Assistant at some point this year.
The Beam will support Alexa natively, while Siri access will need an Apple device with AirPlay 2 to be used with the speaker because Cupertino wouldn't want Siri out and about without an iPhone or iPad chaperone.
Like the Sonos One, support for the Google Assistant is meant to arrive further down the line. Having multiple virtual assistants on one device not only boosts the voice command capabilities of said smart gadget, but also gives developers more of an ecosystem to hook their apps to.
For example, Alexa is all over the place making it a good choice for developers to integrate their software into, while Siri is normally limited to Apple's own gadget which means if developers only choose to use it as their virtual assistant tie-up they are limited to the scope of Apple products.
This was the problem with the Apple HomePod, which offered excellent sound but poor integration with other services that support voice commands from Alexa and the Google Assistant, meaning the speaker only really works well for people completely committed to Apple products.
On the audio hardware side, the Sonos Beam looks to be a very capable soundbar to sit below TVs. It packs three channel audio delivered through five Class-D digital amps, four woofers for mid and low-range frequencies, and a single tweeter to take care of high notes, while passive radiators augment the bass tones. That hardware is fitted into a fairly compact form that looks a bit like a high-tech baguette.
At £399, the Sonos Beam is targeted at the lower-end of the audio market, and much like the Sonos One, the speaker comes with Sonos' Trueplay tech which tailors the audio output to the room the speaker is in.
A lack of Dolby Atmos or DTS:X support means the speaker won't blow audiophiles or home cinema buffs away, but Sonos is targeting the Beam at people who want a smart speaker that integrates into their TV setup rather than take up space elsewhere.
We'll have to hear the Beam for ourselves before we judge how shrewd a move Sonos has made here, but it looks like its shaping up to be a decent if not an ear-shattering smart speaker. µ
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