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What the Sonos-Google War Means for Big Tech

Some companies are fighting against the pull of the industry giants. Call them the 'Cedelings.'

A Sonos wireless speaker.

A Sonos wireless speaker.

Photographer: T3 Magazine/Future Publishing

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On Friday, Patrick Spence, chief executive officer of the pioneering digital speaker maker Sonos, will testify in front of the House antitrust subcommittee, which is seven months into an examination of competition in digital markets. A week after suing Google for infringing on five of its patents, Sonos will presumably make the case that both Google and Amazon, which sell rival speakers powered by their voice-activated assistants, competed unfairly.

As a Sonos fan but former user, I have sympathy for the company but skepticism about an antitrust argument. Sonos is part a group of innovative companies that are ceding market share to the big tech companies—let’s call ‘em the Cedelings. Other members of the Cedeling club include the smartwatch maker Fitbit Inc., action-camera pioneer GoPro Inc., set-top box maker Roku Inc., Spotify Technology SA, a bunch of enterprise software companies and probably a lot of others I haven’t thought of. These firms are putting up varying degrees of valiant resistance to the inexorable migration of their basic ideas and markets into the bundle of linked services offered by Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Microsoft Corp. and other large technology platforms.