To prevent a ban on Pixel imports, Google makes unpopular changes to its Nest speakers
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Earlier this morning we told you that the International Trade Commission (ITC) had placed a limited exclusion order on Google for infringing on five patents owned by speaker manufacturer Sonos. The ITC also slapped a cease and desist order on Google. The devices that could be banned from import into the U.S. include Nest speakers, Chromecast devices, and Pixel smartphones.
Google makes some changes to the functionality of its Nest speakers to avoid the ITC ordered exclusion order
What happens next is that the president reviews the ITC orders and then has the option of disapproving the order which would prevent it from taking place. Or, he can let the ban take effect by doing nothing. After the review period ends, both sides can appeal the ITC ruling.
Google couldn't sit around and pray to the IP gods for a presidential veto, or win an appeal. So yesterday the search giant announced in the Google Nest community forum: "Due to a recent legal ruling we’re making some changes to how you set up your devices and the Speaker Group functionality will work moving forward."
Second-generation Google Nest Hub
Google added that "If you’re using the Speaker Group feature to control the volume in the Google Home app, by voice with the Google Assistant, or directly on your Nest Hub display, you’ll notice a few changes." Since the patents that Google was found to infringe on deal with ways to easily set up a speaker device that controls home audio systems, the pairing of multiple speakers, the independent volume control of different speakers, and the stereo pairing of speakers, Google hopes that the following changes are good enough to placate Sonos and the ITC:
From now on when you want to adjust the volume settings on your speaker group, each speaker will need to be adjusted individually instead of using the group volume controller. The latter allowed multiple speakers to have their volume changed by adjusting one setting. And your phone's physical volume button will no longer change your Speaker Group volume.
Most Speaker Groups will continue to function as expected although third-party units will need to be updated to Cast firmware version 1.52.272222. A small set of users will need to use the 'Device Utility app' (DUA) to finish product installation and updates. In its post yesterday, Google stated that "you may receive a prompt to download and run DUA, and it will ensure that your device is connected to Wi-Fi and receives the most updated software version."
Google Nest owners are not happy.
Some Nest owners were not, shall we say, pleased as punch. One community member with the initials LJD wrote, "this is not ok. Completely negates why I bought into Google speakers for the house. I believe a rebate is in order, your devices no longer work as advertised and as sold. I shall have to look elsewhere."
Artago said, "So you got sued by Sonos and we pay the price? Either get some better lawyers and win the suit or pay Sonos a royalty or start issuing refunds to customers."Google Nest owners were understandably upset since some of the functionality they thought that they were paying for is now disabled. Community member
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Both comments have valid points because Google might have been able to defuse this situation by working out a royalty schedule with Sonos to protect its products from getting stopped at the U.S. border. Instead, Google chose the option that reduces the functionality of its product to protect its profit margin. That doesn't put its customers first and the optics look pretty bad.
Much of the feedback from Nest users should have Google alarmed since most of them sound like community member mwndl who stated, "one of the functionalities that makes me choose Google instead other options is going out and we pay the price…"
Keep in mind that it is possible that Google is privately talking to Sonos to negotiate a solution that would be more palatable to all concerned.