Sonos’ chief legal officer testified before a U.S. Senate antitrust subcommittee on Tuesday about the dominance of the smart home market from companies like Google, Amazon and Apple.
The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition, Antitrust and Consumer Policy, which is chaired by Senator Amy Klobuchar, held a hearing on “Protecting Competition and Innovation in Home Technology “. Sonos chief legal officer Eddie Lazarus was one of the key witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing.
Most of the comments during the hearing focused on the dominant market giants Amazon and Google, with representatives from those companies also testifying on Tuesday. However, Lazarus also criticized some of Apple’s HomeKit policies regarding walled gardens. For example, although Apple offers Siri to third-party manufacturers, Lazarus has taken issue with how Apple deploys support.
“Apple will only license Siri to companies that use the HomePod as a central hub to connect to Siri. Thus, Apple makes interoperability with Siri conditional on companies that place a competitive Apple product next to theirs,” he said. Lazarus said.
Apple was not alone in criticizing interoperability. For example, Lazarus stated that Google “requires as a condition of Google Assistant in our products that we never allow simultaneity with another general voice assistant.”
Sonos’ general counsel has also targeted Matter, a new connectivity standard for the smart home backed by Apple, Google and other tech giants.
“One could imagine, moreover, a Trojan horse aspect to all this. Those who control the standard and its evolution effectively control the nature and pace of innovation, including innovations imagined by their competitors. get it, is basically a creature of Google and Apple’s code. This is hardly a formula for fair competition or a more creative invention. It’s a formula to further strengthen the dominance of a few, ”Lazarus said.
As mentioned, most of the criticism from the Sonos executive has been directed at Amazon and Google, which it says control around 85% of the smart speaker market in the United States.
“It’s terrible for the dynamics of innovation because it cripples companies that have better products that can’t be sold at a loss and consumers lose. In addition to protecting the future profits of their dominant products and services, cross-subsidies will ultimately result in anti-competitive effects as “traditional” predatory prices below cost; prices will certainly go up once these dominant firms drive other firms out of the market and reduce competition, ”Lazarus said.
Sonos chief legal officer urged lawmakers to act to avoid a future in which every smart home is controlled by a few behemoths.
“These behemoths will exercise overwhelming control over the direction of innovation and over new ideas brought to market, ultimately replicating a market structure that history has said inhibits innovation and competition. The choice. of consumers will also wither, ”Lazarus said.
Senator Klobuchar, chair of the subcommittee on competition policy, antitrust and consumer rights, reported earlier in 2021 that she plans to investigate a variety of antitrust topics related to technology. Although Apple was not represented at today’s hearing, it testified at a previous Senate antitrust hearing in April that focused on mobile app stores.
In his opening speech, Senator Klobuchar said that in smart home technology, “we see some of the most powerful companies that dominate technology today on the verge of dominating the platforms of the future.” .
“We hear concerns about the growing power of Amazon and Google in the smart speaker market – over 50% for Amazon, 30% for Google. We also hear concerns about the use of consumers’ personal information – this Of course, the privacy legislation on the federal level has kind of escaped us and would be dealt with primarily by the trade committee, but it’s the other piece of this puzzle besides the work that needs to be done. be done about antitrust laws, ”Senator Klobuchar said.
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