Business

Google intentionally makes its products worse for users. The reason might surprise you

Last week, the International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that Google infringed five patents owned by Sonos, related to the creation and control of speaker groups. The ITC issued an order that would have restricted the import and sale of a variety of the company’s Nest smart speakers.

Sonos, predictably, declared it a total victory because its patents were confirmed as valid, and the ITC admitted that Google had stolen its technology for use in its own products. The company was hoping Google would pay it a royalty for the counterfeit technology.

Turns out, it might not be such a win after all, for anyone involved. Indeed, instead of paying a royalty to Sonos, Google decided to simply send a software update of the products in question to remove abilities which are covered by patents.

That’s right, Google is on the verge of intentionally making its products worse for users, as it prefers not to pay Sonos a royalty, for the technology it has hijacked.

To be clear, Sonos is not a patented troll. These are companies that reclaim patents and only exist to sue companies that infringe their intellectual property without ever publishing their own products. Sonos makes a number of products, many of which are considered to be the best in their class.

They got it because Sonos puts a lot of effort into developing the technology so that it can compete with much bigger companies like Google.

In 2013, as Google considered how it could run its music streaming service on Sonos speakers, the latter company gave the search giant a glimpse into its technology. At the time, it didn’t seem like a big deal. Google didn’t make speakers, and it wasn’t in the smart home business at all.

It will take another year before buying Nest to get into the computer hardware business. Sonos says that as a result of this internal review, Google “blatantly and knowingly” copied its technology and included it in its own products.

The technology in question concerns the possibility of connecting speakers in groups and controlling their volume. Sonos sued Google and called on the ITC to block the sale of Google products that infringe its patents.

The logical conclusion – and one that Sonos had hoped for – was that Google would either agree or be forced to pay a royalty for the use of the technology. It certainly would have been the best outcome for Sonos, as well as for the users. You could argue that this would have been the best for Google as well, which would be able to continue to include features that customers have become accustomed to.

Instead, Google decided to remove the capabilities altogether. Here’s what Google had to say in a blog post:

Due to a recent court ruling, we’re making some changes to the way you set up your devices and [how] the Speaker Group feature will work in the future. If you use the Speaker Group feature to control 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.

This is an understatement. When Google says “you’ll notice some changes,” it means the thing you bought won’t do what it did when you paid for it. For example, these changes mean that you will no longer be able to control the volume of a group of speakers. Instead, you’ll have to change the volume on each one individually. It also means that you will no longer be able to use your phone’s volume buttons to control a group of speakers.

It might not seem like a big deal, except that Google marketed their products with the ability to do these things, and people bought these speakers expecting them to do what was promised. Instead of doing the right thing, which would be to pay Sonos a royalty, Google decided to cut features, which made the user experience worse.

It’s surprising that Google (or any business for that matter) is so stubborn that it makes its own products worse to use just to avoid paying what is most certainly an insignificant amount of money for a business. the size of Google. Basically Google lost a fight, failed and decided to take his toys and go home. The problem is, he has sold these toys to customers before and intentionally breaks them.

I’m sure there’s no love lost between Google and Sonos, but breaking your own products, especially those that have already been purchased by your customers, takes villainy to a whole new level.

Then again, I don’t know which is worse – being surprised that a company makes their products worse, or the idea that a company does that and it’s not surprising at all. Either way, making it worse for your customers is the one thing no business should ever do.

The opinions expressed here by the columnists of Inc.com are theirs and not those of Inc.com.

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