According to a new report from Variety, Beats was developing a line of Sonos-like speakers before it was acquired by Apple. When the Apple acquisition occurred, development of the connected speakers was stopped, according to the report. Some of the engineers that were working on the project were moved to other teams, while others have since left the company.
The line of speakers that Beats had planned was originally slated to launch before the 2014 holiday season. While the company already offers several Bluetooth-based speakers, the company wanted to develop a new line that combined Bluetooth, WiFi, and NFC technologies to allow for more seamless playback. Beats was planning a large, living room speaker that was reportedly going to be priced at around $750, as well as several smaller, more affordable options.
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Seeing that the speakers were going to feature WiFi, Bluetooth, and NFC, users would have been able to play the same music synchronously throughout the house, while also being directly connected to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Sonos offers a line of speakers like this, but Beats had no interest in partnering with any existing company and wanted to develop the technology from the ground up. This wish, however, reportedly led to a variety of issues for Beats in the developmental process, switching parts and delaying dates on numerous occasions.
Because of the developmental issues, Apple made the call to kill the project, according to some sources. Variety notes, however, that some believe that the project was simply put on hiatus and could reenter development at some point.
The report goes on to note that Apple isn’t totally sold on Beats’ hardware business at this point. One source speaking with Variety estimates that 50 percent of Beats employees have left or been fired since Apple acquired the company. Perhaps most notably, however, Beats’ chief product officer and its head of loudspeaker engineering have both left the company over the last few months.
Earlier this month, Apple announced a recall of the Beats Pill XL speakers, citing overheating and fire concerns. Further highlighting Apple’s lack of interest in Beats hardware, the company didn’t offer to replace or service the speakers, only reimburse customers. Since acquiring Beats, Apple has introduced several new colors of the company’s headphones to match its own products, but nothing else.
With Apple Music launching later this month, it makes sense for Apple to have paused development on new Beats hardware in an effort to focus on the streaming service’s development. Given the brand recognition Beats carries, however, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for Apple to shelve its hardware completely.