Beats Electronics was planning to launch a Wi-Fi enabled “Sonos killer” speaker before it was acquired by Apple last year, a new report claims. The device would have allowed users to stream Beats Music directly from the Internet, but Apple squashed the idea after it ran into problems.
“The product was supposed to be introduced in time for the holidays last year, but was effectively killed post acquisition,” reports Variety.
“Some of the engineers working on the project have since left the company, while others have been shuffled to other projects, according to sources as well as information available on LinkedIn and elsewhere.”
Beats may be famous for its colorful headphones that are regularly donned by celebrities and sports stars, but the company also offers a range of wireless speakers, such as the popular Beats Pill. All of its current speakers use Bluetooth, however, so another device is required to stream music to them.
With a Wi-Fi connected speaker, users would have been able to “play subscription music services straight from the Internet,” Variety claims, which would have given Beats a direct competitor to Sonos. It would have also had other tricks up its sleeve.
“The company was also working on combining Bluetooth with Wifi and NFC to allow for seamless handovers, effectively making it possible to launch music playback as soon as you’d enter the room,” a source told Variety.
But like the rest of the Beats lineup, its Wi-Fi connected speaker would have been expensive. In fact, sources say the company was planning to sell the device for as much as $750, which is the same price you would pay for a 16GB iPhone 6 Plus off-contract.
Beats reportedly ran into issues developing the speaker because it wanted to employ its own Wi-Fi technologies, rather than licensing existing technologies from the likes of Qualcomm and DTS. As a result, the project was killed by Apple shortly after it took over the Beats business.
Some see this as confirmation that Apple isn’t committed to Beats hardware. The Cupertino company has already streamlined the Beats business, with around just 70% off staff being offered permanent positions at Apple following the acquisition, sources say.
Other key figures have left in the last few months, including Beats chief product officer TJ Grewal and head of loudspeaker engineering David Titzler, according to their LinkedIn profile pages.
In addition to this, Apple recently recalled the Beats Pill XL speaker due to a battery fault, and offered customers refunds rather than repairs or replacements. It then quietly removed the device from its online store altogether, and it’s unclear whether it will be coming back.