Shortly after it acquired Beats, Apple spiked one of Dre and Co.’s pet projects, according to a report from Variety. The product was supposedly a WiFi-connected speaker that could directly play internet subscription music, similar to offerings from Sonos or Google’s Cast.
Beats wanted to make a large speaker supporting WiFi, Bluetooth and NFC, that would play as soon as you walked into the room or paired it with your phone. The plan was to later introduce smaller satellite speakers for other rooms, exactly like Sonos.
The price was reportedly as high as $750. So what happened? Well before Apple acquired it, Beats reportedly decided to build the speaker itself rather than contracting it out. But it had component problems and other development issues, forcing it to push the launch back several times. After Apple purchased Beats and saw all the problems with the project, several sources said it decided to either ditch it completely or, at a minimum, put it on hiatus. Variety noted that nearly half of Beats employees have left since the acquisition, including its chief product officer and speaker engineering head. When Apple purchased Beats, many believed that it was far more interested in its music service than the headphones and speakers. That’s backed up by the fact that Apple just launched Beats 1as part of Apple Music, but hasn’t introduced any major new Beats hardware products recently. Apple also offered full refunds for the recalled Beats Pill XL speaker (rather than replacing or repairing it), and appears to have permanently pulled it from its Store. So now that Apple Music is here, how are you supposed to listen to it? Sonos, for one, said that the new service doesn’t support its hardware for now, so the only way to stream over WiFi is via AirPlay.
Apple may well be working on its own speaker system, though it obviously hasn’t revealed anything yet. But it’s generally as patient as it needs to be with development and proved again that it’s also perfectly willing to kill projects that aren’t up to snuff.