Doug Henderson (left), president of Bowers & Wilkins Group North America, and Joe Atkins, Bowers & Wilkins global CEO.
Bowers & Wilkins is launching a new $30,000/pair flagship speaker to celebrate its 50th anniversary while planning for a future that aggressively embraces wireless technology and the new ways consumers access audio and video content.
To evolve with the AV market, the high-performance speaker maker has begun developing products that incorporate wireless technology developed by Silicon Valley start-up Eva Automation, which bought Bowers & Wilkins in May. Eva was founded in 2014 to develop high-quality multiroom-AV products that would be easy to use and set up and could be controlled from a single integrated interface. Eva’s three co-founders include Gideon Yu, a former Facebook and YouTube executive. Many of Eva’s roughly 40 employees are former Apple employees.
The first Bowers & Wilkins products incorporating Eva technology will be available in 2017, though they won’t be ready to show at CES 2017, Doug Henderson, president of Bowers & Wilkins Group North America, said. Although the products will be multiroom-audio products, global CEO Joe Atkins said Eva’s technology could be applied to video as well as to wireless home control. The technology could also be used to create wireless surround-sound systems, he added.
The company must embrace wireless and the new ways that people access audio and video content, including phone- and computer-stored content and streaming services, Atkins said, but “we were struggling” before Eva approached the company. The challenge was “finding the right technology partner” who could deliver an experience “commensurate with the Bowers & Wilkins price points and story,” Atkins said. But Eva had “developed exactly what we needed.”
The fit was perfect, Atkins said. “They [Eva] obviously do not have a brand or the global delivery system, or the experience in consumer electronics, that we have,” he explained. And “we did not have the [wireless and user-interface] technology to match our credibility in hardware.”
Eva’s “energy, ambition and enthusiasm” will take Bowers & Wilkins, Classe and Rotel “to the next level,��� Atkins added.
With Eva, Henderson said, “we can combine performance with a really powerful UI” that in turn “opens the door to a much wider cross section of society.” The high-end audio industry, he said, “has burdened people with a lot of complexity” that “pushes away 90 percent of the population.”
Planned products include “elements of” custom-installed products and tabletop-audio products, Henderson said without getting specific. They could include separate wireless left-right speakers, he said.