Beats by Apple?
Apple is reportedly in talks to buy expensive, but terrible sounding headphone maker Beats. According to London's The Financial Times, Apple is prepared to pay US$3.2 billion for this company, and I, for one, hope that it's nonsense.
Why, you may ask? Beats headphones reinvigorated the high-end headphone market, but it did so with headphones that can turn any music into a muddy romp through a swampy bottom land of mush. I appreciate the former, but I can do without the latter.
In fact, I can't see what Apple would want in this company, let alone what it would be willing to pay $3.2 billion for it. Beats streaming music service? Apple has iTunes Radio. Purchasing the company for that reason would mark the first time Apple used its cash hoard to buy market share.
Beats headphones? Beats has a great brand, despite the poor quality sound that brand produces, but this would mark the first time that Apple purchased a brand it continued to use after the purchase.
The talent pool at Beats? The company makes great looking headphones that are constructed of high quality materials. I love the look and feel of the company's headphones, so much so that I wish they sounded good, but I can't see Apple paying $3.2 billion dollars for the design team behind those headphones, let alone the engineers.
According to The Financial Times, the Beats team would remain intact and report directly to Tim Cook. That would also be a first for shipping products to my knowledge.
Apple's track record for buying companies since Steve Jobs reinvented the company—including Tim Cook's stewardship since Mr. Jobs passed away—is to buy small companies and incorporate that company's technology and/or people into existing projects.
Apple has yet to use its money to buy market share or entry into new markets, and that's what a Beats purchase would be. I'll readily acknowledge that my bias against the sound profile of Beats headphones could be giving me a bias against this acquisition story, but I frankly don't buy it.
I'll also acknowledge that there are hundreds of thousands of people—if not millions—who disagree with me. Beats is a successful brand with ardent fans looking for something different in their headphones than me. That's fine, but $3.2 billion for this particular company—as successful as it is—doesn't compute. If I'm wrong, I'll happily issue a mea culpa.