Beats axed plans for Sonos-esque Wi-Fi speaker system after Apple acquisition

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A report on Friday claims Beats had plans to build a Wi-Fi-connected speaker system similar to product lines from market leader Sonos, but ultimately killed the project following Apple's purchase of the company.

Sources told Variety the Beats initiative aimed to introduce a Wi-Fi speaker range with onboard hardware capable of streaming music from services like Beats Music without passing through an iOS device or Mac. But the project faced multiple setbacks and delays during development, prompting higher-ups to scrap the program, sources said.

The supposed plan would have seen a large loudspeaker for the living room launch in time for last year's holiday shopping season, with cheaper satellite units made available down the line. Like current products from Sonos, Beats' solution would have offered direct access to Internet-based subscription music services, a component currently missing in Apple's device lineup. Keeping with its premium image, Beats was thinking of selling the main speaker for an above average price of $750, one source said.

To stand out from an already crowded market, Beats reportedly looked into bundling together Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC protocols into an all-inclusive package boasting seamless multi-device music playback. For example, a speaker might be configured to look for a nearby iPhone and automatically pair with it via Bluetooth when a compatible device enters a room, offloading currently playing music without user interaction.

As for NFC, existing products leverage the technology in "tap-to-pair" features that quickly link two devices together without fuss. Although Apple has yet to grant developers access to iPhone's NFC chip, which is currently used solely for Apple Pay, the company could have enabled inter-device communication between first-party products while maintaining similar data protection safeguards.

Engineers who worked on the project have since been shuffled into other Apple product areas, while other employees left the company altogether.

Apple purchased Beats Electronics and Beats Music last May for $3 billion. Apple has not integrated Beats hardware technology into its product lineup, but this week rolled out a subscription streaming music service called Apple Music that borrows heavily from Beats Music.

Along with human content curation and access to more than 30 million tracks, Apple Music boasts a live 24-hour Internet radio station dubbed Beats 1 and the Connect social network for musicians. The service goes live on June 30 with monthly membership fees starting at $10 for single users and $15 for families up to six people.