HTC’s big announcement for tomorrow: the mobile phone maker will invest $300 million in Beats, the audio technology company founded by rapper Dr. Dre and music producer Jimmy Iovine.That’s the scoop according to AllThingsD’s Ina Fried, who talked to HTC CEO Peter Chou, as well as Iovine.
This is kind of minor news after all the buildup — speculation ranged from a new tablet to a patent deal with Apple, or maybe even a withdrawal from the U.S. market because of its patent fight.
It could give HTC some credibility against Apple, whose mobile renaissance started with the iPod almost a decade ago.
But overall it probably won’t help HTC much — history suggests that quality audio reproduction is NOT a great selling point for the mass market.
MP3s took off despite sounding much worse than CDs because they were more convenient to use. (All that free music on file-trading networks helped, too.) Meanwhile “high-definition” disc formats like DVD-Audio and SACD have been non-starters, and only audio engineers get excited about surround sound (outside of movies).
Hewlett Packard also has a deal with Beats. The company made a big deal out of that at its event introducing the TouchPad tablet earlier this year, inviting Iovine on stage to talk about how terrible the state of digital audio has been, and how great it could be. But HP repositioned the TouchPad as an enterprise device shortly after it launched to bad reviews.
Beats also makes some really great-sounding (if expensive) headphones for the iPod and other gadgets.