It is a globally renowned premium audio manufacturer with a stellar reputation for quality spanning back to 1965 – so the acquisition of Bowers & Wilkins by a two-year-old Californian upstart seems a curious move, even taking into account the undue influence that the technology epicentre of Silicon Valley holds over the business world.
Yet there is definitely more than meets the eye with this particular link-up. Eva Automation is more than just another automation company – and its plans for the new combined entity suggests that this new arrangement might be just what B&W needs to evolve its impressive portfolio of high-end loudspeakers.
A natural fit for a pioneering company
While B&W is known for its hand-assembly methods and dedication to detail, that’s not to say it is a stick-in-the-mud when it comes to innovation in audio. It has notably been behind several important innovations in high-end speaker manufacturing, from adopting Kevlar material for its mid-range cones in the 1970s to synthetic diamond tweeter domes and the stunning Nautilus, designed in 1993 and still a benchmark of supreme audio quality to this day.
With this in mind, it makes more sense that the two companies might make a complementary fit. An alignment rather than a takeover, B&W provides the historic brand reputation and the in-depth high-end audio knowledge, while EVA brings the automation know-how and the Silicon Valley appeal that may well elevate the Bowers & Wilkins brand and attract an entirely new audience to its products.
Unheralded, but not unknown
While it might be a fairly new enterprise, the personnel behind Eva Automation read like a Who’s Who of Silicon Valley. The company is led by Gideon Yu, former CFO at Facebook and YouTube, while advisors and investors include an ex-CEO of Yahoo, a co-founder of Alibaba and an ex-COO of Facebook.
Founded in 2014, the company boasts around 50 employees and is focused primarily on home AV automation. It has yet to release anything commercially, although it plans to bring its first products to market in collaboration with Bowers & Wilkins in 2017.
A heritage that is here to stay
The good news for fans of Bowers & Wilkins is that the combined enterprise will operate under the B&W brand, with current chief executive Joe Atkins taking on this role for the new company and retaining a reduced stake in the business. B&W plans to keep its current line-up of loudspeakers and keep its existing workforce in place, making this deal more of an extension of interests than a complete shift in focus.
While the company will continue with the high-end audio lines it is famous for, it will be interesting to see what Eva plans to bring to market under the Bowers & Wilkins brand. The smart money would be on cloud support and multi-room control, perhaps with the voice control that rivals such as Sonos still lack. The combination of smart technology with the prestige quality that Bowers is known for would surely pose a very interesting threat to the rest of the connected audio market.