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Bowers & Wilkins acquired by ex-Facebook CTO's home automation startup

bowers and wilkins acquired by eva automation  series
Les Shu/Digital Trends

Bowers & Wilkins has been in the audio business a long time — the company was founded in 1966. Normally, when one company acquires another, it’s the well-established giant buying the plucky young startup, but every once in a while it’s the other way around.

Today a startup most people haven’t ever heard of, EVA Automation, announced that it had acquired Bowers & Wilkins. While the company name may not ring a bell, you may have heard of its founder, ex-Facebook chief technology officer and current San Francisco 49ers owner Gideon Yu.

Bowers & Wilkins CEO Joe Atkins will remain in that position as part of the new joint venture, with Yu serving as executive chairman. So far, it seems that all 1,100 of Bowers & Wilkins’ employees will also remain with the company. The company’s existing products will also continue to be made available.

“Since I founded EVA Automation two years ago, we have been working hard to create fantastic home A/V user experiences,” Yu wrote in a message on the EVA Automation website. “When it was time to seek out partners for our journey ahead, Bowers & Wilkins was unquestionably our #1 choice, and after I met Joe and his team, it was immediately clear that we share the same long term product vision and sincere passion for home entertainment.”

The reason most people probably haven’t heard of EVA Automation is that, while it’s been around for two years, the company hasn’t yet launched a product or service. It is backed by at least $20 million, and is raising even more to fund the acquisition, though details of the deal aren’t being shared, Bloomberg reports.

New Bowers & Wilkins products that incorporate the work EVA has been doing — whatever that is — are expected to begin shipping in 2017, but so far none of the parties involved are offering any more information on what to expect.

“We will have much, much more to announce when the time is right about our vision and our products,” Yu wrote. “In the meantime, we will continue to work hard on developing a truly special, highly integrated, and easy to use home A/V experience that I know you’ll love.”

Given EVA Automation’s name, it could be reasonably expected that the upcoming products from Bowers & Wilkins would offer the kind of multiroom and smart home integration many speakers are currently beginning to offer. Support for cloud services like Spotify and Apple Music, and technologies like Google Cast are nearly a given, considering how much consumers are starting to expect those features in audio products.

It’s also possible that Amazon Echo-like functionality could be coming to future Bowers & Wilkins products. Even Sonos — a company built around the same sort of technology Bowers & Wilkins has been slow to add — is pivoting to focus on this type of integration. The company’s CEO John MacFarlane said earlier this year that voice control is going to be a huge part of our lives in the near future.