HP makes Bang & Olufsen its new audio partner

It lost Beats as a collaborator after Apple bought it, but Hewlett-Packard is ready to move on with tech for its audio needs.

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The first HP products with Bang and Olufsen audio will be coming this spring. HP

Hewlett-Packard is teaming up with Bang & Olufsen to bring the Denmark company's audio expertise to HP's new personal computers, tablets and headphones.

Bang & Olufsen replaces Beats as HP's long-time audio vendor, after Apple -- HP's competitor in PCs -- bought Beats for $3 billion last year and opted to walk away from the partnership.

"We've certainly spent a lot of time working on audio with Beats over the years. I think certainly a lot of learnings both ways in that relationship," Mike Nash, an HP personal-computer and printing vice president, said on a call with reporters Tuesday, soon after the deal was announced. "The opportunity now is to take everything we already know and combine that with some new expertise ... as part of our partnership with Bang & Olufsen."

The deal will allow HP -- the second-biggest PC maker worldwide after Lenovo -- to maintain a reputation with customers of focusing on audio quality for its high-end devices, thanks to its continued effort to partner with an audio firm. However, HP could still face more competition using audio as a differentiator for its computers and tablets, as Apple could now tap Beats to bolster its position in audio, as well.

An Apple representative didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The first HP personal computers with audio from Bang & Olufsen and its sister brand, B&O Play, will be available this spring, in time for the back-to-school season. The Bang & Olufsen brand will appear on HP's Spectre, Omen, Envy and some other PCs. The B&O Play brand will appear on HP Pavilion PCs, tablets and PC audio accessories, such as headphones.

Despite Beats' well-known name, Nash said HP expects the change to the Bang & Olufsen will be a positive for his company. "I think each of the companies bring different attributes to the situation," he said, adding that both are respected brands.

Beats, which makes speakers and headphones, has gained substantial attention since its founding in 2008, thanks to its famous founders, rapper Dr. Dre and music producer Jimmy Iovine, as well as its popularity with celebrities. Bang & Olufsen was founded in 1925, with its video and audio technology used in TVs, cars, headphones and speakers. Asus, another leading PC maker, joined with Bang & Olufsen in 2010 to produce a new audio-focused computer, too.

The HP-Beats partnership is still winding down. HP was allowed to continue developing products with new Beats technologies through last year, and can continue selling devices with the Beats logo and technologies through 2015. Beats technology is included in about 15 percent to 20 percent of devices sold by HP.

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