SMS audio headphones: did Intel just buy into an irrelevant brand?

SMS Audio BioSport headphones by 50 Cent

At CES this year Intel showed off a set of headphones that could measure your heartbeat. Now, it is taking them to rapper 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson).

Let's talk about the product itself. It was introduced at this year's CES by Intel. It is an earphone that can measure your heart beat. That's pretty cool, but it also doesn't require any special charging or extras because it takes all of its power from a regular 3.5 mm headphone jack.

Awesome stuff.

Then, you have SMS Audio, a company founded in 2011 by a Mr. Curtis Jackson, aka the rapper 50 Cent. It's, obviously, his answer to high-priced audio products being made under the Beats Audio brand which is partly owned by another rapper, Dr. Dre (not a real doctor, either).

Now, Intel has taken its heart monitor earphone reference design and turned into an SMS Audio product called the BioSport In-Ear headphone. Sounds nice and dandy. Intel kind of looks like it is taking its technology and branding it appropriately, a la Beats. 50 Cent has some association with sports and is, some of the time, a boxing impresario. And just to be on the safe side, RunKeeper is going to be supporting the BioSport headphones straight out of the gate, and more are promised.

There are cool features in the headphones, too, maybe more than gimmicks. For example, the reference design that Intel touted could switch between music tracks to change the tempo of what you were listening to with the aim of encouraging you to change your heart rate. Faster if you were not working hard enough and slower if you needed to cool down.

Awesome stuff.

However, could it be that Intel bet on the wrong horse or, rather, the wrong cultural icon in this instance.

According to music executive, Steve Stoute on, 50 Cent doesn't rate:

“He hasn’t had a hit in a really long time,” Stoute said. “I mean, he has not made anything musically that’s changed anything in a very long time. And I feel like he’s always like gearing up for something that never happens. Hopefully, now that he’s independent and there’s no record company to blame, his aggressive content can get on the air…I think he’s trying to get back, but those guys—you know, music is a great platform. If you’re an entrepreneur and you have a—you’re currently active making music. You’re currently active touching people with albums. That it makes it much easier for you to venture into business deals that will become successful using the music to parlay it to get it done. And without having any music that’s meaningful over the last—probably the last great song he’s made was ‘I Get Money’…Kanye’s put out three albums, four albums since then.”

Okay, relevance may not be entirely fair here because, Mr. Jackson is purported to have a $300 million business empire. But, this seems like a move that an aging marketing department would come up with not knowing what is relevant or what is cool.

Great product. Meh on the marketing positioning with this launch. Doesn't matter because it has gotten the headphones their 15 minutes of fame but it may not be much more than that for now. That's unfortunately because it is cool technology. Surely Beats would have been a better partner or did they pass on it for other reasons. Who knows.

Joe Jejune

I am a gadget freak and love everything about technology. In my day job I work at a startup and help build applications for the healthcare industry. 


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