Forbes.com reminds us all whoever said life was fair? Beats sold to Apple AAPL +0.23% for three billion dollars. Meanwhile, Wolfson Microelectronics, an audio chip maker with far more sophisticated technology and patents under its belt, was recently acquired by Cirrus Logic CRUS -2.32% (one of Apple’s main suppliers) for just $500 million.
Wolfson has almost none of the brand recognition that Beats enjoys today, of course. But back in 2011 the two companies were more evenly matched, with very similar ambitions.
Both were selling own-brand headphones while also licensing their technology to Android smartphone manufacturers who were trying to differentiate their handsets. Beats struck a high-profile deal with HTC , but Wolfson went one better and partnered up with Samsung. Even last year, when I interviewed Wolfson’s CEO Mick Hickey, the company was hugely proud of the range of devices that had its ‘W’ logo emblazoned on the back — not just phones, but also luxury audio players like the Astell & Kern.