A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: Open Interface North America.
What: Open Interface North America, based in Seattle
Who: Tom Nault, chairman and chief executive
Employees: About 20, looking to ramp up to 50 in a few months.
Financing: Privately financed, began as U.S. division of a Japanese company.
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The product: A software chipset on the Bluetooth platform that uses higher compression rates to transmit quality sound across a wireless connection. The technology, dubbed SOUNDabout, is a key component in Logitech’s new Freepulse headphones and provides sound depth and clarity for the ear-bud crowd.
Unplugged: Freepulse, released last week, is a wraparound headset that weighs just a bit more than 2 ounces. With a 6-hour battery life and a 30-foot range, it cuts listeners loose from cumbersome cords. “It gives you complete freedom of movement,” Nault said. “And the sound is as good as on a high-quality corded headset.”
Higher visibility: Nault said Open Interface products have been widely licensed, to the point where most consumers have used them at one point or another without knowing. This will change.
“When we were small we were looking to get market share and did that in a stealthy way,” he said. “We were always working under a nondisclosure agreement and couldn’t let anyone know our software was in a certain product. Now that we have some momentum we want to let the world know we are here.”
What’s next: One potential product would allow two headsets to share output from a single source. There is one new product entry: wireless sub-woofers, rear and central speakers for use in a surround sound system.
“The hardest part of setting up a home theater is running the wires up walls and around doors so they can reach the back speakers,” Nault said. “This will be a big deal to a lot of people.”
High volume: The Freepulse can handle a high decibel jolt, but Nault said it is not up to Open Interface to tell kids they shouldn’t crank up their headphones because it will damage their hearing.
“There is an element of personal responsibility,” Nault said. “If you make a device that doesn’t go loud enough for kids, they won’t buy it. So it’s up to the end user as to how loud they want it to be.”
Personal experience: “I was in a band. We played loud. And I can hear fine today.”
— Charles Bermant