Beats President and COO Luke Wood on RIM's 850 pager and disconnecting-induced panic

Billy Steele
B. Steele|07.26.13

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Beats President and COO Luke Wood on RIM's 850 pager and disconnecting-induced panic

Every week, a new and interesting human being tackles our decidedly geeky take on the Proustian Q&A. This is the Engadget Questionnaire.

In a brand spanking new edition of our weekly line of questioning, Beats President and COO Luke Wood discusses the dynamic mobile space and discovering your real-life soundtrack. As you might expect, the full collection of answers awaits just beyond the break.

Beats President and COO Luke Wood on RIM's 850 pager and disconnectinginduced panicWhat gadget do you depend on most?
It's a tie between HP Spectre, MacBook Pro, BlackBerry 9900 (OG), HTC One with Beats Audio and iPhone 5. Since different devices work for different applications and circumstances, it's important to be fluent on many platforms to see where the opportunity is -- even if that means going through airport security looks a bit like a Monty Python skit.

Which do you look back upon most fondly?
The RIM Inter@ctive Pager (850) fundamentally shifted how I interacted with the world. The BES server was fast and stable and suddenly email went from a desktop-dedicated work tool to a means of intimate, real-time communication.

Which company does the most to push the industry?
In mobility, I don't think you can say there is just one. This is an extremely dynamic space and every day true innovation comes from both incumbent operating systems and OEMs, and the aspirant, disruptive challengers. From a global perspective, we should see this space evolve every 18 months for a long time to come.

What is your operating system of choice?
OS X, iOS and Android are tied for mobility. I have just started really spending time with Windows 8, but so far it's fun and very clean.

What are your favorite gadget names?
There's something serenely domestic and reassuring about Nest. The name invites you into a digital and organic discourse that perfectly fits the product experience and immediately makes you feel like you've just dropped coal into a potbellied stove. We have a portable Bluetooth speaker called the Pill that I love as well -- it looks like a pill, is the perfect antidote to bad portable sound and was prescribed by the doctor... Dr. Dre.

What are your least favorite?
Pretty much anything that combines a character from the original Battlestar Galactica with a number usually in the thousands -- the Adama 7700, Omega 1011A, etc. Names that combine two random Latin roots to make it sound innovative also confuse me. Made-up words can be really interesting, but they need to have an emotional connection to the product.

"I'm as excited as any consumer of media about the evolution of graphics processors, display technology and ultra-high-resolution video formats but this has come at the cost of sound quality ... you are not getting the emotion of the content if you don't focus on both experiences."

Which app do you depend on most?
If an email client counts as an app, then definitely email -- somewhat regressive, but still unbelievably efficient to manage workflow and a global business. No. 2 for me is iTunes. I can't imagine life without music and iTunes is still my player of choice. For streaming music, Beats is currently developing a service that has the opportunity to significantly shift consumers' expectation of what a streaming music service does.

What traits do you most deplore in a smartphone?
An inelegant UI that leaves you stranded in screens with invented icons and no exit. It's like a movie mash-up of the final hedge maze scene in The Shining meets Groundhog Day.

Which do you most admire?
The basics are still speed, stability, quality of voice telephony and battery life. An operating system and device that [do] not allow me to find a contact and dial, text or email with maximum speed and efficiency fails before I've bothered to notice the quality of display or how many megapixels the camera has.

What is your idea of the perfect device?
Something that teaches me new behavior and solves problems I did not know I had. The iPad is a perfect example. Even though I already had an iPod and iPhone, within three weeks I was addicted and now use all three for different things. I also appreciate a device that is beautiful for its pure aesthetic principles and quality of design. A simple, elegant machine is a sexy thing.

What is your earliest gadget memory?
They have all been repressed! If I had to dig deep, it's probably the first Sony Walkman that was a gift from my parents in 1981. I was 12 years old and the device instantly became part of my DNA. It was on me everywhere, hanging from my body like a FedEx package tracker. It freed my music from the solitary confines of my bedroom and allowed my life to have a real-time soundtrack.

What technological advancement do you most admire?
Hands down the stereo. If I were to look at my life and think what technology has brought the most meaning, impact and joy to me, it would have to be stereophonic recordings. I'm obsessed with counterpoint and how the push / pull of a rhythmic section plays with left / right phrasing -- this would not be possible in a mono world. No. 2 is the wheel. No. 3, WiFi.

Which do you most despise?
The almost fetishistic obsession with product ID and display technology at the cost of sound reproduction. I'm as excited as any consumer of media about the evolution of graphics processors, display technology and ultra-high-resolution video formats, but this has come at the cost of sound quality. Media is most often a combination of sight and sound and you are not getting the emotion of the content if you don't focus on both experiences. Video and audio are a binary choice, but the investment always flows into video, often abandoning audio to become a sub-par experience. Now that we have this incredible video resolution and beautiful, paper-thin ID, let's deliver the rest of the experience.

"It's just easier and more reliable to text / email than it is to place a voice call, both from the way the UI is designed to the quality of the networks."

What fault are you most tolerant of in a gadget?
Battery life. I have been trained the hard way to obsessively charge everything all the time so that any given space looks like a recording studio patch bay. Maybe it's hangover from playing so many video games in the 1980's where the deteriorating life bar was just part of the game.

Which are you most intolerant of?
Software crashes -- completely inexcusable to me as a consumer. It feels like the ultimate betrayal.

When has your smartphone been of the most help?
I'm currently having a newfound romance with my smartphone. My kids are constantly on theirs and with my busy travel schedule, my smartphone gets me as close to "there" as possible, even when I'm on the other side of the world. I'm actually writing this from China while my kids are in Los Angeles, and in the process, I have Instagrammed with them, traded links on SoundCloud, seen every possible emoticon to describe the attributes of our dogs and been the recipient of multiple 10-second films shot with the 8mm app. In short, genuine, spontaneous human interaction even when geographically dislocated and 100 percent enabled by the technology in this device.

What device do you covet most?
Probably my vintage Korg SDD3000 digital delay. My background is the music industry and recording studios and I bought this device in hopes of sounding like The Edge from U2. I never came close, but the sound is completely unique and it's one of the few pieces of digital tech in my life that has not been replaced by software running off of a PC or smartphone. Plus, the look of it screams "Axel F" by Harold Faltermeyer, which is incredible for something so functional.

If you could change one thing about your phone what would it be?
I would like to see the perfect hybrid of telephony and the smartphone. I think if people actually spoke to each other more often rather than text, there would be a much clearer understanding of intent, alignment, motivation and desire. It's just easier and more reliable to text / email than it is to place a voice call, both from the way the UI is designed to [the] quality of the networks. This is heavy lifting, but a call should be effortless without sacrificing industrial design and all the wonderful things our device can do.

What does being connected mean to you?
I am always connected so it means every day, steady state. If I have IP, I am all in.

When are you least likely to reply to an email?
When I am sleeping, on an international flight or in Wellfleet, Mass. -- due to coverage -- not that I've ever noticed, or wondered why 45 percent of the world's population is now covered by a 3G mobile network, but not Wellfleet, Mass. I think there might be a Jonathan Richman song in this.

When did you last disconnect?
Oh my... 1997. Occasionally, I'm in extended IP exile (anything over 15 minutes) and I feel a slow, pulsing panic spread over me like a rash at summer camp.

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