Plantronics' (now Poly's) long independent streak is coming to an end. Reuters reports HP is acquiring Poly in an all-cash deal worth $3.3 billion including debt. HP said the purchase would bolster its "hybrid work" offerings, such as headsets and videoconferencing hardware. The computing giant didn't say if Poly would still operate as a distinct brand or retain its CEO (we've asked HP for comment), but the deal is expected to close by the end of 2022.
Don't expect this to lead to HP-branded consumer headphones or earbuds. When Plantronics rebranded as Poly, the company was already transitioning from personal audio to work-oriented products like meeting room speakers and videoconferencing cameras. Only a handful of items (such as the Voyager headphone range) are designed with home use at least partly in mind. As it stands, HP already targets everyday users with its gaming-focused HyperX brand.
Whatever HP's intentions, the buyout closes an important chapter in audio history. Plantronics was one of the first companies to produce Bluetooth headsets, and developed an early reputation as a go-to brand for hands-free calling. However, its attempts at competing with consumer heavyweights like Apple, Bose and Sony never really panned out. While Plantronics created well-made headphones and earbuds that sometimes undercut the competition on price, it never reached the level of hype that helped its rivals succeed. The 2018 acquisition of Polycom and the subsequent Poly rebrand was, in a sense, an acknowledgment that Plantronics' strength was in the office rather than at home.
It's also no secret that Poly had entertained buyers. In 2018, Plantronics had been in talks with Logitech about a possible deal. That fell through, but it was already clear the firm was open to a merger. The HP move might represent a happy ending in that light, even if Poly is losing its independence in the process.