Original Article Published on USAToday.com
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In a coffee shop deep in the South, music pulsates from a bright red circular speaker the size of a small umbrella.
Libratone’s (loose translation: “liberating music”) 360-degree speaker, the handiwork of a Danish company several thousand miles away, is portable and possesses plenty of battery juice, which means the owners of Octane Coffee can place it pretty much anywhere — even outdoors.
The mobility, design and versatility of the speaker underscores what is fast becoming the “early settler” lifestyle of the 25- to 35-year-old demographic, heavy-duty tech users who are taking their visually appealing technology with them — whether at home, at the beach or at work.
“If you find the products that help you live this lifestyle, without impacting quality of life,” says Jan McNair, CEO of Libratone, maker of the lightweight, mobile speakers that are fast gaining popularity in the U.S.
A Libratone sighting in a non-traditional tech setting such as Birmingham speaks to its appeal to an emerging “flexible lifestyle” among the under-35 set. Initially, the company focused on wireless speakers for the home, but it is now expanding to portable wireless speakers and forthcoming premium ear buds, according to Libratone president Mike Culver.
The 6-year-old company literally has designs on redefining the $5 billion wireless speaker market worldwide, one in which behemoths Bose, Sony and Sonos are not as firmly entrenched as they are in the traditional market for larger speakers. The advent of smartphones and streaming music services turned the industry on its collective ear, ushering in a new era of head phones, and Bluetooth and WiFi speakers.