As promised, here is another excerpt from my upcoming book, The New Polymath due in June. This time it is from the case study on Plantronics. It has earned the right to be called polymaths when it comes to devices which allow consumers to make landline, mobile and VoIP calls, and listen to music and, and ….
“Each decade or so Plantronics has successfully transitioned with major swings in the telecommunications industry…Gunjan Bhow, a vice president at Plantronics, recounts the company’s history. “We spent much of its early life making specialized headsets for aviation and space, including the one Neil Armstrong used. We also found a niche in mission-critical communications in the air traffic control system and emergency services.” Then came growth in toll-free numbers in the 1980s (even though AT&T had first offered what it called “inward WATS” in late 1960s) fueled by the declining prices as the “Baby Bells” divested from AT&T competed vigorously for long-distance calling. That opened up a vast new market in contact centers. Personal computers started to proliferate, and the need for headsets to stay productive while typing on keyboards opened up another market. The 1990s saw the company grow into the emerging SOHO (small office, home office) market, which had mushroomed as companies allowed employees to work from home or at satellite offices and as corporations shrank and used smaller contract firms more. The last few years have seen Plantronics products get untethered. Bluetooth headsets have grown rapidly with the explosion in mobile phones and with an increasing number of laws mandating hands-free calling while driving. By the end of 2009, Plantronics had grabbed almost a third of the retail market for Bluetooth headsets. Says Bhow, “UC [Unified Communications] is what is driving our next stage of growth.””
“Darrin Caddes, vice president of corporate design, spent more than 20 years designing products for some of the world's best automotive and motorcycle brands, including BMW, Fiat, and Indian Motorcycle. His unique design philosophy at Plantronics is summarized in these comments:
Each member of the Plantronics Design team brings a specialty expertise from human behavior and anatomy to color and complex surface development.
Headsets will continue to evolve as fashion accessories as we have seen with both watches and eyewear . . . we make decisions on which ones to wear based on how we feel or choose to express ourselves at that moment. I believe headsets are destined for the same cultural evolution.”
“More advances in audio quality come with the Plantronics Voyager PRO Bluetooth headset, which has a dual-microphone boom to accurately isolate voice signals: One microphone captures voice while the second microphone identifies and removes background noise. It also incorporates the company’s WindSmart technology, which filters and reduces wind distortion. The end result is the cancellation of ambient noise in a crowded restaurant or car without overprocessing audio, so voices sound natural during conversations.
Looking ahead, the company has qualified for a patent for a “movement-powered headset.” Wireless headsets are convenient, but having to charge them regularly is not fun. The patent seeks to use kinetic energy from the user’s body movements to charge the headset”