Rearranging the Deck Chairs on a Sinking Ship
When I started hearing talk in our industry a few years ago about renewed attention to better-than-CD-quality audio experiences, I was frankly thrilled and was certain that my colleagues at the many audio component, speaker, headphone, and pipeline companies would feel the same way. In a world dominated by streaming of 128K compressed audio files, we all know the public needs to be shown that experiences better than that exist for them, or they will never aspire to own our products and systems. What better way to do that than using an exciting emergent-technology platform to paint the picture of what’s possible?
Imagine my surprise, as I see the polar opposite occurring before my eyes. In repeating cycles we see:
1. New product or technology gets introduced and touted by its progenitor.
2. It becomes the recipient of press and industry attention.
3. First products come out and are roundly ridiculed by the existing industry players as not delivering on the experience it promises.
4. Consumers are confused, and product fails.
The latest recipient of this form of industry fraternity hazing is Neil Young’s Pono player. “The emperor has no clothes!” taunts one reviewer. It isn’t true high resolution, it’s voodoo science! No one will pay for the music! And even cheap shots about its appearance.
I have to wonder if we have completely forgotten the lessons of the past. Remember the format war between DVD-Audio and SACD? After all the mudslinging between the two factions, the war was over and no one won. As an industry, we created confusion in the marketplace. As an old retailer, let me assure you that confused people do not buy.
More recently, there was 3D. It seemed that every manufacturer had a different story, and each story negated all the other stories. Oh, and the glasses that come with one brand don’t work with any other brands. Really? We wasted so much time and energy arguing over who had the best execution of 3D that we completely forgot that the real battle was to get people to actually want 3D!
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