The Bose VideoWave Is A Little Much Even For Bose

Bose showed off their latest innovation yesterday: The VideoWave, an average 46-inch LCD with an enlarged Wave Radio speaker setup bolted on the backside. It’s expensive. Of course it’s expensive. I mean, it’s a Bose system. Did you expect anything less? However, it’s a tad too expensive at $5,349 and I believe Bose knows this.

Now, I understand Bose and their target demographic. I sold AV equipment retail for years at Circuit City and know that Bose products sell themselves. They require nothing more than a quick demo and a store credit card with a high enough limit. My friend’s father recently “treated” himself to Bose speakers after retirement, beaming with pride as he unboxed his set.

It’s even easier to sell against Bose, though. All it requires is a reasonable argument from the salesman and suddenly a customer is spending hundreds, if not thousands less, on an Onkyo HTIB with professional installation. It’s this logic Bose is afraid of and perhaps explains the high-price. Bose knows they’re not going to sell a lot of these TVs.

In many ways Bose is the Apple of the AV world. Their products are tightly guarded until launch and often sold at a steep premium (although Mactards will argue they get more for their money). This slow and steady approach clearly works for both companies. They also share the same stance on openness in that they are anything but. Bose doesn’t advertise the nitty-gritty details about their speakers or AV equipment. Speaker wattage and frequency ranges aren’t listed. This is all by design.

I asked our Bose contact a few follow-up questions like who makes the LCD panel, what are the specs, is there a white paper or any technical documents on the new set. I’m still waiting for a response but I doubt I’ll get the info. The type of person Bose targets doesn’t care about those items so they generally avoid talking about them. Their target demographic wants a simple, but quality product — that’s it. They’re not shopping by specs.

Gizmodo did a long piece yesterday about how the VideoWave ups the game for everyone. While I’m sure the VideoWave’s audio is great, I don’t think that’s the case at all. Bose doesn’t care what Sony or Panasonic does and the feeling is probably mutual. Don’t think for a minute that those companies couldn’t come up with a competing set for half the price. At its core, the VideoWave’s audio secret sauce is just an integrated soundbar/subwoofer combo with clever port and fancy processor. Even then, it’s ridiculously expensive at $5,349.

The Bose VideoWave seems like an exercise in retail pricing. Now, of course this is all speculation on my part, but I really don’t think the VideoWave, even with the $5,349 pricetag, is making Bose all that much. It all comes down to sales volume. The Bose VideoWave is exclusive to Bose retail stores because it will require a controlled selling environment and dedicated salesman to move them. This alone means the product is not going to be a high-volume unit, able to survive with a thin margin.

Bose simplified the selling process and cut down on inventory costs by only offering the VideoWave in one size. This also helps the ever-important manufacturing margins as they’re only using one size panel rather than gambling on various sizes. This TV is for the dude who flies 30 days out of the month with QuietComforts glued to his ears and who doesn’t have time to shop for TVs. “Go get the Bose TV set,” he’ll tell someone, either his secretary or wife, and they’ll know just what to get.

Then there’s the R&D cost that no doubt makes up a bulk of the retail cost. Bose spends years developing their systems and the VideoWave, from the included audio system to the simplified control system, seems generations beyond anything currently on the market. Combine R&D’s tab with the relatively small volume, and it’s easy to see where high price comes from. Simply put, the VideoWave is not going to be a loss leader for Bose.

Still, the price is crazy-high and gives a glimpse at why Apple will not get into the TV world. There simply isn’t any money in it unless you make your own panels like Sony/Samsung, Panasonic, and LG/Philips.

It’s going to be interesting to watch the VideoWave’s retail story. Bose products traditionally have a very long product life and it makes me wonder what panel Bose choose for this set. I don’t expect any changes to the VideoWave for years although I could see Bose selling a so-called naked VideoWave without the unifying AV receiver. Bose might be selling the same exact setup at the same price five years from now. That’s how they do business.

Is the VideoWave for you and yours? Well, if you’re reading this, then chances are, no. A traditional top-tier LCD or plasma will give you a better picture and even a $500 audio system will sound great. Want a simple audio setup? Look at self-powered audio bars or tabletop 2.1 systems. You can buy a lot of AV for $5349, but it won’t be as simple as the VideoWave and Bose owns the market in simplicity.