Chapter 12

Physical: Why Test Driving Is Still Important Even in a Digital World

You look around—the music is flowing from everywhere. Surely there must be speakers embedded in the ceiling and the walls beyond the ones under the dark drapes in this home theater. Suddenly, the host interrupts the show. Pardon me, he says as he plucks the speakers from the wall and undrapes them. They are faux logs of wood! Then he restarts the show and the music flows again. As he walks out, he promises there are no hidden speakers in the ceiling or walls.

This is no home theater. It is the Bose store at a mall. Bose as in famous for its audio technology. It is showing off its Video Wave entertainment system with an impressive screen (46-inch CCFL backlit), and its even more impressive in-built seven speaker array. It also packages its Phaseguide radiator technology that targets sounds in different areas of the room. Sure, you could watch the demo of the product at home on YouTube, but it does not come close to matching the richness of the sounds and colors in that in-store experience.

Welcome to a baffling trend: Even as Amazon and Netflix threaten all kinds of brick-and-mortar, consumers have shown they want to test-drive high-tech products like they do cars. They want to look at optional add-ons; they want coaching and service. But they don't want it to be like the high-pressure experience that comes with buying a car. In fact, Steve Jobs captured the consumer sentiment at a show in early 2001: ...

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