The other night, I found myself on the phone with Cheena Srinivasan, one of the co-founders of Kaleidescape. Now I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a big – BIG – fan of their products. I've reviewed the system multiple times over the years and it remains the benchmark to which all other server products are measured. Though, far from being a mindless sycophant, I’ve voiced my concerns where I felt they needed voicing. (Like here: Kaleidescape, I love you but... and here: Kaleidescape owners say, “Meh…”).
When selling Kaleidescape to parents, you can boast, “See how I can easily control content to each area so that no one is watching things they shouldn’t be? Plus, no more lost discs! How many times have you bought (insert Pixar title here)?”
But throughout that, I’ve managed to forge a great relationship with the company, and have found myself in the amazing position of often being the go-to reviewer for almost every new product release: the original system, the 1080p player, the Mini System, the Blu-ray player... And if there is something that gets the Sciacca blood pumping, it is the prospect of being the first and (even if ever so briefly) exclusive reviewer.
But near the end of our conversation Cheena asked, “John, you end almost every review saying how much you hate to send the system back. Why don’t you have a Kaleidescape system of your own?”
And, frankly, it’s the money. It’s expensive. That's it. That’s the ONLY reason why I don’t have a Kaleidescape system in my house. Because it does almost everything brilliantly. (I have some *minor* nits about the music experience. OK, you want to know them?
1) It won’t let me import 96/24 high-res FLAC files. And now that I’ve heard them, I loves them and I wants them.
2) I want a Genius-type music recommendation feature. There. Those are my nits.) And the system that I would *need* to have to thoroughly enjoy the Kaleidescape experience the way that God, nature and Kaleidescape intended would run close to $20,000. (A 1U server with eight sweet-data-loving Terabytes, an M500 Blu-ray player, and the upcoming – look for a first review here! – modular disc vault for authenticating my Blu-rizzay collection. As a side bonus, it would awesomely clean up that pile of Blu cases precariously balanced under my pool table. That alone is probably worth like $2,400.)
That being said, the Kaleidescape system is like a perpetual motion happiness machine that just sits there doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing, while almost never needing any service or care. (Our showroom actually DOES have a Kaleidescape system and I honestly can’t recall a time that we have EVER had to reboot it. Unlike our Cisco wireless router, which is not delivering the promised enterprise grade rock-solidness we were hoping for...)
But, I told Cheena what I thought was the biggest obstacle to overcome when selling Kaleidescape: the price. In a toy store filled with cool toys, the Kaleidescape is the *coolest* toy, and it is the one go-to gadget that never fails to impress people at ANY age.
Kids: “Hey, look! It has a special remote just for you so you can easily find all of your favorite movies!”
Parents: “See how I can easily control content to each area so that no one is watching things they shouldn’t be? Plus, no more lost discs! How many times have you bought (insert Pixar title here)?”
Movie Lovers: “See how lightning fast this thing fires up your movies? See how it skips over all the horrible (Dis-neeeeeey!!!) ‘you-must-watch-these!’ trailers and ads? Or how it sorts your entire collection by director, actor, rating, run time... Or how you can string together your favorite demo clips to make one killer-awesome personalized demo of your system! Or how it can reposition subtitles for your anamorphic projection system! Or how it will resort your movie covers to select similar titles...see there! You forgot you even HAD that movie!"
Kaleidescape dealers can tell movie-loving clients, “See how lightning fast this thing fires up your movies? See how it skips over all the horrible (Dis-neeeeeey!!!) ‘you-must-watch-these!’ trailers and ads? Or how it sorts your entire collection by director, actor, rating, run time..."
Technophobes: “I know you think that you’re going to buy some complicated bit of hardware and never be able to figure it out. But what if navigating your entire movie and music collection where as easy as up, down, left, right, enter? Because, frankly, if *that* is pushing your technology envelope, then I am pretty sure that I’m not the right store for you to be in the first place.”
Unfortunately, however, my typical Kaleidescape sales pitch often ends with crushing disappointment when we eventually get to the part where the potential client says, "Wow! That's awesome! How much is it?" There is often a gasp, a clutching of the chest, and the “Oh, my!” and then I tell them the price. Because even at half of half of its current price – or $5,000 for the system I described for me – it is going to be “Oh, my!” for many people.
But you know what? It is also going to be TOTALLY affordable for many OTHER people, even right now at its current (high) price point. And I think in some ways I am to blame for some of the, “Wow! That’s a lot!” reaction because when I’m telling someone the price, I’m subconsciously thinking, “Man! That IS a lot of money!” Instead I should be, “Look. Damn right it’s expensive. This thing is amazing, and you’re gonna pay for it. This isn’t just a Blu-ray player. This isn’t an iPod. This isn’t a DVD changer. This is a system unlike any other that is going to totally improve your lifestyle and you are gonna love it *every* time you use it.”
And this isn’t a Kaleidescape thing; this goes for selling any piece of high-end electronics, be it that Runco projector, a Crestron control system, that Lutron lighting system, a Krell amplifier, that Meridian processor, or those Wilson speakers… You get the idea. We sell a lot of cool things that we couldn’t afford for ourselves, but we shouldn’t allow those high prices to negatively influence our sales approach.
It’s like the Ferrari dealer. He doesn’t apologize for the fact that his Ferraris are expensive. He doesn’t make excuses for the high price. He doesn’t hem-and-haw saying that the new model will run Three Large (and have a year on the waiting list). To the contrary, he is so slick and stylish in his Italian-cut suit and borderline too-much cologne and manicured nails, standing in his granite-tiled showroom, “Signore, this is a Ferrari. E una macchina che bella, no? Scusi. I get so excited. She is beautiful, no? But, she is not cheap. And she is not for everyone. She is for those that are looking for...the experience and lifestyle, which is owning the Ferrari. If you no can afford this experience, then perhaps you need to visit the Honda dealer, si?”
Look. We sell some expensive stuff. Get over it. Just because it is expensive for us doesn’t mean that others – and hey, this is the Americas, and there are still lots of big money out there – can’t afford it and don’t want to experience the best. And for those with the means, I can’t think of any reason why they wouldn’t want the pleasure of owning the...experience.