Bose currently makes some of the best noise-cancelling headphones and best noise cancelling earbuds in the world – I've got a pair of QuietComfort Earbuds 2, and they're sublime – but would they be such an attractive buy if some of their features required an extra subscription?
Well, there's an absolutely fascinating interview in The Verge (opens in new tab) between Nilay Patel and Bose CEO Lila Snyder that covers all kinds of tech from in-car audio to noise cancelling and more. But the most interesting bit for me is when Patel and Snyder talk about the possibility of subscriptions for devices such as headphones.
That's something Bose apparently intends to find out.
Are headphones hardware or software?
That's a good question because so much of what high-tech headphones do happens in firmware and in their app – and keeping them up to date is an ongoing cost for manufacturers. When Patel asked Snyder whether Bose might consider charging for that, the response was interesting. "It's certainly something we talk about and we think about," Snyder said. However, "You have to have the customer value to create that ongoing model."
Rather than charge for software updates, Snyder suggests that one option may be to keep certain features paywalled; not basic stuff, but "features and functionality that maybe not everybody wants or needs, but is highly valuable to some".
Snyder is refreshingly honest about this. "I don't think we know yet... I think this is a test-and-learn situation. Sometimes the things that you imagine are going to create value, and that customers are really going to want to pay extra for, don't turn out to be the things. Other things that you never would have thought about might be... there is a long road in front of us to figure this out".