As we drift further into October, I’m sure the team at Pono is very busy trying to make the deadlines that they established during their April Kickstarter campaign. They promised to begin delivery of their Pono players and launch the Ponomusic website by October. And it looks like they are going to meet those goals. The company issued “Project Update #46: Pono Music – Where Your Soul Rediscovers Music by the PonoMusic Team” the other day to provide additional information to their backers.
I’ve been out of the loop on the Crowdfunder equity raise that Pono initiated back in August. I check this morning to see if they met their goals and were unable to find out anything about the final amount of the raise. The plea from Rick Cohen to 520 individuals to complete their investment of at least $5000 may or may not have spurred them on but I doubt it. His email included a promise to get back to anyone with a question via phone or email…I wrote to him and heard nothing back. Not surprising but I was quietly hoping that he (or someone from his team) would have gotten back to me about the provenance issue and the fact that they are going to be providing CD quality rips of a couple of million tunes from the major labels.
So here’s the gist of the new update:
PonoPlayer Production and Shipments
“We are excited to announce that we have officially begun PonoPlayer mass production. Over the coming weeks we will be scaling production and expect to have all Kickstarter commitments manufactured within the next couple of months.
We plan to ship the October Kickstarter PonoPlayer rewards beginning the last week of October and expect to complete them by mid-November. Each of you will be notified via email when your player is shipped. Generally, the earlier Kickstarter pledges and Signature Series players will get priority for shipment.
We have some more good news for those who pledged for PonoPlayers with an expected delivery of December 31. At this point, we anticipate shipping all these rewards in time for Christmas!”
Supporters of the KS campaign will get their players on or near the deadline date of October 31…kudos to Pono for meeting this deadline. It sounds like the unit will be a great sounding portable music player. I can’t wait to get my hands on one.
Things are a little different on the PonoMusic download store. According to the update, it will be announced and demoed at the Salesforce Dreamforce conference on the 16th of October in San Francisco. Neil will be delivering the keynote address followed by headphone listening lounges and group listening booths to experience the new player and tunes.
However, it may be a while until customers can actually purchase and download tracks from the site:
“The new site will have a new user experience, incorporating music search, artist and album community discussions, and more. The PonoPlayer Preorder Store will also be there; however, music purchases and the PonoMusic desktop app will not be publicly available until we’ve successfully completed our beta testing of the music purchase ecosystem. In the meantime, we expect the complete catalogs of the big three labels (Warner, Sony, and Universal) to be fully ingested and available on the PonoMusic Store. We anticipate that we will have over 2 million tracks when we make music purchases publicly available.”
It doesn’t say when the beta testing of the site will be completed. It seems that the Pono KS backers will be able to access the site when they received their players (October through November and into December), but the general public will have to wait.
They also mentioned that they plan to launch in Canada and the UK in early 2015 and “expand internationally” throughout 2015.
Here’s the part of the update that was most interesting to me:
“Yet another privilege of being a Kickstarter backer is that the Pono team stands by our free-upgrade promise to backers who pledged for a PonoPlayer reward. You will be eligible indefinitely for a free audio upgrade at the PonoMusic Store.
This means any PonoMusic purchases by Kickstarter player backers will be upgraded for free should a higher resolution version of that music become available at any time in the future. We hope you enjoy being a part of the exclusive group with this privilege.
An additional cornerstone of the PonoPromise is that the music you purchase on the PonoMusic Store is guaranteed to be the highest resolution available anywhere.”
Free audio upgrades? I’m not sure what this means. Virtually all of the 2 million tracks (down from 2.5 million that were originally promised) that will be available on the PonoMusic site will be CD spec tracks. It is highly unlikely that a significant number of those tracks will ever be transferred from the analog originals to “high-resolution” PCM files. There are between 15,000 and 20,000 of those from the major labels with more coming every week…usually 10-20.
So promising to upgrade KS backers with upgrades rings a little hallow. The CD rips is the “highest resolution available anywhere”…one that Neil Young railed against since their arrival in 1982.
The update also included this piece of news. Each player will have a free Neil Young track.