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Bang & Olufsen enters the soundbar market with Beosound Stage: Demand for luxury audio-visual kit is on the rise  Wherever there is a flatscreen television, there is a requirement for an external audio device. Without some kind of sonic supplement, those slinky screens are ineffective.  The neatest is the soundbar: a single, mains-powered unit that contains multiple speaker drivers and its own amplification. It sits just below the screen where, ideally, it provides aural satisfaction without distracting from absorbing plot lines or the aesthetic beauty of the rest of the kit. Other options include speakers built into the frame; surround-sound systems and even screens that emit sound. But soundbars are the most popular option.  Jack Wetherill, principal analyst of home electronics at market researchers Futuresource, forecasts that the global soundbar market will be worth $4bn by 2023, compared with $3.3bn in 2017. And it is not just televisions fuelling demand — Wetherill points to the surge in popularity of music streaming services, with 79 per cent of soundbar owners using their devices with services such as Spotify and Apple Music when their television is switched off.  High-end audio brands had been slow to respond to demand — until recently. Now a flurry of television sound devices are coming to market. Among them, hot on the heels of its Beovision Harmony television (unveiled at Milan Design Week in April), Danish brand Bang & Olufsen has just launched the Beosound Stage soundbar.  The Harmony television, which retails at about £16,000, takes an unusual approach to design: two motorised oak and aluminium speakers open like a butterfly’s wings to reveal the screen, which then rises to the optimum viewing height. It is classic B&O — a clear pitch to wealthy customers who want aesthetics and technological prowess.  The Beosound Stage soundbar, unveiled this month in the beautiful but acoustically dire Santa Sofia on Venice’s Grand Canal, a 15th-century palazzo, takes a different tack. Unlike the company’s other powered speakers, B&O’s first soundbar does not lock buyers into a branded ecosystem of audiovisual products. Instead, the Stage has an HDMI input, allowing it to work with televisions from all manufacturers.  It still bears the hallmarks of Scandi design — simplicity and functionality — but the most unusual aspect of the Stage’s appearance is its conventionality. From a distance, it is not particularly distinctive to the brand (it could be a Harman Kardon, a Bowers & Wilkins or even an LG). However, closer inspection reveals a high level of craftsmanship, such as the dovetail joints of the oak-framed version, for example.  More noteworthy than the Stage’s appearance and universal compatibility is its price: £1,250 for the aluminium version and £1,900 for the wooden. “This is going to democratise Bang & Olufsen,” says Christoffer Poulsen, head of product management, merchandising and brand collaboration.  Is the company taking a risk by making the brand more accessible? John Mollanger, president of brand and markets, says not. “We are not a mass- market brand. We are ‘expensive, within reach’ and our customers are a broad spectrum. They are not all millionaires,” he says.  Among the other high-end soundbars to launch recently are Harman Kardon’s minimalist, cloth-covered Citation, costing £899, and British heritage brand Bowers & Wilkins’ Formation, at £999.  To reproduce bass sounds and low-frequency effects such as explosions, both these models require a subwoofer, which is an optional extra. Alternatively, the Ambeo from Germany’s Sennheiser is a behemoth of a soundbar that dispenses with the need for a separate subwoofer, albeit at the cost of requiring a larger footprint (you need a bigger box to produce low frequencies).  Like the Ambeo, the Stage is a full-range model with no requirement for a separate subwoofer. It also offers wireless connectivity for streaming music and podcasts; multiroom use and compatibility with Dolby Atmos — an immersive format that uses speaker drivers to produce overhead effects (such as a helicopter), as well as conventional surround sound at eye-level.  Dolby Atmos is found on 4K UHD (ultra-high definition) Blu-rays and some shows and movies from the streaming services Netflix and Amazon Movies, making it particularly valued by home cinema enthusiasts.  One omission is obvious: The Stage does not feature voice-control. Google’s voice assistant is built in to the Kardon, while the Formation has Amazon’s Alexa. The Ambeo and the Stage have neither, but both can be hooked up by connecting to a Google Chromecast dongle.  “Using a voice assistant like Alexa isn’t that practical when watching TV, because there is too much noise [from the set],” says Poulson. He may be right, but technology consumers’ tastes and habits change quickly.  For consumer technology companies, keeping up with the curve can be challenging. It takes luxury audio brands years to develop and bring new products to market. Wrong decisions, such as backing a format that fails (and technology history is littered with them), can see a product fail faster than the floor of the Palazzo Santa Sofia in a flood tide.  Source:Justins, A. (September 20, 2019). Bang & Olufsen enters the soundbar market with Beosound Stage: Demand for luxury audio-visual kit is on the rise. Financial Times (online) (cited 11 October 2019).  Answer the following questions:   1. Using evidence from the case study identify the trends affecting demand in the sound bar market?  (Maximum Wordcount = 400) (20 marks)  2. Identify Bang & Olufsen’s competitive stance using evidence from the case study. Provide support for your answer by referring to course material as well to justify your choice of competitive stance. (Maximum Wordcount = 400) (25 marks)  3. Given Bang & Olufsen’s competitive stance, what risks does it face by entering the soundbar market? (Maximum Wordcount = 400) (30 marks)