Trending December 2023 # The Great Arctic Melt Opens Up A Lot Of Questions # Suggested January 2024 # Top 16 Popular

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The Great Melt: This animation of images taken over time by NASA satellites shows Arctic sea ice declining for the past 30 years. The year to year rate of decline 11.5 percent per decade. Via The Bridge. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio

Global warming is remaking the Arctic, with changes like ice-free sea lanes across the Arctic Ocean in summer, or no-longer-so-eternal permafrost on land, unprecedented in human history.

How much one laments or celebrates these changes probably depends on where one’s values fall across a scale extending from “untouched wilderness” at one end to “lucrative oil field” at the other. But it’s indisputable that they’re creating new opportunities for scientists to learn more about the region than they’ve been able to in the past–and a new sense of urgency.

“The Arctic in the Anthropocene: Emerging Research Questions,” is a report by the National Research Council that tries to identify the questions brought on by the Great Arctic Melt. It was released last month in pre-publication form.

The Arctic is changing so fast, we’re unlikely to have many second chances at fixing mistakes.

I’ve only skimmed the surface of this report so far, but already can tell it has a lot to offer. Stephanie Pfirman, an environmental scientist at Barnard College, Columbia University, who co-chaired the committee that created the report, spoke with me briefly about it as well.

If you haven’t heard the word “Anthropocene” before, it is a recently-coined name for the current period in Earth’s history, when human actions are having a planet-scale impact. Putting the word “Anthropocene” in the report’s title, Pfirman told me, was a way to expand its scope beyond the typical confines of scientific reports about global warming and the Arctic. “Anthropocene is about more than just human influence on the planet,” she said. “It’s also about human interactions, ingenuity, and capacity to solve problems.”

New questions

The sections on the “evolving Arctic” and the “connected Arctic” cover relatively well-identified questions, known unknowns that include: How do and will the new levels of heat in the Far North change weather patterns in other parts of the world? And as the region’s geopolitical importance increases, can Arctic native peoples gain greater political power, and a new degree of self-determination?

More novel are the sections that ask questions about the “hidden Arctic,” as in “what we may find now that we have access to new areas, new technologies,” says Pfirman, “but also what we may lose forever”; the “managed Arctic” of unprecedented expansion in the land and other resources available to human inhabitants of the region; and the “undetermined Arctic” of uneven research funding, spotty monitoring tools, and other barriers that complicate efforts to study and understand the changes.

The Arctic’s own special qualities seem to have propelled the report’s cross-disciplinary framing of the questions. Breaking through old boundaries that have divided disciplines may be more important than ever, because the Arctic is changing so fast, we’re unlikely to have many second chances at fixing mistakes.

“The need for actionable Arctic information has never been greater,” said Pfirman. “Whether or not they have the information, people are making decisions now.”

6/17/14 Update: Don’t have time to read the whole report? Here’s the official video:

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Top Qualities Of A Great Boss

A great boss is an essential component of a successful organization, as they significantly impact the team’s performance and overall culture. A great boss should possess a range of qualities and characteristics that enable them to effectively lead and support their team and create a positive and productive work environment. These qualities include strong communication skills, emotional intelligence, trustworthiness, fairness, respect, adaptability, vision, and leadership.

In addition to these qualities, a great boss should also be empathetic, humble, confident, transparent, supportive, innovative, and positive. By possessing these qualities and characteristics, a great boss can make a significant positive impact on their team and the organization as a whole.

Best Top Qualities of a Great Boss

A great boss is an essential component of a successful organization, as they significantly impact the team’s performance and overall culture. There are several key qualities that a great boss should possess, which include −

Strong Communication Skills − A great boss should be able to clearly and effectively communicate expectations, goals, and feedback to their team. This includes listening to and understanding team members’ perspectives and concerns and clearly articulating ideas and instructions.

Emotional Intelligence − A great boss should have a high level of emotional intelligence, meaning they can understand and manage their own emotions and the emotions of others. This includes being able to recognize and respond to the emotional needs of team members, as well as being able to manage their stress and emotions healthily.

Trustworthiness − A great boss should be trustworthy and dependable, which helps build trust and credibility with their team. This includes being honest and transparent in their communication and actions and following through on commitments and promises.

Fairness − A great boss should be fair and consistent in their treatment of team members and should not show favoritism or bias. This includes being objective and impartial when making decisions and holding all team members to the same standards and expectations.

Respect − A great boss should respect their team members, valuing their ideas and contributions and treating them with dignity and kindness. This includes providing support and resources to help team members succeed and recognize their achievements and hard work.

Adaptability − A great boss should be adaptable and able to adapt to changing circumstances and priorities. This includes being open to new ideas and approaches and willing to try new things to achieve success.

Vision and Leadership − A great boss should have a clear vision for their team and the organization and be able to inspire and motivate their team to work towards that vision. This includes setting clear goals and expectations and providing guidance and support to help team members succeed.

By possessing these qualities, a great boss can create a positive and productive work environment and help their team achieve success.

In addition to these qualities, several other characteristics can make a great boss stand out. These include

Empathy − A great boss should be able to put themselves in their team members’ shoes and understand their perspectives and challenges. This includes providing support and guidance in a compassionate and understanding way.

Humility − A great boss should be humble and open to learning from their team members, as this helps to foster a collaborative and inclusive environment. This includes being willing to admit mistakes and seek feedback from team members.

Confidence − A great boss should be confident in their ability to lead and make decisions but should not be overconfident or egotistical. This includes inspiring confidence in their team members and making difficult decisions when necessary.

Transparency − A great boss should be transparent and open in their communication, which helps build trust and credibility with their team. This includes being honest and transparent about their strengths and weaknesses and being open to feedback from team members.

Supportive − A great boss should support their team members and provide the resources and guidance necessary for them to succeed. This includes providing opportunities for professional development and growth and offering support and encouragement when team members face challenges or setbacks.

Innovative − A great boss should be open to new ideas and approaches and encourage their team to think creatively and try new things. This includes being willing to take risks and experiment with new approaches to achieve success.

Positive attitude − A great boss should have a positive attitude and be able to inspire positivity in their team. This includes being able to maintain a positive outlook in challenging situations and being able to provide encouragement and motivation to team members.

By possessing these characteristics, a great boss can create a positive and productive work environment and help their team achieve success. It is important to note that no one is perfect and that even the best bosses may have areas for improvement. However, by actively working to develop and improve upon these qualities, a great boss can significantly impact their team and the organization as a whole.


In conclusion, a great boss is essential to a successful organization, as they significantly impact the team’s performance and overall culture. There are several key qualities that a great boss should possess, including strong communication skills, emotional intelligence, trustworthiness, fairness, respect, adaptability, vision, and leadership. It is important for a great boss to be open to learning and improving and to actively work to develop and improve upon these qualities to impact their team and the organization as a whole positively.

A Detailed Guide Of Interview Questions On Apache Kafka


Apache Kafka is an open-source publish-subscribe messaging application initially developed by LinkedIn in early 2011. It is a famous Scala-coded data processing tool that offers low latency, extensive throughput, and a unified platform to handle the data in real-time. It is a message broker application and a  logging service that is distributed, segmented, and replicated. Kafka is a popular and growing technology that offers IT professionals ample job opportunities.  In this guide, we have discussed the detailed Kafka interview questions that can help you to ace your upcoming interview.


Learning Objectives

After reading this interview blog thoroughly, we’ll learn the following:

A common understanding of what Apache Kafka is, its role in the technical era, and why it is needed when we have tools like RabbitMQ.

Knowledge of Apache Kafka workflow along with different components of Kafka.

An understanding of Kafka security, APIs provided by Kafka, and the concept of ISR in Kafka.

An understanding of leader, follower, and load balancing in Kafka.

Insights into some frequently used Kafka commands like starting the server, listing the brokers, etc.

This article was published as a part of the Data Science Blogathon.

Table of Contents Quick Interview Questions Q1. Is it possible to use Apache Kafka without a ZooKeeper?

No, we can’t bypass the ZooKeeper and connect directly to the Kafka Server, and even we can’t process the client requests if the Zookeeper is down due to any reason.

Q2. Apache Kafka can receive a message with what maximum size?

The default maximum size for any message in Kafka is 1 Megabyte, which can be changed in the Apache Kafka broker settings but the optimal size is 1KB because Kafka handles very small messages.

Q3. Explain when a QueueFullException occurs in the Producer API.

In the producer API, when the messages sent by the producer to the Kafka broker are at a pace that the broker can’t handle, the exception that occurs is known as QueueFullException. This exception can be resolved by adding more brokers so that they can handle the pace of messages coming in from the producer side.

Q4. To connect with clients and servers, which method is used by Apache Kafka?

Apache Kafka uses a high-performance, language-agnostic TCP protocol to initiate client and server communication.


Q5. For any topic, what is the optimal number of partitions?

For any Kafka topic, the optimal number of partitions are those that must be equal to the number of consumers.

Q6. Write the command used to list the topics being used in Apache Kafka.

Command to list all the topics after starting the ZooKeeper:

bin/ --list --zookeeper localhost:2181 Q7. How can you view a message in Kafka?

You can view the message in Apache Kafka by executing the below command:-

bin/ --bootstrap-server localhost:9092 --topic test --from-beginning Q8. How can you add or remove a topic configuration in Apache Kafka?

To add a topic configuration:

bin/ --zookeeper localhost:2181 --topics --name_of_the_topic --alter --add-config a=b

To remove a topic configuration:

bin/ --zookeeper localhost:2181 --topics --name_of_the_topic --alter --delete-config a

Note:- Here, a denotes the particular configuration key that needs to be changed.

Q9. Tell the daemon name for ZooKeeper.

The Zookeeper’s daemon name is Quorumpeermain.

Q10. In Kafka, why are replications considered critical?

Replications are considered critical in Kafka because they ensure that every published message must not be lost and should be consumed in any program/machine error.

Detailed Interview Questions Q1. Why use Kafka when we have many messaging services like JMS and RabbitMQ?

Although we have many traditional message queues, like JMS and RabbitMQ, Kafka is a key messaging framework for transmitting messages from sender to receiver. When it comes to message retention, traditional queues eliminate messages as soon as the consumer confirms them, but Kafka stores them for a default period of 7 days after the consumer has received them.

Below are the key points to prove why we can rely on Kafka even though we have many traditional services:-

1. Reliability: Kafka ensures reliable message delivery with zero message loss from a publisher to the subscriber. It comes with a checksum method to verify the message integrity by detecting the corruption of messages on the various servers, which is not supported by any traditional method of message transfer.

2. Scalability: Kafka can be scaled out by using clustering along with the zookeeper coordination server without incurring any downtime on the fly. Apache Kafka is more scalable than traditional message transfer services because it allows the addition of more partitions.

3. Durability: Kafka uses distributed logs and supports message replication to ensure durability. As we see above, RabbitMQ deletes messages as soon as it transferred to the consumer. This will cause performance degradation, but in Kafka, messages are not deleted once consumed; it keeps them by the retention time.

4. Performance: Kafka provides fault tolerance(resistance to node failures within a cluster), high throughput(capable of handling high-velocity and high-volume data), and low latency(handles the messages with a very low latency of the range of milliseconds) across the publish and subscribe applications. Mostly the traditional services face a decline in performance with a rise in the number of consumers, but Kafka does not slow down with the addition of new consumers.

Q2. Explain the four components of Kafka Architecture.

The 4 significant components of Kafka’s Architecture include:

1. Topic: A Topic is nothing but a feed or a category where records are stored and published. Topics in Kafka play a major role in organizing all the Kafka records by offering the reading facility to all the consumer apps and writing to all the producer applications. For the duration of a configurable retention period, the published records remain in the cluster.

2. Producer: A Kafka producer is nothing but a data source for one or more Kafka topics used to optimize, write, and publish the messages in the Kafka cluster. Kafka producers are capable of serializing, compressing, and load-balancing the data among brokers with the concept of partitioning.

3. Consumer: Consumers in Kafka can read the data by reading messages from topics they have subscribed to. Consumer works in a grouping fashion; they got divided into multiple groups where each consumer in a specific group with respect to a subscribed partition will be responsible for reading a subset of the partitions.

4. Broker: The cluster of Kafka is made up of multiple servers, typically known as Kafka brokers, which work together to offer reliable redundancy, load balancing, and failover. Kafka brokers use Apache ZooKeeper to manage and coordinate the cluster. Each broker in Kafka is assigned an ID and behaves as; in-charge of one or more topic log divisions. Every broker instance can also handle the read and writes volumes of hundreds of thousands of messages per second without sacrificing performance.

Q3. Mention the APIs provided by Apache Kafka.

Apache Kafka offers four main APIs-

1. Kafka Producer API: The producer API of Kafka enables applications to publish messages to one or more Kafka topics in a stream-of-records format.

2. Kafka Consumer API: The consumer API of Kafka enables applications to subscribe to multiple Kafka topics and process streams of messages that are produced for those topics by producer API.

3. Kafka Streams API: The streams API of Kafka enables applications to process data in a stream processing environment. For multiple Kafka topics, this streams API allows applications to fetch data in the form of input streams, process the fetched streams, and at last, deliver the output streams to multiple Kafka topics.

4. Kafka Connector API: As the name suggests, this API helps connect applications to Kafka topics. Also, it offers features for handling the run of producers and consumers along with their connections.

Q4. Explain the importance of Leader and Follower in Apache Kafka.

The concept of leader and follower is very important in Kafka to handle load balancing. In the Kafka server, every partition has one server that plays the role of a leader and one or more servers that behaves as followers. The leader’s responsibility is to perform all the read-and-write data operations for a specific partition, and the follower’s responsibility is to replicate the leader.

In any partition, the number of followers varies from zero to n, which means a partition cannot have a fixed number of followers; rather, it can have zero followers, one follower, or more than one follower. The reason for the same is if there is any failure in the leader, then one of the followers can be assumed to be in leadership.

Q5. How to start the Apache Kafka Server?

Follow the below steps to start the Apache Kafka server on your personal computers:-

Step 2: To run Kafka, you must have Java 8+ version installed on your local environment.

Step 3: Now you have to run the below commands in the same order to start the Kafka server:

Firstly you have to run this command to start the ZooKeeper service:

$bin/ config/

Then you need to open another terminal and run the below command to start the Kafka broker service:

$ bin/ config/ Q6. What is the difference between Partitions and Replicas in a Kafka cluster?

The major difference between Partitions and Replicas in the Kafka cluster is that the Partitions are used to increase the throughput in Kafka. In contrast, Replicas are used to ensure fault tolerance in the cluster. Basically, in Kafka, partitions are nothing but topics divided into parts to enable consumers to read data from servers in parallel. The responsibility of the read and write operations are managed on a single server called the leader for that partition. That leader is followed by zero or more followers, where replicas of the data will be created.

Replicas are nothing but copies of the data in a specific partition. The followers have just to copy the leaders; they’re not required to read or write the partitions individually.

Q7. Explain the ways to list all the brokers available in the Kafka cluster.

We have the below two possible ways to list out all the available Kafka brokers in an Apache Kafka cluster:

By using zookeeper-shell. sh ls /brokers/ids

We will get the below output after running this shell command:

WATCHER::  WatchedEvent state: SyncConnected type: None path: null [0, 1, 2, 3]

This shows the availability of four alive brokers – 0,1,2 and 3.

By using

First, we need to log in to the ZooKeeper client -server:2181

Now we have to run the below command to list all the available brokers:

ls /brokers/ids Q8. What rules must be followed for the name of a Kafka Topic?

To name the topics in Apache Kafka, there are some legal rules which are defined by Kafka to be followed:-

The maximum length of the name of any Kafka topic is 255 characters (including symbols and letters). In Kafka version 0.10, this length has been reduced from 255 to 249.

We can use special characters like. (dot), _ (underscore), and  – (hyphen) in the name of a Kafka topic. Although we must avoid combining these special characters because the topics with a dot (.) and underscore ( _) symbol could cause some confusion with internal data structures.

 Q9. Explain the purpose of ISR in Kafka.

ISR stands for in-synch replicas. It refers to all the replicated partitions of Kafka that are fully synced up with the leader within a configurable amount of time. Basically, a defined period of time is given to followers to catch up with the leader; by default, this time is 10 seconds; after that, the leader will continue the writing on the remaining replicas in the ISR by dropping the follower from its ISR. If the follower revisits the ISR, it has to truncate its log to the last point, which was checked, and after reaching the last checkpoint from the leader, it will catch up on all the messages. The leader will add it back to the ISR only when the follower completely catches up with the leader.


Q10. Explain load balancing in Kafka.

We have the leader and follower nodes to ensure the load balancing in the Apache Kafka server. As we already discussed, the role of leader nodes is to do the writing/reading of data in a given partition. In contrast, follower systems perform the same task in passive mode to ensure data replication across different nodes. So that if any failure occurs due to any reasoning system or software upgrade, the data remains available.

Q11. Explain how Apache Kafka ensures Security.

To ensure data security Kafka has three components:

Encryption: Apache Kafka secured all the message transfer processes between the Kafka broker and the various clients of Kafka through encryption. It enhances security by ensuring that all messages are shared in an encrypted format so that other clients cannot access them.

Authentication: A restriction associated with Kafka is that all the applications must be authenticated before they can be connected to the Kafka cluster. Only they can use the Kafka broker. All the Kafka-authorized applications have unique ids and passwords to identify themselves, and only after that will they be allowed to consume or publish messages.

Authorization: The next step after authentication is authorization; a client can consume or publish messages as soon as he is authenticated. But authorization prevents data pollution by ensuring that applications can be restricted from write access.

Q12. Explain some real-world use case scenarios of Apache Kafka.

Message Broker: Kafka has the feature of high throughput, and with that, it can handle a huge volume of similar kinds of data or messages, i.e., capable of handling the appropriate metadata. We can use Kafka as a publish-subscribe messaging system to manage the data and perform the read-write operations conveniently.

Monitor Operational Data: To monitor the operational data and the metrics associated with specific technologies, like security logs, we can use Apache Kafka.

Tracking website activities: Kafka can manage the flood of data generated by websites for each page and user activity. Kafka can also ensure that data is successfully transferred between websites.

Data logging: Kafka can offer the data logging facility through its feature of data replication, which can be used to restore data on failed nodes. Kafka makes replicated data available to users by offering the replicated log service across multiple sources.

That’s all my friends. Here is where I would like to wrap up my interview questions guide on Kafka.


This blog on interview questions covers most of the frequently asked Apache Kafka interview questions that could be asked in data science, Kafka developer, Data Analyst, and big data developer interviews. Using these interview questions as a reference, you can better understand the concept of Apache Kafka and start formulating practical answers for upcoming interviews. The key takeaways from this Kafka blog are:-

1. Apache Kafka is a popular publish-subscribe messaging application written in Java and Scala, which offers low latency, extensive throughput, and a unified real-time platform to handle the data.

2. Although we have many traditional message queues like JMS or RabbitMQ, Kafka is irreplaceable because of its reliability, scalability, performance, and durability.

4. Kafka ensures three-step security, including encryption, authentication, and authorization to prevent data from fraudsters.

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Postmortem Poop Can Teach Us A Lot About The Avian Gut Microbiome

Windows can be a death trap for birds—after all, their eyesight makes it difficult or impossible to distinguish between glass and clear flying space. Millions of birds crash into windows along their annual migratory paths and the collisions kill somewhere between 365 million to nearly one billion birds in the United States alone each year. 

Volunteers and scientists throughout the years have collected the fallen birds around the country every spring and fall to rehabilitate  injured birds and document the dead.  The bodies contain valuable scientific information, especially when they are compared over time.

[Related: How to help birds avoid crashing into your windows.]

A study published March 28 in the journal Molecular Ecology is helping scientists better understand the relationship between birds and the multiple microbes in their guts by using these unique specimens.

“In humans, the gut microbiome—the collection of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes living in our digestive tracts—is incredibly important to our general health and can even influence our behavior. But scientists are still trying to figure out how significant a role the microbiome has with birds,” co-author Heather Skeen, a biologist and research associate at Chicago’s Field Museum, said in a statement.

Different mammal species tend to have their own signature microbes living in their gut. The microbes help them digest food and fight disease, with evidence that these relationships can go back millions of years. Researchers have been finding that bird microbiomes likely play by a whole different set of rules.

“Bird gut microbiomes don’t seem to be as closely tied to host species, so we want to know what does influence them,” said Skeen. “The goal of this study was to see if bird microbiomes are consistent, or if they change over short time periods.”

Skeen focused on four common species of songbirds called thrushes, but there are dozens of species found throughout Chicago after crashing into the city’s buildings. She took samples from 747 birds over three years and included samples from the thrushes summer breeding grounds in Manitoba in Canada and the Midwestern states of Michigan and Minnesota.

To get inside of the bird bellies, she made a small incision into the abdomen to reach the bird’s intestines and squeezed out what was inside.  She then transferred bird poop from the intestines to specialized filter paper cards that preserve DNA. The genetic material was then sent away for bacteria classification. 

[Related: Puffy unicorn stickers could save millions of migrating birds each year.]

“Analyzing the bacterial DNA present in the poop allowed us to determine exactly what kinds of bacteria were present,” said Skeen. “It turns out, there were about 27,000 different types of bacteria present.”

The team looked for trends in the bacteria present across the whole sample, and found that the different bird species didn’t seem to have their own unique set of microbes—unlike mammals. Instead, time was the clearest link between the birds and the bacteria present in their microbiomes. Gut microbiomes had significant differences in the composition of the bacteria season to season and year to year.

A drawer full of thrushes in the Field Museum’s collection, killed crashing into city windows. CREDIT: Heather Skeen.

The results suggest that bird microbiomes might have more to do with their environment than the inborn, consistent relationship that is seen in most mammal species. 

Shannon Hackett, associate curator of birds at the Field Museum and a co-author of the paper, says the museum has been scooping birds killed by buildings for 40 years and that this study helps show why museum collections are valuable for research

“At the time, people were like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ But the fact that he’s been doing this for forty years means we have a unique opportunity to study birds across fairly short periods of time. We have more than 100,000 window-killed birds at this point, it’s an incredibly rich resource,” Hackett said in a statement. “And as technology evolves and new scientists like Heather come up, we broaden what we’re able to do with these resources.”

Some ways to help birds avoid crashing into your windows include using decals and films on them that are invisible to birds while also letting light in, supporting bird-safe buildings, and turning off interior lights at night.

Nhtsa Opens Investigation Into 6

NHTSA opens investigation into 6-speed manual transmission on 2011-2012 Ford Mustangs

Over the weekend, the NHTSA announced that it was opening an investigation after receiving 32 complaints from owners of 2011-2012 Ford Mustangs with the 6-speed manual transmission. The transmission used in the cars is made by a joint venture of Ford and Getrag with assembly in China and is called the MT-82. The reports filed with the NHTSA allege several different issues with the transmission.

The complaints center on the inability to shift into gears when driving the car normally and crunching or grinding on shifts. The investigation is looking at the transmission on both 6-cylinder Mustangs and the 5.0-liter Mustang GT as well as the 2012 Boss 302. Ford has previously issued a technical service bulletin or TSB that offered a proposed fix for the crunching and grinding by replacing the fluid inside the transmission with a different weight. Many users reported no change in shifting after having the TSB fix applied.

I happen to own a 2012 Boss 302 and my car is affected by the shifting issue often referred to as lockout. The first time the issue occurred on my car was at a road course event. Not expecting issues with the car, I was recording the laps with a windshield-mounted camera, so you can’t see hands or the shifter in the video. You can though hear that at the start of the session in part one of the video below I was able to shift without any issues.

Towards the 7:30 mark in part one the car suddenly refuses to go from third to fourth gear smoothly and starting in part two the inability to shift into fourth gear happens with almost every shift at high RPM. The transmission goes from third to sixth rather than fourth gear typically in my case. If you just want to hear the shift issue, skip to video two. I put the first video up simply for reference to show the car was shifting normally to start with.

What you can see in the video is that the clutch pedal started feeling very spongy and was not returning to the fully disengaged position when I removed my foot from the pedal. The clutch pedal was only releasing about an inch before becoming stuck and it would only fully disengage after the RPMs dropped. The shifts on the front straight where you can see the paddock building in the background are at about 7500 RPM at roughly 80 mph-100 mph.

It’s worth noting that the instructor in the car with me is baffled by the shift issue as well, at one point he thinks I am making a shift error hitting the gates and I tell him that the pedal feels weird. This shift issue also happens on the street as well. There may be some language on the video, the instructor drops the f-bomb at times so be warned.

[via Fox News]

Comment: Apple Would Sell A Lot More Homepods If It Followed Sonos’ Lead Here

Apple has so far made one move designed to help it sell more HomePods: a price drop from $350 to $300 back in the spring. Indications are that this didn’t really help.

Part of the challenge for Apple is that decent-quality audio is one of those product categories that has to be experienced before you appreciate the value. Sonos, which faces the same problem, appears to be testing a possible solution: one I suspect will prove successful…

The Verge spotted that Sonos has launched a pilot speaker rental system called Sonos Flex. Three different packages are on offer:

€15 ($16) per month: two Sonos One smart speakers than can be paired together or used separately in different rooms. (€458 if purchased at Sonos.)

€25 ($27) per month: Sonos Beam soundbar and two Sonos One speakers for TV audio. (€907 if purchased at Sonos.)

€50 ($55) per month: Playbar, Subwoofer, and 2 Sonos One speakers for a more robust home theater setup. (€2,026 if purchased at Sonos.)

All the subscriptions are completely flexible, with no minimum rental period.

The speakers are available in either black or white, and will be automatically replaced with the latest models as they’re released. Subscribers can alter their subscriptions or cancel at any time. Orders take about four days to process and delivery is free, with an option for free professional installation offered for Amsterdam residents (Sonos’ European HQ is located in Hilversum, about 20 minutes away).

This is, for the moment, a very limited test. It’s only promoted on a special Dutch website, and is limited to the first 500 homes to sign up. But the piece indicates that it could be launched globally if it proves successful.

My guess is that ‘successful’ will be measured in two ways: not just rental take-up and longevity, but also boosted sales. Sonos won’t care whether people choose to rent speakers long-term, for the flexibility and immediate affordability, or use the rental to decide that it makes sense to buy.

I really think the same strategy could work for HomePod.

In my view, you can divide people into three categories when it comes to audio:

True audiophiles, who will spend tens of thousands for the best products

People who appreciate good audio when they hear it, and are willing to pay decent sums

People who can’t tell good audio from mediocre or poor products

HomePod will of course be dismissed as mediocre quality by audiophiles comparing it against kit costing $30k, $50k or $100k plus. It will also be dismissed as unnecessarily expensive by people who can’t hear the difference between that and an Amazon echo costing a third of the price.

But there are a lot of people in that middle category. And many of them don’t know it. Most people only discover they are in that group when they are first exposed to decent but still accessible audio products. Until they actually hear it, HomePod just seems like an overpriced smart speaker.

All that changes when they hear it. Quite a few friends who’ve visited have been surprised and impressed HomePod’s sound quality. And suddenly $300 seems very reasonable. If Apple offered HomePod as a rental, I’d be confident that would turn into either a lot of long-term rentals or a lot of sales. To make the logistics simpler, Apple could offer let you keep it for the refurb price (currently $259) if you decide to convert your rental to a sale – and maybe even credit your first month’s rental against that price.

The cheapest Sonos deal is for a pair of Sonos One speakers costing $458 and renting for $16/month. That’s almost one thirtieth of the purchase price. If Apple prices HomePod rental on the same basis, that would be an even $10/month.

That’s affordable enough that a lot of people would try it – and my betting is that most of them will, one way or the other, keep it. Apple will either get another monthly recurring income – a form of revenue it very much values – or it would sell more HomePods.

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