Over 10 million of them have been sold, and it seems like everybody has one. Some are pink, some are green, some are blue, some are black, but most are white. Owners caress them, lovingly running their fingers back and forth across "my precious." Some can hold 10,000 of your favorite songs, and they'll follow you wherever you go.
Although many manufacturers claim their products are revolutionary, the truth is that most audio/video components are fairly generic. DVD players, surround receivers, and even speakers tend to be interchangeable parts of your system. It's rare - very rare - that a truly unique product comes along, one that radically departs from the norm.
Digitizing music changed all the rules - even though we took almost two decades, from the introduction of the CD to the rise of MP3, to explore its full potential. Freed from the limitations of hard-wired analog circuits, new software-driven digital music systems can be amazingly powerful and flexible, especially when combined with networked computers.
This is not your father's stereo - or your iPod. The Bose Lifestyle 38 combines elements of both and adds its own share of functionality and flexibility. The Lifestyle series has been a Bose mainstay for years, offering DVD playback with 5.1-channel surround sound in an attractive, easy-to-use package.
Now's this for a cutting-edge shopping list: bread, milk, a dozen eggs, strawberries, zucchini, orange juice, chicken, sirloin, DVD player, spaghetti, ice cream, puppy chow. Yep, buying a DVD player these days can be as uneventful as picking up a quart of milk. And with low prices like $49, it is ridiculously tempting to pop one of 'em in your cart.
There is probably more diversity in the audio/video market than in the Amazon rainforest. Dealer's shelves (and Amazon.com's Web pages) are filled with a seemingly endless variety of DVD players, A/V receivers, speakers, and complete home theater systems.
Just in case you haven't noticed, let me point out that the Web has changed everything, especially the way we get information. Do you need a satellite photo of your neighborhood? How about the name of a good dental hygienist in Anchorage? What was the patent number on Edison's phonograph? Need to know the name and birth date of the country's 24th first lady?
Sure, DVD players are a dime a dozen these days. And even at the cheapest of prices, you can expect perks that were reserved for high-end players just a couple of years ago, like a progressive-scan component-video output. Amazing. But what if you want to spin more than one disc?