Here’s the good news: the Tenori-On is really going on sale here in America. It’s about the same price as in the UK, as expected. (GBP600 = about US$1200.)
The bad news? If you want to buy one, good luck. Yamaha says initially only about 100 units a month will be available. (We also heard “1000 units” for the whole year, which would mean they stop doing 100 units each month after September, if that’s right.) To put this in perspective, the Monome 64, with zero press behind its launch, sold out a 100-unit run in 120 seconds. After getting hands-on with the Monome, I want to reemphasize that a square grid of buttons are the only things these two designs have in common — but you can bet ravenous demand will be one other common feature. (Another example: the permanently-backordered x0xb0x.) Heck, even the Arduino board, a USB kit for electronics makers, has 500 units on-hand at one vendor alone, and they typically sell out when a new semester begins.
That means that Tenori-On is getting the same cautious launch it got in the UK, even though the UK is a much smaller market than the US. (We may not be as electronically-savvy, but there are five times as many of us Yankees.) And there’s the US press blow-out likely to happen (Gizmodo and Engadget were on-hand at the press event last night; Friday the launch hits San Francisco.) And there’s a full half year of buzz. We didn’t even hear word that Tenori-On would be available in record shops in the US as in the UK; word was distribution will be exclusively online, via Keyfax. (Updated: There’s nothing on the Keyfax site, so head to www.tenori-on-tour.com.)
It’s not for lack of manufacturing capability; the Tenori-On is expensive to produce, with its unusual, rounded magnesium frame, but Yamaha literally has robots for that. (They had pictures of what would look like mass production, but isn’t.)
It was curious to hear people muttering "too expensive" in association with the unit, because I don’t think that’ll be a problem. Anyone wanting one, plan to have a party by your mouse the night before 5/1.
Benny Goldman has an early review at Gizmodo. That’s actually my voice you hear in the video, talking to Yamaha about when the "experimental" limited run will end and the Tenori-On will become a mass-market product. I’ll have to see if I screwed up Engadget’s sound, too.
Of course, the best way to get a Tenori-On in the US is to build a sophisticated interactive table and win over a crowd of people, but that’s been done already, and there is the danger of winding up with just a hat. More on that later today.