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Why you can’t buy Car Thing, Spotify’s first hardware device

We’ve been following rumors for months now that all said that Spotify would soon launch some kind of in-car device. Turns out, those rumors were right. Well, sort of. In a frustrating development, it turns out that Spotify’s first device, which it is calling “Car Thing,” isn’t a consumer gadget in the traditional sense, and the company has no plans to sell it.

Instead, Car Thing is apparently Spotify’s in-car equivalent of the old Nielsen’s TV ratings boxes that used to track people’s TV watching habits. In a blog post about the device, the company says it is, “trying to learn more about people’s listening habits and preferences,” specifically while they’re in the car. So it will be distributing Car Thing to a limited number of its Premium subscribers and only in the U.S., to find out exactly what’s going on when listeners are on the road.

Car Thing is both voice-activated and judging from the company’s artfully colored render, will have a few buttons, too. It might not be a one-off either, as Spotify has coyly suggested that we might soon start to hear rumors of a “Home Thing,” which doesn’t require much guesswork to figure out what it’s designed to do.

Interestingly from an in-car point of view, Spotify specifically called out curiosity about people’s podcast habits, a revelation that shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been following the company’s activities as of late. With major acquisitions in the podcasting space and comments made during a recent quarterly earnings report by its CEO, Daniel Ek, Spotify has indicated in no uncertain terms that it sees podcasting as a very important part of its long-term strategy for growth as well as user retention. Other moves, like creating ad formats that let users interact with their voice instead of needing to use their phones, and a similar mechanism that lets podcast listeners leave voice feedback for creators, all point to a future in which voice, whether its the voice of its creators or listeners, will be central to Spotify’s products.

We reached out to Spotify’s PR team to see if there was anything more they were willing to share about Car Thing, but no dice. Apparently, they’ve said all they’re going to say — for now.

Will the Car Thing remain simply an internal measuring tool, destined never to sold at retail, or at least offered to a broader set of the company’s subscribers? Spotify claims it’s not focused on becoming a hardware company, but when it comes to technology, never say never.  We’ll have a better sense of its future once we get a chance to hear from the Premium users who have been invited to try it out. We’ll be sure to let you know when and if that happens.

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