DRM is a sticky issue. I found this out the hard way recently when my Keurig machine died.

 

Background

Keurig, made famous for their single-serve coffee innovation, recently released a 2.0 version of their brewing systems. This new release actually has a digital imaging system in place to look for the Keurig branding on all K-cups before brewing. In essence, they are restricting the use of their technology after people purchase it. The only noticeable feature is introducing a "coffee carafe" K cup, which, to me, is not a major selling point since regular coffee makers already do this job effectively and the coffee you can purchase is about a fifth of the price of the single-serve Keurig machine. I guess you pay for convenience...

 

Control

First, people hate DRM. It goes against the grain of controlling something after someone has purchased an item. What he or she chooses to do with what they own is ultimately their choice. This is what sparks innovation and Keurig clearly has adopted a closed-minded strategy on this. 

 

DRM is a clear example of industries attempting to retain some level of control on how their product is leveraged. I think there are clear times when this is appropriate, like sharing music. People should support artists and purchase music. That's how they earn a living. Keurig, on the other hand, is trying to limit competition by forcing people to use K-cups they sponsor. Subsequently, these are about twice as much as their competitors like San Francisco Bay Coffee Company and K cups you can buy at your grocery stores. And, personally, I like SFBC's coffee better.

 

DRM is not the solution

This strategy is all about money. I actually see this being the beginning of the end for Keurig. If/when people catch onto this, many more coffee maker vendors will invest in similar single cup technologies that will likely support brewing of K cups. I guarantee you these products will not limit the use of certain K cups and I assure you the machines will not be as expensive as the Keurig brewers.

 

As an example, I recently tried Hamilton Beach's Dual Brew technology. The concept was brilliant. Coffee pot on the left, K cup brewer on the right. Unfortunately, it had trouble brewing with the SFBC's K cups I recently purchased (and bought hundreds of in bulk). I was forced to buy another Keurig 1.0 machine that would work with the coffee I purchased. I loved the concept of the Dual Brew and I am confident this technology will continue to evolve and become more competitive with Keurig. I will certainly try the technology again once the Keurig machine craps out.

 

Summary

In my opinion, one of the easiest ways to lose confidence in a product is to restrict how it is to be used. Keurig certainly opened up the opportunity for others to own the market by attempting to control which K cups should be supported with their 2.0 machines. I have some news for you, Keurig. Better quickly put out your 3.0 version and win back your customer base before people catch on to your greed.

 

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