Back in March, we told you about how the famed makers of the Keurig single-cup coffee brewing "pod" contraption was about to launch a new version with DRM
. A competitor, Treehouse Foods, was taking Keurig makers Green Mountain Coffee Roasters to court over this attempt to block them out of the market. To say that post got a lot of attention would be a bit of an understatement. Green Mountain tried to hit back by claiming that the new DRM was about adding "interactive-enabled benefits" and safety
to the single-cup coffee space. Because, you know, it was so unsafe before. And, besides, who doesn't want more "interactive-enabled benefits" with their first cup of java in the morning?
Keurig has now started demonstrating the new system, and it's exactly what everyone feared: a DRM system to make coffee pods more expensive
and to keep out competitors' refills.
When the Keurig employee tried to use an old-model pod, one without a new ink marker on the foil top, the brewer wouldn’t run. "Oops!" read a message on the touchscreen display, explaining that the machine only works with specially designed pods and directing the user to a Keurig website and helpline. The employee wouldn’t elaborate on how it worked, except to say that the ink is proprietary and inspired by counterfeiting technology used by the US Mint. Ian Tinkler, Keurig’s vice president of brewer engineering, went into a bit more detail, explaining that an infrared light shines on the ink marking and registers the wavelength of the light reflected back.
What about those promised interactive-enabled benefits? As far as I can tell, they appear to be the following:
With its new machine, Keurig is combining its two main product lines, the single-cup brewer and the carafe-brewing Vue.... The anti-counterfeiting system doubles as a way to distinguish between carafe-size pods and regular ones. If the sensor detects the green dot that marks carafe cups, it brews a large pot. If it detects the ring of black symbols on the standard pod, it brews a smaller cup. If it doesn’t detect a Keurig-approved marking at all, it tells you "oops!"
Yes, the "interactive-enabled benefits" will apparently maybe kinda save you from having to push a button or flip a switch between "cup" and "carafe." Of course, it could do that same thing without
a bogus code designed to block out competitor refills and just compete on the quality of its coffee. But, who wants to do that?
Of course, that story at the Verge also reveals why Keurig/Green Mountain Roasters is really doing all of this:
In September 2012 key patents on its K-Cups expired
*Ding* *Ding* *Ding*. We have a winner. None of this has anything to do with safety or benefits. It has to do with doing anything possible to avoid competing in the marketplace. There are lots of ways to play in a market and compete. One is to try to add more value than your competitors. Another is to try to block your competitors by taking away value. I never understand companies that seek to do the latter, but that's what Keurig has decided to do.