Keurig Begins Demonstrating Its Coffee DRM System; As Expected, It Has Nothing To Do With ‘Safety’
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.