Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This is an example where capitalism fails for the consumer.

In Korea, for about $25 (~28,000 won), you can get a wifi router/firewall with all the bells and whistles. In the US, when comparison shopping at Fry's, you'll see a carefully crafted features checkboxes for the next model up. Only $10 more for the one with legacy encryption support. Oh, you want the business model with VPN features? Another $30 will do. These are all features that are mostly enabled and disabled by the firmware, but carefully disabled to upsell you on the next model up.

On top of that, the wifi routers in Korea is probably not engineered to suck or kill itself in a slow death after about a year of use. Does anyone remember cracking open a brand new 802.11g router, and seeing how good the 54 Mbit/sec really was? And then finding yourself terribly disappointed that it didn't even do half that. For some reason, the Korean wifi routers do this with ease. The speed doesn't crawl up there trying hard, very hard, to eventually reach its limits. It does this with finesse. As for reliability, I have a theory that the manufacturers in the US just insert a little bit of NAND in there, and voila, you got a totally consumable product (in 1-3 years depending on usage), just like a Big Mac has a 1-3 minute usage. Just remember to plug and unplug your router to eek out another 3 months of use before it becomes too annoying to a point where you find youself plopping down another $60 at Fry's. Maybe you will try another brand this time. And this time, maybe it'll have a glossy finish. From my first hand experience in the US, I can tell you that they are all the same. Netgear, Linksys, D-Link, Belkin...they've all screwed me. It is the dirty little secret of the wifi router/firewall/switch business. What if you want a router that doesn't actually suck in the US? Now you are talking big bucks. Unfortunately, most of that money is spent paying for the metal casing outside as the hardware and software are pretty much the same inside. Except with less NAND this time. You need it to look less like a toy when putting in equipment for a moderate sized office. Dicking around with the router/switch should be only a once-in-a-decade experience in places where business actually happens. It must be great for business, but consumers unknowingly have a subscription to the bi-yearly router service.

I am torn these days between the benefits and negatives of captialim. I'm both the consumer and businessman. I always want to have my cake and eat it too.