Robots in your home and they don't cost a lot of money !
Are robots ready to enter your home? Is the robotic vacuum cleaner market entering a tipping point?
Robots are now in the home and they cost just a little more than your regular upright vacuum cleaner.
Has the robot come of age ?
The first robot vacuum cleaner was introduced by Electrolux in 2001. They herald the beginning of the age of the Jetsons.
However first movers and creators of a market rarely win when the market goes mainstream.
The Electrolux Tribolite was introduced at a very high price (more than a $1000) and did not really get the attention of the marketplace.
The iRobot corporation is the real creator of the robotic vacuum cleaner market and is an innovator and a first mover in this market.
The Roomba vacuum cleaning robot was first introduced in 2002 by the iRobot corporation. The Roomba has gone through a series of improvements in its few generations of improvements. The second generation roomba (Discovery series) was introduced in 2004. The third generation of Roombas were introduced in 2007 (5xx series). iRobot now owns the market and with the prices closer to the regular vacuum cleaner and the reliability better than ever the volumes are better than ever.
The most recent example of a first mover and market creator being pushed to the sidelines is Garmin (maker of GPS devices), pushed to the sidelines against phone based GPS units (iphone, droids and Nokia). The volumes of the GPS market went up when the market became mainstream. The first mover does make more money but the market share of the market creator decreases dramatically and unless the market creator innovates again, this is usually the beginning of the death spiral of the company. Garmin tried to make the Garmin phone,failed and now needs to do something to interest the consumer.
When competition enters a market which is dominated by the innovator and market creator, it just means one thing, the market is now seen as big enough to be seen as attractive to the competition. Look back at the Palm III which was the first innovator and market creator of the PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) market after the first PDA fiasco which was the Newton from Apple. The Palm III finally evolved to the Treo series of phones and from there Palm has stagnated.
Coming back to the robotic vacuum clearer market. The iRobot corporation owns the robotic vacuum cleaning market as the market creator and the marketplace is now changing. A slew of competing companies are on the horizon.
The challengers are
Neato Robotics, Asus ECleaner, Robo Shine and the Electrolux Tribolite 2.0.
When competition enters a market which is dominated by the innovator and market creator, it just means one thing, the market is now seen as big enough to be seen as attractive to the competition.
The mainstream smartphones have taken over the original Palm's strengths in Contacts and Calender with the Blackberry and iphone being the clear market leaders of a market that Palm pioneered.
Will iRobot be soon pushed to the wall by the new contenders ? Not immediately but eventually maybe. None of the current contenders have the product power to push iRobot to the wall (this remains to be seen with the Asus and Electrolux in 2010). iRobot is not really a consumer focused company but has multiple robotic interests and therein lies the danger.
Will iRobot die, not before it fights back with a new set of robots but then the fight can go in any direction. It will be interesting to see. However the robotic vacuum cleaner market is ready for action and close to a tipping point in volumes. You can continue to watch the robotic vaccum cleaner makers at this website.
Expect a robotic vacuum cleaner in your home for about USD 150.