MFG 2.0

The Grey Market -- Now In Stylish Black!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the six month time lag between product announcement and sale for the Apple iPhone, and how it opened a great new product up to the possibility of getting ripped off by the grey marketeers of the world. I subsequently received angry emails from Apple fans suggesting that it would never happen, or at least not before the iPhone launched, and that my criticism of Steve Jobs' timing was baseless.

I was going through my usual stroll through the web yesterday and I came across a fake iPod shuffle on engadget.com that looked real in every detail except for a typo -- according to the packaging, it was "Assombled In China".

Oh, and also there's the fact that the real Apple doesn't actually offer the Shuffle in black (yet).

I went digging a bit further on the same site and -- lo and behold -- came across a post called iPod Style Mobile Phone iPhone from way back on March 18. Sure, this particular dupe is pretty clumsy (just look at the name!) but came out only ten days after the public FCC filing (meaning, incidentally, that the FCC filing couldn't have influenced its creation -- even grey marketeers aren't that fast) but more than two months after the initial January announcement from Steve Jobs that I initally flagged as being suspect, timing-wise, and my initial argument starts to make a lot of sense.

I probably won't get any emails about that one, and though I do like the taste of vindication, I'd really rather not have to think about an innovative American manufacturer like Apple having to compete against overseas thieves stealing its market share with product replicas that cost less than 10% the price and dilute the brand's good name.

As a final note of caution, one of the reader comments talks about going to ebay and searching for off-brand items -- the poster says there's hundreds of dodgy knockoffs for sale, and while most are the usual suspects (like consumer electronics) many are from categories you might not even think of (like the bootleg versions of Rockwell Automation manufacturing software that were being sold on ebay).

Might be something for any manufacturer with overseas operations to consider doing, so here's the link for an advanced ebay search.

Cross your fingers and give it a click...and let us know what you find.

TAGS: Innovation
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