iRobot’s Terra is Dead on Arrival
Two years ago I made the decision to uproot my life and make a permanent move to China.
I looked around my new apartment on the first day and surmised that a big ticket item was needed to affirm my commitment to staying, so I decided to realise a dream I’d had for years and buy a Roomba.
I jumped online and looked for Roomba options and quickly found a couple awesome models – for between $800 and $900.
I almost dropped my laptop seeing prices that high. I wondered if there was another option so I looked up
“robot vacuum comparison”
video’s on YouTube.
One brand that kept showing up was a Chinese brand I recognised, Xiaomi.
I knew Xiaomi as the Chinese company that had once produced iPhones in their factories for Apple. That relationship soured and seconds later Xiaomi released their own, eerily similar phones at far lower prices.
Since then Xiaomi has innovated hundreds of consumer technology products, including a robot vacuum.
Xiaomi’s vacuum generally compares very favourably against the Roomba in YouTube videos.
YouTubers would place a Xiaomi and a Roomba 980 onto similarly dirtied surfaces and observe how the different vacuum’s took care of the messes.
Generally the Roomba would zigzag the room and had better suction. The Xiaomi would map the room and do a better job navigating obstacles without upsetting fragile objects; but ultimately had weaker suction and didn’t age as well.
Overall I figured that the Roomba was probably a little better, but the Xiaomi sells here in Shanghai for roughly $250 – so the decision was easy.
I bought the Xiaomi and have loved it ever since. It syncs up with the Xiaomi home app and can be controlled from my phone.
The app controls all the Xiaomi smart devices around my apartment with ease.
The day after I bought the robot vacuum I bought a sensor that triggers a doorbell sound whenever anyone approaches my front door. This doorbell automation triggers a security camera that sends a live feed in real time on the app.
I decked out my house with over 30 triggers and sensors for under $100 and they all work great.
But ever since I installed my system I can’t imagine how competitors have a future selling consumer electronics at four times the price overseas.
Why would anyone pay so much more money for the same tech?
When China is able to set the course of it’s entire country in any direction it chooses, what hope do we have of competing?
I was in China when Trump started the trade war and announced his tariffs. I remember watching him talk and wondering to myself whether he knew that it was the American people, not the Chinese, who would pay for the extra taxes.
The Roomba is assembled in China, so when Trump adds tariffs that affect iRobot its the American consumer who now needs to pay more for an American designed robot vacuum.
Trump is killing the American tech space with a two edged sword. With one side he forces the country’s priorities in the direction of immigration control and dated fossil fuel extraction. With the other he taxes American innovated technologies that are made and assembled in China.
Meanwhile China’s President Xi marches his country towards their single minded goal of overtaking the US as the global economic superpower.
Instead of trying to make coal profitable, they’re cutting power plants and using tax dollars to reward citizens for making greener choices.
iRobot has been generating buzz in the last couple months with talk of ‘Terra’ the lawn mowing robot.
They’ve been working on Terra for 10 years and have recently been testing it in Germany. It’s looking to be released later this year.
The first time I saw Terra my only thought was.. Doesn’t this exist?
The product I was thinking of was the ‘Lawnba’ a Chinese lawn moving robot that was released two years ago.
A lot has developed over the last two years and the Lawnba E1800T has become somewhat antiquated and drowned in competition from other company’s models.
But a new model is expected to come out later this year.
A new generation of Lawnba would be released in time to compete with the Terra, but on the back of two years worth of consumer testing.
While lab testing will have given Terra somewhat of an edge, the Lawnba has been in the hands of customers and suffered the kind of abuse machine testing would never think of.
Nothing really compares to what consumers can teach you while they handle and abuse your product.
I don’t honestly believe that American innovation is dead, but I do believe that they have a far steeper hill to climb.
While China controls the manufacture of American tech and Trump continues to have no idea what a tariff is, they’re running with both ankles chained to their ass.
I don’t think America can stay number one for much longer, and I think that people are starting to come to terms with that.
What people aren’t considering is the world we’re about to live in where China of all countries is calling the shots.