Don’t Always Do Your Best

I remember how my great-uncle Jerry
would sit on the porch and whittle
all day long.  Once he whittled me
a toy boat out of a larger toy boat
I had.  It was almost as good as the
first one, except now it had bumpy
whittle marks all over it. And no paint,
because he had whittled off the paint.
-Jack Handey

This idea–hilarious though it may be–is not such a terrible one.  Intel for example manufactured their Core 2 Solo processors by starting with a Core 2 Duo and disabling one of the 2 cores. Intentionally creating an inferior product to be sold at a lower price despite the fact that it cost them the same amount–more even if we consider the cost of disabling a core. However this seemingly paradoxical move actually makes perfect sense. By mutilating their product Intel gains something to sell to the segment for whom the Duo is too pricey. And it’s actually the best way to do it. The variable cost of the manufacturing process itself is negligible compared to the fixed cost of designing the chip before hand. Designing a new chip from the ground up to be a single core version of the Duo would double that design cost.  So with this simple little hack, they get to take full advantage of their prior research.

What’s so intriguing about this is that Intel could provide their Solo customers with the better product at the same cost. Which isolated seems like a no-brainer, you should do your best for your customers right? But to do so would undermine the sales of their pricier version, clearly not an option. So they swallowed their pride and did less than their best allowing them to cash in on a market they would otherwise have skipped over.

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