The outspoken Aussie tech maverick speaks out on Netbooks, general marketing and eBay.
Ruslan Kogan is, it's arguably fair to say, something of a tech geek, and has been for some time. When you open a conference presentation with the statement that "one of the best days of my life was upgrading to 1MB of ram so I could run Windows 3.1"
, it's pretty hard to argue anything different.
At the same time, it's undeniable that he also draws out strong opinion, as the responses to our "Wanna design your own Netbook
" story last week proved. He's also not likely to be on Gerry Harvey's Christmas card list any time soon.
I sat down with Ruslan Kogan at the MediaConnect Kickstart Conference in Queensland today to discuss Netbooks, building in China and what the future holds for his upstart and brash company.
First, the Netbook. The consultation period, it would appear is, over, and Kogan's overflowing with potential specs. The model that he'll be taking orders for "in two to two and a half weeks"
will sell for $529-$539 "or thereabouts -- as long as the dollar doesn't move much."
That $529-$539 will buy you a 10 inch screen, Intel Atom Processor, 160GB hard drive and in a move likely to endear him to the open source community, Linux. "We're not going to pursue Windows licensing at the moment; it will be Linux. Which flavour of Linux we'll used is being tested at the moment."
Kogan admits he's a big fan of Linux, and that the decision to adopt it was driven by feedback on the Kogan blog. "I was happy that people don't mind having Linux on their laptop. It seems that the wider market is starting to not be as scared of it as it was a couple of years ago."
The Netbook will ship with only 1GB of RAM, and while it will be user-upgradeable to 2GB, Kogan doesn't see a pressing reason why you should need to. "If you're going to want to install and multi-task lots of applications, then a Netbook probably isn't for you."
Battery life is always a key component of any netbook, and Kogan is still evaluating exactly what to do in this sphere. "We could offer a 6-cell battery, but there are compromises in terms of overall cost and weight to be made there".
It seems most likely that it'll come with a four-cell battery, but he's still evaluating the best options. He expects to be shipping units by the end of March, as the production on netbooks is, he claims "very quick. Production (in China) for something like this - 10,000 units would take less than one day."
On the overall technology selling market, Kogan also remains optimistic and upbeat. "We've gone from being a 4 million dollar company last year to a 20 million dollar company this year. We see brands like Hitachi and Fujitsu dropping out of the (LCD TV) market. It's not because of lack of demand. They're dropping out due to archaic business models. People are becoming price educated. The $950 government grant will make the demand for LCD TVs skyrocket. Conventional retail cannot compete."
Amongst other projects also on Kogan's current list are OLED TVs ("within two to three months"
), and Blu-Ray 2.0 compatible player with the same region-free ability as his current model. He does admit that the pace with which his products move and progress is somewhat limited by the work of the larger brands - "We're always going trail behind the big companies."
Kogan also has some fame (or infamy) for the use of eBay, although Ruslan admits he's not as keen on the online marketplace as he used to be. "eBay used to be very. important. It used to be a very free, laissez-faire marketplace." but "now eBay's decided it's going to be the government, and control everything. It's more expensive for sellers, and buyers aren't getting good value for money.".
Despite claiming to be "eBay's largest seller in Australia"
, he says that volumes of product shipped through eBay are only "around 10% of our total sales"
. Kogan's rather direct sales tactic (of .99c, no reserve auctions) has bitten him sometimes -- he admits that some of this was down to "experimentation"
, such as "whether people would bid on an auction that finished in the middle of the Grand Final"
-- but he's never actually sold a TV for a dollar. "We have sold some units with a cost price of around $1400 for around $800, though."
He also notes that it's garnered him some interesting bidding information, with the fiercest bidding on his products not coming in the evening (as he'd expected), but around 2-4pm each afternoon. "People are sitting in their work offices, bidding on my televisions!".Alex Kidman travelled to MediaConnect Kickstart09 as a guest of MediaConnect.