Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The iClone

Growing up in the late 1960's and into the early 1970's, a common snide comment we would make when something performed on a less than stellar level was "Made in Japan". It was a holdover from the early part of the twentieth century, when Japan was known as th country that produced cheap junk. Today, Japan is certainly not known for its junk. Made In Japan is now considered, by nearly everyone, to be a mark of quality.

Japan achieved this lofty status through a combination of hard work, assistance from other nations, perseverance, the amazing capability to copy the work of others, and a market that would buy their products. The market was perhaps the toughest barrier, as Japan had to compete with products from the United States, Germany, Italy, and many other long-established producers of higher-quality consumables. Nonetheless, they did it.

Enter China, which is essentially Japan on mega-steroids. Japan currently has a polulation of 127,433,494 (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/print/ja.html) and China has a population of 1,321,851,888 (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ch.html). Yes, that is a little more than 10 times the population of Japan. China is also already well established in the world market. The Chinese are also quite advanced and many of them have lot of time on their hands; time which can be used to tear apart any Western technology they find and figure out how to clone it. What makes it even easier for them is the simple fact that many of the Western technological products sold in the world are built in China. Every screw, screen, case, logo, all the way to the package it ships in. To a worker in China, often earning barely enough to make ends meet, an extra few dollars "on the side" earned for turning a blind eye when someone wants to review some design plans, or borrow a machine, or buy a few extra parts off the line is the difference between three square meals of rice and three square meals of rice and chicken. I think you get the point.

Enter the iClone , China's amazing take on the popular phone (also made in China) of a similar name. Not being content to merely copy the other guy, the makers of the iClone have decided to improve upon it. Please read the article for a full picture.

Medical device companies produce devices with very high cost consumables attached to them, or simply make single-use standalone consumable devices. Some of these high cost consumables sell for thousands of dollars (yes, for a single-use item). How long do you think it will be before China starts cloning these items? They are already doing it with drugs, food, and even toothpaste.

Makers of consumer electronic devices who have their items cloned take it in the teeth financially, and the customer sometimes benefits from this, sometimes not. Makers of consumables for the medical device industry who have their items cloned take it in the teeth financially, and the customer (patient) can benefit from this as well, OR end up dying. Does anyone see an issue with this?

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