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Buy a Segway... Please 836 836

aedunn writes "Wired has an article about everyone's favorite Human Transporter - Segway. Seems as though the company is looking at some hard times. Among other things, the article cites Segway's price, low speed and tightened spending in the corporate world as reasons for Segway's slow sales."
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Buy a Segway... Please

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  • Shocking! (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Dr.Enormous (651727) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:08AM (#5334755)
    Gee, a company producing an overpriced, overhyped scooter of dubious legality for city use is having trouble selling it? What an utter surprise.
  • by pulse2600 (625694) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:08AM (#5334757)
    You think anybody really NEEDS a Segway? I'm sure most people who WANTED a Segway (not many) have more important things to spend their money on now, if they are even still employed.

    Also, something I just wondered about as I looked outside and see the 30' mountains of snow the plow guy made in our parking lot: how does this thing handle in inclement weather? What happens if I hit a puddle or ice on the sidewalk?

  • Thank God (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:08AM (#5334758)
    I have been saying since day one that this is one of the worst inventions I have ever seen. I'd love to see a segway owner try to get around Manhattan this week. The only value I have seen in something like this is possibly for mailmen who normally walk their route or in large warehouses. Those are pretty niche groups and I don't see anybody making a huge profit from them.
  • No surprise (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pxtl (151020) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:08AM (#5334762) Homepage
    Who did they think would by one of these? Corporates? Until suits see everyone else riding one they'll keep away. Suburbanites? They wont get you anywhere - you need an SUV to travel. Kids/Students? Can't afford it. Urban? Sidewalks are too crowded, and too slow for roads.

    Basically, imagine the limited marketshare that scooters/rollerblades/skateboards occupy (as transportation, not as stunt vehicles), then make it way more expensive.
  • Stirling engine? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by YetAnotherName (168064) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:11AM (#5334784) Homepage
    Read the article. I see Wired is still bandying about vocabulary with abandon.

    So, anyone outside of Wired's offices know what a Stirling engine is?
  • by jj_johny (626460) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:13AM (#5334809)
    Honestly, I have no idea how these folks thought that we need these things. Its great technology and a rather good job of engineering but most people need to walk more not less. And where can you use them? Not too many places. Like Steve Jobs said in the future cities will be designed around these. Well they aren't now and so its really a techno brag instead of being useful.

    As for other markets, when I worked in a industrial plant in the Netherlands, the foreman and others who had to go a long distance had bikes with banana seats. Very low tech but usable.

    And I don't think that too many folks in the NE of the US are going to be able to use theirs for several weeks.

  • by pubjames (468013) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:14AM (#5334823)
    Back in the early/mid eighties in the UK there was a scientist/inventor/businessman called Clive Sinclair. He had a string of successes in consumer electronics, starting with a digital watch and progressing to home computers. One of his final products was a revolutionary electric one person "car", incorporating lots of new and clever technology. It was predicted that it would be huge success, as where most of his other products. But it was a dismal failure. Nobody wanted one. It looks like history is repeating...
  • slow sales my ass... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:17AM (#5334854)
    Perhaps Segway should have found a use (i.e. market) for their product before forecasting sales...sounds to me like sales are right on pace for a ridiculously expensive novelty product.

    I'm sure it will eventually lead to some great advance but the current incarnation is trash, hence the current company is probably destined for the trash heap as well.
  • Re:Read about 'em (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jjjefff (525754) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:18AM (#5334862) Homepage
    so... he talks about saving $582 so far, and then mentions that $490 of that is from not having to pay a car payment or insurance... even neglecting the fact that he's only ridden it half a month but is including the whole month's car fees, is anyone else out there crazy enough to believe that a segway is actually a good replacement for a car??? a segway is a replacement for fat people's legs and staminas. not for a car.
  • Re:Perhaps (Score:5, Interesting)

    by antibryce (124264) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:19AM (#5334871)
    People don't like wobbling down the sidewalk looking bloody stupid after all.

    They might as well give away a big red hat that says "Tool"


    So how exactly do you explain that stupid scooter phenomenon a couple years ago? Personally, I'd love a Segway, but I'd need mass transit to get me the rest of the way. Then I wouldn't need a car at all.

  • by apeleg (159527) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:20AM (#5334890)
    The Segway is just a ruse, a delaying tactic until the real Ginger [com.com] is released. ;)
  • Old people (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Degrees (220395) <degrees@@@sbcglobal...net> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:21AM (#5334895) Homepage Journal
    Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes rode one, and loved it. I could see it as a great product for old people who can't drive, still need to get to the market, and don't want to go too fast.

    Yes the price is a problem. And younger people would be willing to ride a bike. But my grandma could handle one of these things, and it would actually be a big help to her. She is otherwise stranded at home, dependent on taxis, neighbors, or public transportation (which in the wide- flat- towns of central California is problematic at best.)

  • by NDPTAL85 (260093) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:27AM (#5334952)
    ...this is the best story Slashdot has posted in a long time. You don't know how happy it makes me to hear that this company is in financial trouble. This was a moronic idea from the start. A friggin $4k+ SCOOTER?

    This scooter (and I love calling it that since Dean thinks it shouldn't be called such a demoralizing name) had several problems from the start.

    1. Can it keep you warm in the winter? NO
    2. Can it keep you cool in the summer? NO
    3. Will you be able to take girls out on a date on such a thing? Possibly but no girl will agree to such an arraingement so effectively the answer is NO
    4. Will you look cool on such a contraption? Yes for 5 minutes. For the rest of all eternity, NO (and yes this one matters you anti-conformist geeks. Normal people care if they look like geeks and try to avoid doing so.)
    5. Is it as cheap as most other scooters? NO
    6. Will it get stolen as soon as you park it next to your local trendy cafe? YES
    7. Is it awkward? YES.
    8. Was it overhyped? YES.
    9. Will it in the words of Steven Peter Jobs, CEO and Founder of Apple and CEO of Pixar "change the way cities are built?" NO. Don't listen to Jobs. He knows Macs. He knows animation. He knows nothing else.
    10. And top ten on the NDP's list of why the Segway sucks, "FAT MAN ON A LITLE SCOOTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
  • by FosterSJC (466265) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:28AM (#5334968)
    This comment is insightful, but I would like to point out that they are really marginally less useful than a bicycle. First, see this article [slashdot.org]. Segway was banned in San Francisco... bikes were not. While you cannot ride your bike on a sidewalk, they are much more convenient for street travel than SHT's. A bike is more cheaply and easily repaired. While you can't go riding a bike around the office, I am SURE that your employer would not permit you to drive one of these things around indoors (unless of course you work in a Boeing hanger or something). You don't need a training class with Dean Kamen to ride a bike.

    That doesn't mean they aren't really cool. But I bike is infinitely more practical. We wont see mountain-segways anytime soon, and if I can't ride it in the park, I don't want one.

  • Re:Read about 'em (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jcknox (456591) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:36AM (#5335026)
    Gee, I accomplished the same thing buying a $2000 scooter: I pay no insurance, tags, or taxes. It consumes less than $2 per month in gasoline. Plus, it goes 30 mph (the max legal speed for a 'moped' in my state), has room for books, etc. under the seat, and I can sit down.

    Cheap transportation is not a new concept.

  • by mj01nir (153067) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:36AM (#5335031)
    Really, the parallels are striking. Secrecy leading up to release that caused rampant speculation. Overhyped to the point that the public really thought that something revolutionary was in the offing. Released at the beginning of an economic downturn.

    And then the let-down. "Oh, it's just a car/scooter." Then people stay away in droves.

    There are many overviews of the history of Edsel. Read this one [edsel.com] or dig up another [google.com] and see if you agree.
  • by mccalli (323026) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:39AM (#5335049) Homepage
    I have a very small amount of sympathy for Sinclair over this. The C5 [nvg.ntnu.no] was never the intended end product.

    I remember seeing a documentary about it - basically, the end product was to be a full-sized electric car which could carry four people. However, the company ran out of cash and needed something to sell quickly. Hence the rather quickly thrown-together C5.

    Can still remember its debut on TV. Looked great in the studio, then they showed some live shots of trying to use it in London traffic. I'll never forget the sheer terror on the face of the guy who drove ir down the inside of a large truck...

    Cheers,
    Ian

  • Re:this just in (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wfmcwalter (124904) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:41AM (#5335066) Homepage
    No, they think it's 1985.

    Essentially they're selling a Sinclair C5 with one less wheel, no seat, at seven times the cost.

    It's an interesting marketing lesson, showing that neat technical features don't necessarily turn into value propositions that would make a customer actually want to cough up the money. Its amazon.com page tries in vain to sell it, protesting its uncanny ability to go backwards, go up slopes (gasp!), and even "self balance". The trouble is - people with fully functional legs can do all those things for free right now, and people without generally can't use a segway.

    And Dean - it's five thousand dollars!. I can wear my underpants on my head, shove two pencils up my nose and look like a maniac for free.

  • by elliotj (519297) <slashdot@ellio t j o h n s o n .com> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:43AM (#5335082) Homepage
    I for one am very interested in the Segway. I might even buy one. But I've never, ever, seen one 'in the flesh'. I can't go into a store to buy one. I don't know anybody who has one.

    It's such a new product and so unusual that for people to buy one sight-unseen at this high a price requires a leap of faith that is uncommon amongst consumers.

    This guy needs to put them in stores. Lots of stores. The stores need to let people test ride them. They need to do demonstrations in the streets at lunch time so people can see how cool they are.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see them be a big hit, but the average guy will want to try one first.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:46AM (#5335103)
    Clive Sinclair is still around. Right now he's selling tiny radios for about $15. See his website at: http://www.sinclair-research.co.uk . I see he's also selling Weelchair assist. That's a new addition, as the last time I checked the site (in January sometime) it wasn't there.
  • Mac 128? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by binaryDigit (557647) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:48AM (#5335127)
    "If they don't come up with a Stirling engine or a killer fuel cell, this thing will go the way of the 128K Mac," says Saffo

    Kamen could only dream that the current Segway would be like the Mac 128. After all, it's the machine that has now led to a multi billion dollar company on machines that are descended from it. If 12 years from now 7% of his market were riding iSegways and he had billions of cash in the bank, he'd be a happy man.

    Perhaps a better comparison is in order, say something like "Betamax".
  • Re:Ha ha (Score:5, Interesting)

    by binaryDigit (557647) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:53AM (#5335158)
    Google did it right, grow at a sustainable rate, and do not try to get too big too fast.

    While I generally agree with you, bringing up Google as a comparison is a massive stretch. You can't compare a search engine company to one that manufactures relatively expensive products. The needs, requirements, and pitfalls are vastly different. The infrastructure requirements are vastly different, the ability to adapt to market conditions are vastly different, you just can't say "he shoulda did what google did ...".

    Again, I'm not disagreeing with the fact that he got too carried away, but please use a company that has remotely similar requirements/structure to compare against, esp. not Google.
  • I Rode one.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dfenstrate (202098) <dfenstrate AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @11:59AM (#5335213)
    A guy who works in my building has one that he rides around occasionally (his wife works for Segway), and he let me try it out.
    It's pretty fun to ride around, actually, very simple to use. I got the hang of it in about 5 minutes with coaching, and was doing loops around the third floor atrium of the building (Morse Hall at the University of New Hampshire) shortly thereafter.

    If I had $5,000 to spend on a toy, I'd do it in a second.
    That being said, I'd like to repeat the sentiments of previous posters: In the final equation, it has few advantages over a bike, and several disadvantages, and If I needed a way to get around without a car, I'd buy a bike first. Bikes go faster, even a mild lardass like myself can outride the segway's ~15 mile charge, and you can attach all kinds of trailers and racks to a bike if you want to haul stuff. Plus, there's the health benefits to providing the motive energy to moving your butt around.

    Bikes are much larger, but much lighter. It's a bit easier to keep your clothes clean & pressed while riding a segway, so it could be a bicycle substitute for the suit type- as long as they don't mind looking like dorks.

    This thing could be fairly useful for door to door postal service and similar applications.

    Most people here probably know that the Segway is based on the technology developed for the Ibot 3000 [freeserve.co.uk], a balancing, standing wheelchair- truly an innovation for the disabled, and I'm sure it will sell very well.

    The Segway, then, might be a good thing for the elderly, those still healthy enough to stand at any rate, to help them get around. But if they're fit enough to ride on this, maybe they should be riding a bike too...

    Anyway, my conclusion: Fun, but a waste of money for anything outside of a few specific demographics and jobs.
    Get a bike. You'll live longer.
  • Re:Goddammit! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @12:23PM (#5335421)
    gggrrr I get angry too. The segway is NOT a replacement for bicycles. Its a whole new class of transport object. The only thing it has in common with a bicycle is the handlebars and the fact that the wheels are round as well! Apart from those 2 physically similar components everything else is different. You wouldn't say that the razor scooter was a replacement for bicycles. Or those sneekers with hidden roller skate wheels.
    I am shocked by the closed minded attitude of slashdotters over the segway.
  • Re:Read about 'em (Score:3, Interesting)

    by superdan2k (135614) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @12:24PM (#5335433) Homepage Journal
    And the dumb bastard would have lost more weight and saved more money by just going out and buying a bicycle!

    Jesus, this thing reeks of being a marketing site paid for by the company...
  • Theme Parks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jmu1 (183541) <jmullman&gasou,edu> on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @12:33PM (#5335517) Journal
    They should really get on the ball. If theme parks were to start buying these things and renting them to the masses that move all over their parks ALL DAY, then they would make a killing in the process, and ol' wheelchair guy(whatever his name is that I can't seem to recall) could keep his business afloat and continue to make good products for the handicaped(which he should have stuck to in the first place).

    Then again, I'm just a technician. "What do I know about diamonds?"

  • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @01:02PM (#5335758)
    Fatalities suck, but death is something we'll never eliminate. We'll put up with a certain amount to have our precious cars.

    Say what you mean, dude. Like this:

    For the six year period from 1993 to 1998, an average of 1,640 people in New York were killed annually as a result of motor vehicle crashes. During this same period, an average of 286,000 New Yorkers annually were injured in traffic crashes. Data for New York City indicates that 26.7 percent of these total statewide annual traffic fatalities, and 43 percent of total statewide crash injuries occurred within city limits.

    This can be avoided. We should try, at least.

    Pollution is being handled with hybrids and fuel-cell developments. The cars 50 years from now won't be polluters at all.

    Pollution could be stopped today. The Segway obviously doesn't pollute. 50 years? That's confortably out of your frame of reference, isn't it? "I won't worry, they'll have it solved in 50 years." Ridiculous. Take some responsibility. We all need to.

    Noise? You get used to it. Deal.

    Why should I? It doesn't have to be this way. Why are you so against fixing the problems with the current situation? Or do you really believe that it cannot be improved, that all this is a necessary evil?

    Cost? Cost of what? Bottled water costs more than gas and you can get cheap ass used cars off of ebay. What cost?

    You have got to be kidding. I can't believe you even typed that. I'm not going to get into the cost of running a car in a city. I will quickly mention that your average condo parking spot - a square of concrete - in Toronto is $CDN 30,000.

    Traffic? Yeah it sucks.

    It doesn't just suck, it's totally insane. Imagine the productivity lost with everyone spenind 2+hours a day in their car.

    The space they take up? Do you know how large the US is in terms of space?

    The Segway is meant to alleviate the most obvious traffic problem, that of congested cities. It clearly can't cross great distances. There is no alternative to the car for this right now.

    Despite the hate, SUV sales contine to grow, grow grow, grow!

    To my grow, grow, growing despair. [thedetroitproject.com]

  • by James Lewis (641198) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @01:26PM (#5335966)
    I'd be interested in learning how the Segway has achieved the ENORMOUS amount of hype that it has. It's crazy I tell you. I've talked to people who think it uses some new alternate energy source that will revolutionalize the world. I mean, they have acted like this thing is going to bring us world peace or something. The wierd thing is, I have NEVER seen any journalist say, "Segway... so what?" All you ever hear is them drooling over the thing and begging the company to let them try one. I've never heard ANYTHING negative from the media. I don't ever remember seeing this level of hype, and lack of criticism, about any product before. Anyone have any clues as to how they achieved it?
  • Snow handling (Score:2, Interesting)

    by antiframe (651356) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @01:28PM (#5335989)
    One of the engineers from Segway HT was giving a talk at Boston University this afternoon, which I missed because usually they are later in the day. I caught him leaving the building, gliding along on the Segway out onto the slush and snow. I have to just say that I am impressed with its handling given the weather. At least I was surprised, I expected it to fumble around and be difficult to maneuver.

    Or riding a Segway is learned skill and you need some experience to handle it in the snow, which I would assume a Segway HT engineer would have.
  • Battery life (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @01:48PM (#5336166) Homepage
    ... the battery lasted anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours - forcing carriers to circle back to their trucks several times a day to swap batteries.

    That's the big problem. Delivery people, who might actually find this thing useful, can't use it all day because the battery life is too short. For casual users, it's too expensive.

    The real problem, of course, is excessive hype. This is a minor invention with way too much promotion.

  • Why it's not selling (Score:2, Interesting)

    by titoj (614455) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @03:05PM (#5337080)
    Oddly enough, I read this article last week, about one hour before I went to my product design class - with Professor Karl Ulrich. We spent half the class talking about the Segway, and if I garnered anything from the lecture, the main reason for the failure (thus far) is because the company forgot the basic tenets of product design. Rather than creating a product based on customer needs (i.e. a portable dialysis machine), they tried to create customer needs based on a product family (dynamically stabilized transportation, a la the ibot).

    As a side note, the Segway uses a lot of expensive parts, and two of them at that. There is one gyroscopic unit, but two motors, two controls boards, etc.. When you add it up, the price becomes unreasonable for almost anyone. Granted, most of us probably thought it was neat, but we definitely can't afford one.
  • Re:Fills a need... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rcamera (517595) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @03:44PM (#5337448) Homepage
    usps are not the only ones that see a use for this device...

    fat lazy cops [wpi.edu] who can't make it around campus think this is wonderful. now the 5 campus cops share 4 cars and 2 seqways.

    and since it is a tech school, they even get to make incoming freshmen think that these types of things are common on campus. the president of the school even has the gaul to say "They are extremely practical-making many of our everyday tasks much simpler. They also illustrate to our students (the science and technology leaders of tomorrow) that the unimaginable is possible. As such, we were ecstatic to be the first university to use them in day-to-day operations". (which is not true - i've never actually seen any of these things on campus). read that statement as "eat that rpi!! we finally beat you at something!!"

    an interesting fact is that dean kamen dropped (transferred?) out of wpi. of course, that probably has something to do with the school wanting credit for his work.
  • by bazmonkey (555276) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @04:23PM (#5337851)
    The car needs money, and gas: "It's easy, just get up and walk. You'll make it there eventually, and think of the health benefits!!!"
    The laundry needs doing: "You just buy 3 gallons of Febreeze, and forget about washing. Clothes can only get so dirty, and let's face it, brown looks much better on you than white."

    The Segway is $5,000 for about $500 of advantegeous value: "Just walk. Or bike, or blade, or skate. Sure, you may not like the exercise and work now... but would you do it to save $5,000?"

    I hope Kamen felt terrible when he said that crap about the battery and that guy's response to the weight. If he used the mentality of "just do it yourself" to combat low battery life and heavy weight, we should use the menatility of "just do it yourself" to screw the Segway and lose some weight cycling/walking.
  • Rent-a-Segway? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by frdmfghtr (603968) on Wednesday February 19, 2003 @06:38PM (#5339223)
    Paul Saffo, a director at the Institute for the Future in Menlo Park, California, describes a ride on a Segway as a "gas" but adds that the machine "costs three times what a consumer device should cost, and it's about 40 pounds too heavy."

    Agreed--I'd love to buy one, but not for much above $1000.

    What if they were available some other way besides Amazon (the only place I've seen them available)? Start small (too late for that) and open a few Segway dealerships in places likely to draw business. Perhaps have a Rent-a-Segway in spring break places like Daytona Beach or Lake Havasu, where college kids with money to burn in a week would go Segway-cruising up and down the strip.

    My thoughts...

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