The big news is that Proctor and Gamble (NYSE: PG) division Gillette has upped the blade barrier once again, and is now ready to offer a 5-blade razor dubbed "Fusion" besting Schick's 4-blad Quattro. Here's some stuff from Business Week:
Do men really need the new five-bladed Fusion, especially considering that Gillette is planning to sell Fusion blades at a stiff 30% premium over what it now charges for "the best a man can get?"
"MOST SIGNIFICANT LAUNCH." The overkill logic may seem compelling at first glance, but it's off-base on closer inspection. Despite its high price, the launch of Fusion is probably the closest thing to a slam-dunk in the intensely competitive consumer-products industry, where many new products never gain traction. It should be a huge boon to Procter & Gamble ), which is expected to wrap up its acquisition of Gillette this fall.
"Fusion will fuel a significant increase in Gillette earnings," predicts Gary Stibel, founder and CEO of New England Consulting Group in Westport, Conn. Stibel calls Fusion "the most significant launch ever at Gillette." One reason: For the first time, Gillette is rolling out two versions of its new razor at once -- a manual and battery-powered model. Plus, it's introducing a line of male-grooming products under the Fusion name, including a shave gel, which should boost a business that has long lagged behind.
Sure, these are rosy predictions. But consider Gillette's history. It last introduced a major new shaving system in 1998, when it rolled out Mach3, the world's first three-bladed razor. At the time, skeptics scoffed that men would never trade up to the triple-bladed wonder, especially since it was priced some 25% higher than SensorExcel, which had been Gillette's top system. But Mach3 had afterburners. Today, these razors -- including the battery-powered M3Power -- dominate the U.S. market, with a 34% share, even though they're the most expensive.
Overall, Business Week is pretty positive on the blade, and though you might not think there's demand for this the fact is simple: This is a company that damn-well knows how to launch a new product.
Now, the ever escalating blade-wars in the Gillette/Schick duopoly are eerily reminiscent of the Intel/AMD battles that have been going on for some years. Of course the question was never "Do we need a 4Ghz chip?". The answer is that if your competitor makes a 3.8, you better have a 4.
It is in this spirit that blogger Chad Dickerson put together the following chart to help him predict when a 6-blader would come out.
I decided to do some analysis, thinking that there must be a corollary to Moore’s Law, except for shaving...
Time elapsed between key blade-related technologies:
Single blade safety razor (1901) to the double-blade Trac II (1971): 70 years
Trac II (1971) to triple-blade Mach 3 (1998): 27 years
Mach 3 (1998) to quad-blade Schick Quattro (2003): 5 years (note: Schick was sued for patent infringement in the process)
Schick Quattro (2003) to quintuple-blade Gillette Fusion (2005): 2 years
My prediction: we’ll have six in late ‘06.