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On May 4th, Friedcat, CEO of ASICMiner, announced the worlds first ASIC USB bitcoin miner: operating at 300 MH/s for 1.99 BTC. As he refined the hardware, he was able to increase performance to 336 MH/s before shipping in early June. The price was then lowered to 0.89 BTC on June 25th for bulk orders over 1,000 units. An organizer of previous bulk orders has announced an 8 day window to place orders for 0.175 BTC each. This order is only open to previous customersand will entail 0.1 BTC going towards the USB miners while 0.075 BTC is paid towards management and shipping fees. There is some risk involved in this order since it will not be using an escrow service, unlike previous arrangements. Since the announcement yesterday 500 units of the 1,000 unit minimum have already been ordered so it seems likely that the 1,000 unit minimum will quickly be filled.
ASICMiner’s USB miners were quickly adopted by hobbyists who were interested in bitcoin mining and wanted to replace their outdated graphics cards, or set up small ASIC mining farms. While the ROI on these units was always questionable due to the rapidly increasing difficulty of the network, many early adopters are quickly realizing losses on these units. Miners who bought the first round of ASIC USBs have earned around 0.57 BTC to date, leaving 1.4135 BTC to break-even. Considering that these can now be acquired for 0.175 BTC that leaves them at around 1.24 BTC loss per unit over the two months. Miners that acquired the second round units at the end of June could have expected to realize about 0.30 BTC in gains, leaving 0.59 BTC remaining until break even and 0.41 BTC net loss given the pricing of the new units.
It is likely that further price reductions will not be as dramatic, since these per unit costs are approaching manufacturing costs and are not commanding the dramatically high margins that we have seen in the past. It is possible that ASICMiner is seeing increased pressure on USB miner sales with K1 ASIC miners entering the market in the next few days. Alternatively, ASICMiner could be trying to clear out inventory before announcing a next generation of ASIC chip. Friedcat, CEO of ASICMiner, has hinted towards a next generation of chips when he halted 10 GH/s blade sales in July. Additionally, there are several manufacturers such as Bitfury and KNC that are offering 55nm ASIC chips, significantly more advanced than ASICMiner’s 110nm process. ASICMiner will have to continue to innovate to maintain it’s leadership position in ASIC development as increasingly sophisticated challengers are weeks away from shipping.