The storm broke over Meraki Networks change in pricing and services over the weekend, but skies seem to be clearing a bit: I wrote yesterday about how the mesh networking firm was raising its prices for its node for networks that required user logins and wanted to charge users for the service, and how many community networks were up in arms because of a lack of notification. I was surprised by it all because Meraki has had a strong community focus. According to Sanjit Biswas, the head and a founder, a fair amount of miscommunication led to the ire expressed. They've spoken to many of the networkers involved, and things are calming down.
Biswas said this afternoon that although the firm had called about 850 customers before they pushed new material to the Web site on a tiered pricing structure and a transition plan for existing networks that they clearly missed some people who then felt that they were being told of a fait accompli. The forums exploded a bit, and Meraki didn't respond there initially. "It's really our fault for not posting more heavily on the forum," Biswas said. He's trying to remedy that now. The Web site soft launch was intended to promote discussion which Biswas said they would use to forge the final plan; it just came a little faster and more intensely than they expected.
The new pricing structure for Meraki leaves the $50 indoor and $100 outdoor nodes for Standard edition networks only, which have no fees for access, and have no user accounts. An ad bar is required. Biswas said that they didn't understand how much many of these networks rely on local sponsorship, often in-kind splash screen advertising, and they'll modify the the Standard edition to allow multiple splash screens, as well as sponsorship messages in the ad bar that will appear in Web pages. They're also adding back more extensive whitelisting, which allows a device without a Web browser to connect to a network without viewing a splash page.
The Pro edition, which features $150 indoor and $200 routers and includes six months of email support, had a mistake in its description, which was part of what angered many forum posters. Biswas said that displaying advertising that Meraki collected revenue from would be an option not a requirement for Pro users. That takes a bit of the sting out there, I'd imagine. Biswas said that until they have a sense of volume and behavior, Meraki doesn't want to promise a revenue share as they don't know how much or in what form they can offer it.
This fix helps differentiate the Standard and Pro edition better, clearing up a point of confusion on my part: Standard is ad-subsidized; Pro is full support, full cost.
What Meraki calls Legacy networks, which use nodes sold before the changes go into effect, will have more options for how they proceed, too, instead of what was previously a choice to add new Pro nodes or convert the entire network to Pro. They're working with individual networks on these issues. "Existing customers who bought stuff from us don't have to change," Biswas said.
Biswas had earlier told me via email that part of the issue with raising price had to do with resellers, who they expect to rely on more in the future for sales. At $50, there wasn't enough money in the system for a retailer to package a system with support or discount nodes for volume. At the higher price, where Meraki expects integrators and resellers to include support, there's a lot more flexibility. Biswas said that he expects to see Meraki Pro edition nodes sold below $150 on a one-off basis by retail partners within a few months, as well as resold by network builders. Outside the U.S., he said, channel sales become particularly important. "There's something to be said about buying in Brazil from a Brazilian reseller," he said.
Biswas noted that in the future, they'd try to communicate changes in advance of those changes, so that their customers didn't view updates as the final word before that was the case. "Lesson learned," he said.