Pine Store Community Pricing & Online Retail Stores

Lukasz Erecinski Dec 2. 2020 51

In 2021 you’ll see online retail Pine stores open in Europe, North America and possibly also worldwide at a later stage. Let me start by making one thing clear – the current Pine Store isn’t going away and the pricing in the Pine Store will remain unchanged. You’ll always be able to buy and pre-order your devices from pine64.com at a community-oriented price point. The retail stores will function alongside the Pine Store, not replace it, and offer a different customer experience. In this blog I’ll explain the rationale behind this strategy.  

PINE64 is not a business 

First things first – PINE64 is a community, not a business, and the Pine Store’s sole purpose is to serve this community by providing FOSS development-friendly hardware. Sales numbers and revenue are not, and never were, a driving force behind this project; making the next fun and often experimental device was and still is. Some devices, such as the original Pinebook, were even sold at a loss at times – simply because we knew people wanted one. Seriously.

Victims of our own success

Our strategy was always clear – work with developers to design a product, have partner projects and community developers work on the software and sell the device at a community-oriented price point. This approach has proven to be a great way forward for us, and one that, dare I say it, ultimately distinguished us from the other FOSS-vendors and manufacturers. That said, we’re slowly falling victim to our own success. News of our devices have reached people outside of our target audience, and enthusiast-grade products now frequently end up in the hands of non-technical customers. 

I have just been looking at the incoming support tickets these past weeks, and the majority of incoming queries are by people who are not comfortable troubleshooting software problems, have little Linux experience, and do not understand the nature of our devices. In a nutshell, they are general tech-consumers unfamiliar with the intricacies of Linux, FOSS communities and our goals.

Pine Store isn’t meant to deliver software support

The Pine Store’s support structure is designed to help with lost shipments, RMAs, part-replacement and other similar queries. However, much of today’s work actually consists of software troubleshooting, detailed walkthroughs and explaining basics of how the devices operate. In other words, the Pine Store support performs tasks that our community Wiki, forums, and chats are intended for. More frequently than before, support staff also encounters customers completely unaccustomed to troubleshooting hardware issues or participating in identifying the nature of experienced problems. For reference, the Pine Store receives in excess of 3000 support emails per month – this give you an idea of the scale and volume of such support tickets. 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame such customers. In their minds we’re no different to any other tech company, our products no different from their existing phones, laptops and PCs. It is a case of misaligned expectations and a fundamental conceptual misunderstanding.

A suitable solution  

The simplest solution would be to prevent users unacquainted with Linux, FOSS communities and our strategy from purchasing devices such as the PinePhone. We could, for instance, have people explicitly agree to using community resources for software support, declare an understanding of the community-driven nature of the project and acknowledge the work-in-progress nature of the device.

But this would be ultimately unfair – we believe that everyone should have a go at Linux, its community as well as devices such as the Pinebook Pro and PinePhone, which are a great way for people to get involved. 

So the resolution we settle on instead is offering a retail experience to those who require it. Let me explain exactly what this means; devices purchased from regional online retail stores will usually ship out within a few days of the purchase date, come with region-specific warranties (inc. RMA) and a guarantee of traditional retail customer support (e.g. software troubleshooting). There may be more benefits to buying from online retail stores too – that remains to be seen. 

This will come at a cost – the devices will be more expensive. Devices sold in online retail stores will need to make a profit to maintain this level of support, cover RMAs and put food on people’s tables. As some of you have already noticed, the Pine Store now lists both the community price – available exclusively in the Pine Store – as well as a retail price that will be used in online retail stores (see images below). 

Examples of listings including both the community and retail pricing.

Consider it a choice

Ultimately we wish to offer people a choice. The Pine Store, in its current form, isn’t going anytime soon and the current community-oriented price point will not change. If you are a Linux adept with an understanding of the intricacies of enthusiast-grade devices, then the Pine Store will be there for you just as it has these past five years. However, if you are a curious bystander or simply someone keen to learn and experiment with Linux, then the retail options may prove a better choice. 

More information about this topic will follow in January 2021, at which point we’ll explain in more detail how the relationship between the community-oriented Pine Store and online retail stores will function in practice.

51 responses to “Pine Store Community Pricing & Online Retail Stores”

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    Glad to see this kind of transparency of the real cost of support that is rolled into the final cost of a end user product. I feel the general public is far misinformed and that the actual cost is to often obfuscated by companies to hide their massive profit margins.

    Hi Guys,

    PLEASE keep up the great work. I just got my Manjaro Pinephone a week or two ago. It’s my FIRST smartphone because I love FOSS and hate Apple, MS, Alphabet and all telecoms. I’ve been using Xubuntu on my desktop and Android (without google as much as possible) on my tablet exclusively for so long I can’t remember. So I know nothing about smartphone use and am mediocre at Xubuntu (by the way, I’m OLD). But I enjoy and always have done my own troubleshooting and tinkering and this phone is a delight. Of course I’ve only known Debian (with (x)utraining wheels) so arch-linux commands present new a learning curve. All that said, I GET your well-written message and say again, thank you! And full speed ahead!

    Jeepers, I hope you do not consider 66 old and over the hill. As of this year, I have been building a database of secruity and other information on protecting personal data. Like you, I have spent tens of thousands on all the fancy frills and thrills of spending $1k on a phone. Now I wish to teach myself more and share with others how not to be hoodwinked by the companies you mention as well as the rest. I have the perfect size commercial building and the umpf to help people newer than me. Thank you for your insight.

    All of this sounds really great. The growth and variety of devices has increased considerably the past few years for Pine64.

    Hopefully this would bring another wave of users to the project.

    As always, great post!

    Renier Leenders says:

    Sounds great! But I wonder, as up to today there is severe shortage in parts due to congestion in the supply chain, which will have priority on delivery; the Pine Store or the retail store?

    rolf Kuck says:

    i propose setting the COMMUNITY price
    in the example to 200 $
    .
    $ 199.99 is a ridiculous invention of
    capitalist/consumerist marketing

    *

    Arthur D. says:

    I actually agree with Rolf, I like round numbers. It’s easier to read, understand, and do math. It might not seem like much, but it takes a bit longer. Among other reasons too.

    +1 cent from me. Round prices are FOSS way, .99 is the consumerist approach. Also, you may consider adding 3rd price, Donor price +30% of retail)

    Jose Ignacio Castresana says:

    As a user friend but not an expert in Linux I want to thank you for the post and for all the work done by the community.
    The degree of knowledge of each one for experimentation is so diverse that it is impossible to cover everything.
    I think it is perfectly understood.
    Cheer up
    Greetings to all

    Aleksei Shpakovskii says:

    Glad to see only positive comments so far! But I still wonder if it will stop people from buying a device for a “community” price and still demanding a “retail”-level support after that

    First of all, thanks a million for your great work! I was wondering if I could buy a community price phone and then when (not ‘if’, really it’s gonna happen) I discover I am not expert enough, could I then upgrade (I’d love to pay for support) to the retail package?
    Best regards!

    Could Pine64 sell laptops and phones to a consumer-facing company that handles customer support, marketing, customization? I’d love to see more people benefiting from open source technology! System76 sells Clevo laptops, maybe someone can sell Pine64 devices marketed to a more general audience? This is something to consider as the boards are only going to get faster and therefore become more appealing to the masses.

    This is correct. The same killswitch deactivates the LTE system (and all other cellular comms) and geolocation. The services share the same chip and therefore are activated or deactivated by the same circuit.

    Mówicie, że to nie jest biznes. Ale gdyby tak było to wystarczylo by wysłąc do polskich firm i pozwolić im sprzedawac za tego 1 dolara 😉 200$

    ale jakoś nie widac chęci by udostepnic sprzet w europie środkowej (ukraina, słowacja, bałkany)

    More money going towards community driven hardware and better support for the less technically inclined? Sounds good to me.

    I would recommend selling a “Retail support upgrade” though, and defining the limits of support well, so you don’t have giant commercial enterprises asking for enterprise grade support for something silly like $20-$100.

    i bought one but have not received it was about to buy a Purism when i saw this and it seemed so familiar i want kill switch’s on GPS and Cameras and Bluetooth i have been hacked to many times. i should have read more about this phone before i purchased because i did not know it is a phone you have to work on. i am not stupid and hope i just instructions then i have no worries

    Nate Vlien says:

    If you think that Purism and Pinephone are familiar, they are in the sense that you need to “work on” them. We both agree that ypu are not stupid and please read everything on the order page before pressing the button.

    ArchLinux says:

    I bought Pinebook Pro and I am happy about it. I am a huge fan of FOSS and I am aware of its importance very well.

    Big tech companies might give you the best support but they will never respect your privacy.

    Will the differentiation between retail price and community price include a longer hardware warranty than 30 days? Or will a longer warranty be coming to both sales channels soon? I’m a Linux enthusiast, so buying through the community channel totally suits me, but haven’t bought a Pinephone yet, the last factor holding me back being the 30 day hardware warranty.

    A jak radzi sobie fundacja mozilla, blender 3d itp?
    Jak oni to robią dajac darmowy produkt i udzielając wsparcia?

    Jak ja bym to zrobił. Jeśli bym kupił sprzęt w innym sklepie, bo było by taniej, bo blisko itp. To raczej nie pytałbym sprzedawcy o problemy techniczne ale bym przyszedł do Was! Tak, jeśli myślicie, że ludziki kupią sprzet gdzie indziej i beda zadawac głupie pytana w sklepie to możecie się przejechać.
    Trzeba społeczności ale też trzeba poprawić komunikację wewnątrz.
    nie może byc systemu kapelusza.
    mała grupka znających się na rzeczy a potem długo długo nic i dopiero rondo kapelusza z nobami. To nie jest wyhjście.

    The arguments relating to two sales channels do not at all convice me. IMHO it will be used by pine64.org to excuse their practically non existing customer service.

    gamerminstrel says:

    Are you sure you and I read the same arguments?

    They made it pretty clear that “if you want customer service, you gotta pay for customer service because we literally cannot afford to keep trying to give customer service as it is. We are not and never were supposed to be equipped for that.”

    I don’t mean to come across as if attacking you, but the mindset you display here is very entitled/misunderstanding, and precisely the kind of person this new customer service tier is meant for. They literally don’t make any money off their products, and suddenly they’re dealing with sales and customer service emails in a scale xxx times greater than their barebones support staff can handle (as far as I can tell, anyway). They’ve never provided support beyond basic shipping and billing issues and now they’re pretty clearly overwhelmed. Something’s gotta give.

    Lukasz Erecinski says:

    This is pretty much spot on.
    As for what LinAdmin wrote, the overwhelming majority of the 3k support tickets are answered and resolved to both parties satisfaction. I don’t have actual data to back it up, but I’d say 9/10 cases get resolved without any issues. It may take support days to get to a ticket – it sometimes takes over a week, especially during shipping months. People usually want an answer within a day or two and I feel this is usually where issues arise, with people getting frustrated.

    90% of cases resolved without any issues might result because the number of non handled cases is unreasonably high.

    I do have reasonable doubt that Mr. Erecinski could deliver robust data to prove his point.

    gamerminstrel says:

    You’re right, He probably cannot create graphs with metrics to prove his point because they don’t have the staff or the time to pull off what you’re demanding. They’re doing the best with what they can, which they have admitted is not enough for the amount of customer traffic they’re dealing with. Which is the point of this new price tier.

    Lukasz Erecinski says:

    Fun fact, yesterday when I saw LinAdmin’s comment and I generated some statistics to respond. Then someone pointed out to me LinAdmin’s behavior earlier this year on the forum and suggested to avoid responding (pointless to fuel the fire).

    In case you’re curious however, here are stats for month of November:
    2719 total tickets
    59 unresolved
    71 unanswered
    5 unread

    Regarding the unresolved cases – sometimes support forgets to click ‘resolved’. That said, surely some cases remained genuinely unresolved, not contesting this, just saying its probably closer to 2/3 of the number generated by stats.

    About the unanswered emails – most of these queries were either misplaced (should have been sent to sales or info) or disregarded for some other valid reason. Common example of such questions include “when will X or Y be back in stock?” and “can I buy X or Y locally?” and “no delivery option for the PinePhone on checkout?”.

    The 5 unread tickets are surely just a case of emails coming in overnight on Nov 30 and the stats system counted them as ‘unread’ as database clock hit midnight. Most if now all were surely responded to by now.

    59 of 2719 unresolved makes 2% and that is NOT peanuts and should not be ‘excused’ by “people forgot to click”…

    Lukasz Erecinski says:

    I offered an explanation, not and excuse. This is also how far I am willing to take this discussion with you.

    I’ve been researching the Pine Phone. Need a laptop as well…… elated to see I can purchase both.
    I HATE Bill psycho Gates & demonic MS/Google/Alphabet!!!!
    So, thank you for helping me to move on; out of sight – out of mind.
    My issue is going to be that I am 100% technically challenged and I WILL need help.

    SUGGESTION? Reach out to your community & pay an individual to post short 7-10 min videos which address/answer/demonstrate the top 15-20 redundant question/issues your Customer Support team sees.
    I use YouTube a lot when I want to learn something. Maybe post your videos on your site, Bitchute or anywhere BUT YouTube.

    Off topic but, how would I find a techie who would build a laptop for me? I just want solid hack proof security, 16″ screen, 1080 resolution, speed, and NO BILL GATES/MS/GOOGLE. Whish he would just die already & leave humanity alone. Can I purchase a basic HP laptop, have the MS software gutted & replaced with your newest? Ebay sells software, but I’m not sure which version to choose, and terrified I’d end up leaving myself a hackable mess.

    Cheers Guys,
    Ann

    I am more concerned about LOCALISATION !
    As I live in Vienna, Austria, EU, I would prefer laptops with GERMAN keyboard ( or at least the ability to buy replacement parts with german layout ! )

    Because of the new Apple M1 silicon, I would also be interested in ARM Hackintoshing with a PineBook !

    why german?
    I need normal programable keyboard. for example big chocolate (every keys are this same , space too) and small arduino, tensy etc. and everyone can defining keyboard himself.

    in my opinion this are the best klawiatura.wordpress.com/

    cyberbillp says:

    Knowing how people are…. They are going to buy online, then demand service in the store. I know you are going to hate this but I think online sales should be msrp and store sales at retail price. Otherwise people are going to do exactly what they always do: shop the specialty store, then go home and order online. Sad but true.

    problem jest raczej z oddawaniem, jeśli kupisz przez internet możesz bez konsekwencji zwrócić sprzęt (bad pixele, wiadomo że sa problemy z ekranami), może komuś akumulator słabo działa, albo klawiatura nie pasuje.

    cena mogła by być w sklepie niższa niż zamawianie przez internet bo opłata za przesyłke jest bandycka

    Spot on Bill. I have had many products in my retail commercial building. Example: I sell Miele Vacuums. A particular vacuum sells for $900. A German guy walks in my store and shows me an Ebay ad where the idiot online guy is selling the unit for $600. So he offered me $600 CASH and said Ihad to pay the retail sales tax of $42. After a few words I told him to get the hell out of my store. I have a mortgage, city, county and state taxes, utility bills and I have to give service on all the machines. Pine64 is a Manufacturer/Assembly operation. I have done all of it. Beyond them is the middlemen which there are none. Then there is a guy like me that meets all the criteria for sales and support. My investment into the product and knowledge of the inner workings of the computers and phones comes with a price. Working from the pleasure of your heart serving and helping others is not the best way. People are picky. People are victims. People whine and complain all the time about petty issues. Lukasz means well but the company, structured the way it is, needs to step it up to people willing to invest in his dream and also help customers achieve their dreams of internet freedom and privacy. That means a sufficient increase in the retail price as wellas retailer perks to encourage the sale. It also means that Pine64 should not compete with the retail establishments with lower prices. In fact, there is a great lawnmower company called Ventrac. They lose hundreds of sales every year because of a lack of dealers with sales and service staff. Many great companies around the world sell product and parts to retailers and it is the retailers that get all the headaches. But it is very difficult to have it both ways. Walmart and Amazon doen not manufacture anything. But, they do have systems that get the products to the end users quick with minimal issues. Thanks for your comment Bill.

    Is there an ETA on the Pinebook pro coming back into stock? I’d love to get my hands on one. I’m definitely ok with the community style edition and the ethos behind it.

    Understand the point, but I think people will find out that the price in the community store is cheaper, will order there instead of the retail store, and will still expect customer support.

    Idk about others, but I would like a simple online store with shipping from inside the EU — thus avoiding customs and VAT bs. I suppose the price would reflect the extra VAT, but I don’t really need anything else. I guess that also means returns and warranties, but it’s my understanding you handle those already.

    To expand on my previous post:
    Consider what happens when you buy an x86 mobo and cpu — there is no special software support expected, but you can still return (14 days in the EU) or get warranty replacement or refund for hardware problems.

    When is the pinebook will be available for sale. At this time is say that is out of stock and I’m really am dying to own one?

    mrrocketdog says:

    i for one fully understand and agree with a price increase in trade for “help”.
    being an android enthusiast and member of xda for the last 8 or 9 years , i absolutely understand “newbs”. the questions that are asked in the “help threads” are absolutely astonishing both in number and people new to android modding. running logs to chase bugs i am familiar with , but only on android.
    i myself an a newb to linux and am trying to learn some things thru “termux” on my htc M8. but i am a privacy and foss enthusiast/advocate.
    i so look forward to purchasing a pinephone. but when more stable to avoid being “that guy”. lol.
    my appreciation and gratitude goes out to the linux community as a whole for the time , work and knowledge being put forth to get devices as stable as possible.
    thank you for the continued effort being put forth. especially so newbs like me can benefit from the ideals that Pine is achieving.
    all the best for you and yours ,
    dave

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