Yesterday morning, iRobot Corporation (NASDAQ:IRBT) piqued my interest with a teaser email promising a new robot announcement today. So naturally, I took a little time to speculate what it could be before finally landing on a likely refresh of its line of Scooba hard-floor-scrubbing bots.
And wouldn't you know it, shares of iRobot have jumped around 8% so far today following the company's reveal of the Scooba 450. At just over 14 inches wide, the Scooba 450 will "wash away up to 99.3% of bacteria," iRobot promises, "[getting] down and dirty so you don't have to."
But the Scooba 450 also comes with a steep $599 price tag, which means it could be tough to convince able-bodied consumers on the fence to ditch their existing manual methods. Still, it's worth noting that the adorable 3-year-old, 6.5-inch-wide, $279 Scooba 230 still remains an option for those who need a more compact bot.
With this in mind, iRobot also wasted no time completely removing the 450's comparably sized predecessor, the $499 Scooba 390, from its website.
But can you blame them? Higher margins aside, iRobot says the 450 is up to three times more effective than previous Scooba models -- a feat achieved largely thanks to its new three-stage process, which involves first sweeping and pre-soaking floors, then scrubbing, and finishing with a final squeegee to pick up any remaining mess. In addition, it also has two available cleaning options, including a 40-minute cycle for up to 300 square feet and a 20-minute cycle for up to 150 square feet.
If you're having trouble visualizing the process, here's a nice little promo video from iRobot to help:
And for the millions of folks who already own and love a Roomba vacuum, iRobot made sure the Scooba 450 remains compatible with all previous Roomba Virtual Wall accessories to keep them each in their proper place.
Finally, unlike the recently launched Roomba 880, the new Scooba is sticking to using brushes. Why? According to iRobot, the brushes simply proved more effective at scrubbing tough grime from hard surfaces.
In the end, while it may not represent a stunning new robot category some were hoping for, the Scooba 450 is a solid incremental offering that should help bolster iRobot's fast-growing Home Robot segment.
Remember, while iRobot's overall revenue fell by around 1.5% year over year in the most recent quarter -- primarily thanks to the impact of a $7.7 million return accrual rate adjustment in Q3 last year -- floor-care robot shipments actually grew 27% over the same period. If the new Scooba can do anything to help maintain that momentum, I think patient iRobot shareholders will be happy they held on.