The potentially explosive Galaxy Note 7 has Samsung scrambling. A flaw in the battery subsystem allows it to overheat and catch fire, prompting a massive recall and dire warnings about charging on planes and public transporation.
Complicating the issue is the ever-increasing number of stock keeping units (SKUs). Tech companies have a love affair with the Gillette razor blade theory of replacement marketing. Here, you sell a device (safety razor) at a low price, and make a profit on replacement blades. This is how today's printer business works; profits come from over-priced inks.
Razor blade folks have restructured the game by making the razor itself something that needs replacing as well. This leads to more SKUs and some confusion. Why does Gillette need to market so many different kinds of razors and blades?
It's the "clog the shelves" theory of marketing. Take up more space on the shelves, and you will look like the better product. The benefit is purely psychological.
After Steve Jobs left Apple the first time, the company fell prey to this dilemma. There were all sorts of computers you could buy, resulting in an explosion of SKUs and, eventually, Apple-branded stores.
Generally, the more important reason for more SKUs is to prevent standardization becoming prevalent. Too much standardization prevents a company from gouging its customers.
Go to Amazon and look up "Samsung replacement battery," and then wade through page after page of different batteries. Why can't the company develop three or four basic form factors for batteries and build phone designs around these standard batteries? Instead, there are hundreds of options.
Apple is notorious for this practice, to the point where people joke about it. And, to make sure nobody clones the proprietary gear, you patent it. Yes, you switch pin 6 with pin 5, dream up some rationale for the change then PATENT PENDING. This should be illegal, and anyone doing it should be tarred and feathered. The Patent Office is no help; it will gladly accept your fees.
Would Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 phone be exploding if the innards had a standard battery of some sort? Like the one in the Note 4? It's not as if battery technology has actually improved since its release.
Of course, we have to mention that the Note 7 has a non-removable proprietary battery, making the recall much more than a battery swap. The irony! The idea of a non-removable battery that requires a complete phone replacement is like getting a new car because you had a flat tire driving off the lot.
This is a major black eye for Samsung as customers are getting hurt. There is really no reason this had to happen except for bad practices employed by product developers trying to maximize profits by defining the customer as a sucker. Standardize nothing. Everything is proprietary, so let's let the gouging begin. You now see the results.