Razer CEO wants annual Blade laptop refreshes, isn't worried about price complaints

Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan is charismatic, clearly very smart and passionate -- not a bad combination considering he's the face and voice of a major international hardware manufacturer. Razer's latest, the second-generation Blade gaming laptop, launches this week for the whopping price of $2,500, and we spoke with Min-Liang about just that. "This," he said, referencing the second-generation Blade's slim power brick, "costs seven times this," he added, pointing to a competitor's power supply. "Do we have to do this? Probably not." And that's emblematic of Razer's whole approach to the Razer Blade, as a line of gaming computers. Expensive? Yes, very. But significantly nicer and more detailed that its less expensive competition? Also yes. Also very.

As our own Sean Buckley put it in our review of their latest gaming laptop, "the Blade is a gorgeous machine." It's true -- at just 0.88 inches tall and 6.6 pounds, the new Blade is remarkably thin and light for a 17-inch laptop with enough juice under the hood to sate even the most spec-obsessed of PC gamers. But are enough gamers out there willing to trade a lower price tag for a better-looking machine? Razer and its CEO certainly think so, and they've got numbers from the first, more expensive Blade to prove it. "The original Blade was at $2,799. Back then, it was pricey, but we've been surprised at the amount of demand for that. We thought we were gonna sell out in 30 days -- we had 30 days' stock. But we sold out in 30 minutes for the first batch," he said. And, as far as pre-order numbers go for the second version, Min-Liang's confident they mean good things for the future of the Blade.

"We're getting hammered with the pre-orders for the new Razer Blade. Right now, we'll be able to ship most of the orders by September 30, fingers crossed. But we're trying to bring in as many units as possible," he excitedly explained. Min-Liang isn't too worried about offending first-gen buyers, either -- the first Razer Blade launched in early 2012 for just shy of $2,800. Less than 10 months later, the second-gen Blade is launching for $300 less with a significantly upgraded graphics card. Sure, first-gen adopters get a $500 discount on the new Blade, but the sting of early adoption is especially rough in such an instance.

"The early adopters really helped us get to this point, so they're getting it for $1,999, which is a great deal for them, for this laptop. But, to us, without them we would never have gotten to this point. And likewise, I hope that if this does well, we can continue to reward our early adopters, at least as a gesture," he explained. He understands the potential for frustration, but he also says it's not worth focusing on the vocal minority over the company's goals. "That's one of those things where some guys will say, 'Hey, I was an early adopter, I feel a bit screwed over,'" he said. "We design and market our stuff pretty much how we want to be treated ourselves. This is a product I wanted for myself -- I'll be candid. I travel a lot, I play games everywhere. So that's pretty much the philosophy."

When asked whether Razer will continue iterating on the Blade on an annual basis, Min-Liang was a bit more careful with his words. "I hope so," he said. "I think it all depends on whether we can sustain it."

Still, annualization seems inevitable. Razer's built a great product that will unfortunately require some OEM additions to keep it consistently fresh -- aside from basic upgrades, the Blade isn't really meant for easy consumer upgrading. That said, the second-gen model should more than suffice most gamers for the next few years.

Beyond the success his company's seen with gaming peripherals and, now, laptops, Min-Liang sees other prospects in Razer's future. "We have probably one of the largest in-house -- and most talented -- system design teams in the world right now ... we're not just gonna put them to work on just one product," he said in response to questions about a living room-designed PC, with an eye toward Steam's newly released Big Picture Mode. "Like any Razer product, it's ready when it's ready -- we've had products that were killed literally 24 hours before launch. It's ready when it's ready, but given that we have one of the world's largest teams, we like to work them hard too."