Back in mid-December, going by the videos and Facebook posts they released, it appeared that Steorn had received all of the parts they needed to build and ship dozens, if not hundreds, of OCubes. Rows of assembled OCubes were shown, sitting on a desk, just waiting to be packaged and shipped. Shaun McCarthy even personally offered to send one in December to a member of the online forum moletrap.co.uk, saying “Ping is not getting his till Jan? Jez […] You can have it next week ping, mail me and I will sort it for you, for collection. If not its 6 weeks after you pay.” That offer never panned out, but Shaun implied that he had OCubes on hand and ready to go.
But then, everyone who ordered one (myself included) was told that shipping would occur in six weeks. Why this delay, if Steorn already had completed OCubes and their packaging on hand back in December (as we saw in the Irish Times video)? What’s more, even now as those six weeks are coming to an end for the initial orders, the Orbo.com online store is quoting “shipping is six weeks from payment” for OCube orders. Why the same delay for new orders as well, even now that OCubes are no longer “out of stock”?
My initial guess was that Steorn ordered a small first batch of OCubes, which quickly sold out, and all later orders (such as my own) had to wait until the next batch of OCube parts came in. But then as the weeks went by, not a single user testimonial appeared from an OCube buyer. It didn’t seem to make sense… maybe that whole initial batch had gone to investors and others close to Steorn who just weren’t talking about it online?
Last week, when asked on Facebook when the OCubes would ship, Steorn responded, “we expect to have shipping clearance by the end of this week or early next week.” That’s a curious phrase, “shipping clearance” — as if they had the OCubes sitting around and just needed someone to give them the go-ahead to send them out.
It seems to me that there is one theory that pulls together all of these loose strands into a story that makes sense, and it’s a theory some readers won’t like. In the Irish Times video, filmed in mid-December, we see a table full of OCubes that Shaun McCarthy says are undergoing testing. The theory is that the initial batch of OCubes was in fact complete and ready to ship back in December, but has been undergoing testing, having power continuously or repeatedly drawn from them, for a full six weeks since then. This is why Shaun McCarthy thought he would offer early delivery of one last month, but also why none have actually shipped yet and so no user testimonials have appeared online. This would explain why Steorn’s order-takers are simply awaiting “clearance” from the higher-ups before they can start shipping out the OCubes, as well as why even new orders for the latest stock of OCubes will need to wait six more weeks from when the order is placed. It makes sense that if you’re offering a product that you believe will keep generating electricity indefinitely, and you’ve guaranteed it for 12 months, you’ll want to test them in use for at least a few weeks before you start sending them out, especially the first batches. This is your chance to catch any manufacturing defects that could cause you to scrap the initial run. This is also your chance to produce a failure rate a lot lower than the oft-quoted 25%.
If this theory is correct, it means that, given the six week test has been successful (and we haven’t yet seen any signs to indicate otherwise), every one of the OCubes that are about to ship will already have had power drawn from them for six weeks. Why is it that some readers won’t like this theory? Because it implies that Shaun McCarthy’s been telling the truth, that the OCubes are in fact about to ship, and that each of them work — for a month and a half, anyway. That’s more than some Steorn-skeptics will be able to stomach, and in fact it could all be wrong. Maybe Steorn will cancel shipment at the last moment, blaming the latest “delay” on Chinese manufacturing problems. Or maybe they will ship, and those buyers who use their OCube often enough to drain the lithium battery inside will find that no magical recharging takes place. A few of them will return their devices to Steorn and get a replacement, while Steorn claims overall success and brings in more investment money before quietly disappearing back into obscurity. There are still many ways this could play out. I do definitely agree with Shaun McCarthy on one important point though: this is a “self-resolving controversy.” One way or the other we’ll have our answer within the next few weeks.