Vornado must have had a pretty rude awakening when the new Dyson fan was announced . They were humming along when, all of the sudden, a massive competitor--known for reshaping an entire industry--comes hurtling towards them on a collision course. And so naturally, Vornado is firing back  on some of the claims made by Dyson and making some performance claims of its own.
Their most concrete claims come down to numbers: The Vornado 660 fan costs a $90, compared to Dyson's $330. And while Dyson's reported figures of blowing 118 gallons of air per second sound pretty impressive, Vornado says their fan produces 283--basically hard enough to circulate air in the entire room, and allow you to raise your AC by eight degrees. (We're not sure how Vornado arrived at the Dyson figure quoted above, of 79, rather than 118.)
In terms of energy savings, that sounds like a pretty strong argument. But what's most surprising is that Dyson's claims of blowing without buffeting might not amount to much, if you're talking about a big, expensive fan. Here's video of the Vornado 660 in action, and it looks pretty damn smooth:
But all of this earnest counterpunching by Vornado also seems to miss the point entirely. Exhibit A would be simply how the fans look, side by side.
Moreover, Dyson, to use an old saw, has never been about selling the steak. They sell the sizzle. When vacuum cleaners became largely commoditized, they waded in and simply changed the subject from sucking power to "losing suction." They're not selling a vacuum cleaner or a fan--they're selling the story behind them, and the story of their technical innovations. And Dyson products, even when they don't necessarily out-perform their competitors, wear that story in their very design.
Does that justify a nearly 400% premium (or, for that matter, the price premium its vacuums still command, of upwards of 200%)? If you don't think so, then you're probably not in Dyson's market. What they're after, I would guess, is the type of person who'd never imagine letting an ugly old room fan sit out in the open--who'd readily drop $200 at the MoMA Design Store or Conran Shop for something that looks beautiful, performance be damned.
These probably aren't Vornado's customers. But the real challenge for Vornado is that Dyson--just like Apple--has a way of changing consumer expectations, and reshaping its competitor's design as a result.
UPDATE: Dyson has emailed with this response:
Dyson calculates airflow in accordance with recognized international desk fan standards (International Electrotechnical Commission or IEC). We are certain that our performance claims for the Dyson Air Multiplier fan are accurate, correct and truly reflect the user experience. We believe Vornado is mistaken and will be in touch with them discuss their accusations in more detail.
Zing! Look, guys: There's only one way to settle this .
UPDATE 2: Vornado notes that they got the 79 gallons per second figure from Dyson marketing materials. (Though these seem to conflict with figures that we found in the press release.)