BTCGuild, currently the second largest mining pool with 17% of the network hashpower, started selling ASICMiner’s USB Block Erupter mining devices, but announced that it sold out their 1000 units within 40 minutes of opening up shop.
ASICMiner is the Bitcoin economy’s largest mining company, and is responsible for 25% of the Bitcoin network with a market capitalization of 1.44 million BTC (~$135 million USD). It differs from other mainstream mining companies, including Butterfly Labs, Avalon and even new entrants like KnCMiner in that, rather than only selling devices, the company predominantly mines its own hardware and raised its startup capital by selling shares. The company first launched with an IPO on the now-defunct Global Bitcoin Stock Exchange (GLBSE) in August 2012, and shares sold out within hours. It then immediately set to work on developing application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) specially designed for Bitcoin mining; although such chips will never be useful for anything but making SHA256 computations and as scrap metal, they would be ten to fifty times faster than anything else that was available at the time.
The company’s first finished ASICs turned on in February, shortly after Avalon shipped their own, but quickly overtook Avalon due to shipping delays. The conjectures of the potential power of ASICs proved to be correct; the first Avalon device to make its way to a consumer paid for itself within nine days, and ASICMiner’s ASICs were similarly successful. A few months later, due to a combination of its success in manufacturing the devices and the sudden rise in the Bitcoin price, the company realized that it had far more money than it had anticipated, and would not have the space to mine all the devices that it could produce in house; thus, ASICMiner’s first actual products, the ASICMiner Block Erupter USB and ASICMiner Block Erupter Blade, were born.
The company is also notable for having no online presence beyond a few threads on the Bitcointalk forum; it has been jokingly (although falsely) described as “the world’s first hundred-million dollar company without a website”. This was not much of a problem at first, as the Bitcoin investment community was essentially based on the Bitcointalk forum in 2012. Now, however, large numbers of people are interested in buying ASICMiner hardware but are turned off by the fact that the only way to by them at first was through forum-based auctions, and so the move to selling through a normal website, at least through third-party resellers, is very welcome.
Those interested in buying ASICs should be careful to shop around for the best deals; ASICMiner’s Block Erupter USB, for example, provides 336 MH/s for 1 BTC – paying for itself in 250 days if network hashpower remains at the 150 TH/s level that it is today. More likely, network hashpower will be as high as 500 TH/s by September, so it is quite likely that buyers will not even recoup half of their costs. ASICMiner shares, offering 0.4-1% dividends per week, may be a better bet, as shares imply partial ownership of future ASICMiner technology as well. KnCMiner offers mining devices priced as low as 1 GH/s for $19, although they will not be shipping until at least September.