Quoted from PanzerFreak:
Good points. It seems like the Spike systems biggest benefit to Stern is lower manufacturing costs versus the old system. What sucks is pricing is still high and continues to go up while we see changes like the redesigned back box and lock mech, removal of service rails / traditional lock down bar on pro's, less mechanical features being put into games, and the relocation of the power button. All of these changes are to save a few bucks here and there on each game but when multiplied over hundreds of games I'm sure the number adds up in a big way.
I lifted my KISS PF and was disappointed with the new, less-than-great service rails (see photo). The only possible benefit is the new rails take up less space inside the cabinet. Since the cabinet is nearly empty now, that's not a big benefit The original rails made it so easy to clean/service the flippers and bottom half of the PF. Now it's more cumbersome. Cost savings? Who knows?
The on/off was also moved to save cost. The power supply, power cord and switch use the same metal box shielding located in the BB. This apparently reduces UL certification testing cost. Since on/off has been outside the BB for generations, UL certification is obviously possible. Anyone who thinks that the new design required the on/off be located in the BB is misinformed.
None of us know what Stern's margins are. Apple's margins are a hair shy of 40%. 30-40% profit margins are unheard of in the very competitive consumer electronics business. DELL is lucky if they make 5-10% when they sell a laptop/PC.
I would guess that Stern's margins are improving. Until they get some real competition, it's unlikely they kick the cash back to us. Stern's core competency is manufacturing and they are currently doing it better than anyone else (by a lot).
KISS Premium definitely looks "cheaper" than the AC/DC Premium in my lineup. For all the bitching, KISS is still a nice looking, fun pin for ~6k.