Routers have never been a Bosch specialty. The firm’s core business was –from 1889 on- the automotive industry, it started with ignition magnetos and it invented the fuel injection. There was an assortment of starter motors, dynamos, wiper motors and car electronics as well. A good Bosch company history is available at Wikipedia.
Electric tools were also made in the German Leinfelden Works, but these had an emphasis on garage use and car assembly lines. So there were metal drills, screwdrivers and a vast range of grinders, but no woodworking tools. From early on, there was close cooperation with the Swiss firm Scintilla, which also made magnetos. Lindbergh’s "Spirit of St.Louis" plane used a Scintilla magneto. Scintilla had a tool factory as well and Bosch decided to outsource the manufacturing of most tool models to Switzerland. But some heavy drill and specialty grinder models kept being made or at least were assembled in Leinfelden, recognisable by "Made in Germany". Others bore the name of the Soleure-based Scintilla firm. There was also some license manufacturing of a few Bosch grinder models in Romania in the late 80s.
In order to make a good start in the woodworking world, Bosch cooperated with the Karl M. Reich machine and tool factory in Nürtingen. Reich specialised in woodworking tools and was famous for its Holz Her brand. A large and a small planer, a large metal and a smaller nylon model belt sander and some circular saw models were ordered from Reich and were virtually unchanged Holz Her models, rendered in blue and hammerite silver, with Bosch stickers and type plates fixed on them. As a return favor, Reich also ordered tools from the Bosch/Scintilla setup, like drills, orbital sanders and DIY jig saws. The electric jig saw was a "Bosch invention"; one of the firm’s employees fixed a scroll saw blade to his wife’s pedal driven sewing machine to make fine wood parts and sold the idea to Bosch. Bosch saw its potential, but since this tool type didn’t fit in the garage tool core business, they asked Scintilla to develop the idea into an electric tool, which was introduced in 1947. Although Scintilla made both a blue Bosch professional grade jig saw and a green DIY line, Holz Her gained a license to build their own and took on its own professional jig saw development. Only a DIY model was ordered from Scintilla by Holz Her. Also strange was the fact that Holz Her made a router model, but Bosch never ordered a blue livery of it.
Instead, Bosch did its own router experiments. For professional use, there was a vast range of German competing brands and assortments (Elu, Scheer, Mafell, Striffler, Haffner) so, to mingle with these long time experts as a freshman, Bosch considered a whole new tool development on its own accord a high risk. It would take another 20 years before there would be a blue Bosch router.
In the early 80s, routers were discovered by DIY enthusiasts with a bit more cash to spend, and many tools brands catered for this new demand with small light models, which could not be too expensive. Elu and AEG outsourced the making of a small router model to Perles from Switzerland, the result of which were the MOF 96 and its similiar sister OF500. Bosch decided it could also have a go, since the DIY market proved profitable for many tool brands. The DIY-market was also a bit more forgiving than the demanding professionals were, so router experiments in the DIY-niche were less of a risk to the Bosch brand reputation. Bosch looked closely at the way Metabo tackled this challenge; they made a router base with a standard 43 mm Euro collar to fit a motor that was already in the tool catalogue. Metabo even had a drill model with such a 43 mm collar at the motor commutator hind axle end. A DIY owner of such a drill only had to purchase the router base to profit from this extra function. Furthermore, should the marketing of the router base flop, then the motors could still be sold as grinder units and stay in the catalogue. Bosch copied the Metabo tactic and used one of its existing straight die grinder models as a power base for its own Euro collar router base. This small model 1204 grinder was a blue professional model, but its input power was only 320 Watt. This cylindrical motor type was in use in the 1570-series jig saws and a range of small grinders. Bosch knew that, as a router, it would never be an alternative for professionals. 320 Watts are even meager for a laminate trimmer, but for DIY router jobs, Bosch considered 320 Watts acceptable. Therefore (although the motor itself still had blue quality) the first Bosch router was green from the start. It was called POF 50; Bosch rather advertised its 50 mm plunge depth than its small motor. With the upgrade in power of the blue straight grinder designs, the Bosch DIY POF-router was upgraded simultaneously. The POF50 was cranked up with a 500 Watt motor and with further upgrades to 550 and 600 Watts, the power figure became serious enough for the model to be named after (thus POF 550 and POF 600).
Bosch was also active in the USA; already from 1909 on. US-made Bosch magnetos were distributed under the name "American Bosch". Bosch was always a firm with a large number of cooperations and acquisitions, and Bosch power tools adapted to US demands and safety standards were also made. There were Bosch factories in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Kentucky.
The influence of the American Bosch factories can be noticed in the designs of the first large Bosch routers. Demand was greater in the US than in Europe; since the US has a lot of wood building and Europe has an emphasis on brick. With so many German competitors there and with the US being such a large market, sales opportunities for Bosch routers would be better in the US. So the GOF and more modern DIY POF series contain many American characteristics and details. The GBS100A(E) belt sander and the blue reciprocal saw line are also of a mainly US-oriented design. Finally, the GMF 1400 CE router can’t be more "American" than a traditional US-type router looks on average.
I know the GOF1300ACE and the GBS100A from own experience, and i find both of them nothing special. The same quality can be had from DeWalt (Black & Decker) or Ryobi or Makita or Hitachi, if not better. Since the blue Bosch routers are designs ranging from 15 years back up to the present, it can be said that they are subject to modern engineering and production techniques. That means that, within certain product ranges (like routers from 900 to 1300 Watts or from 1600 to 2200 Watts), all tools from virtually all brands are very much the same when it comes to size, power, features, use of materials and the way they are put together. Were it not for some recognisable details and colours, Bosch routers might as well be made by Felisatti, Perles, Casals, Peugeot, Ryobi or Shenzhen Zhuzou. Product differences nowadays tend to be more and more a thing of brand emotions and overrated details than real advantages in durability and capacities.
This was part one.