Would it be the right idea to build in a DAC DAC and USB/SPDIF digital input options? The biggest question these days about bundling a DAC into a preamp seems to be the speed at which DACs are coming out and people change them up. If the system isn't built modularly such that a DAC can be swapped out easily, even a top-shelf DAC today built in can end up a waste of back panel connector space and unused with tomorrow's newest wonder DAC. My opinion, as little as it matters, is with the quality to value ratio the DAC DAC and the USB converter have, I think packing them into the case (along with the associated shortening/optimizing of the signal paths even further than today's separate boxed solutions) is a good idea, even if at some point later a customer relegates the DAC section to being a "backup DAC" to whatever newest external DAC gets connected to the preamp.
With digital input capability, two or three analog inputs would probably be enough.
Would sound quality suffer if all the analog inputs/outputs were balanced, with the option of adding RCA-XLR adapters rather than SE/RCA I/O - this seems to be the standard setup for your existing gear?
I think having three sets of outputs standard would be a differentiating feature; good for biamp/triamp setups as well as swarms of subs, something that preamps with at most two outputs fall short on. Again, best sound quality going all balanced with adapters as needed?
I think in a dedicated, two-channel preamp, I agree with others that a quality remote is a good thing; power/standby, mute, volume controls, source select would be nice but maybe unnecessary considering alternate analog sources are generally devices one has to get out of the chair to set up and use (reel-to-reel, vinyl, even "old fashoned" cd players; anything using physical media really).
I'm thinking something fairly simple (basic analog in/out, minimal number of inputs and outputs) coming in around $1000 as a solid sonic bang for the buck feels about right price-wise. If you could pack along top-shelf digital input/output and a balanced circuit design for under $2K I think you could turn some heads. I guess pricing depends on what your vision for your company really is and what you want people to see you as - do you want DAC to trade punches with value leaders at the $10K and under total system crowd (thinking Odyssey here on AC as an example), or do you want to aim more at the high end of the market?