Have you ever noticed how typewriters and televisions from the 1950s don’t look much different from those of the 1970s? The knobs and keys are still basically in the same place, the devices are roughly the same size and the functions are the same.
Now, compare a computer from the 1990s with one from today. The differences are massive. Technological innovation has sped up rapidly over the past few decades.
In the present tech world, success is measured by product features such as efficiency, size and speed, and in order to stay competitive, companies believe they have to constantly upgrade their products. If you go through MacRumour Buyer’s Guide, you’ll observe that it advises its customers to carefully consider not buying an Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display due to the fact that it’s approaching the end of its cycle – regardless of the fact that the newest version was released less than 6 months ago. This is the problem with the technology upgrade culture.
This is a device that costs thousands of dollars – yet users can only expect it to stay supported and relevant for less than a year.
Other industries develop products on the basis of need, however technology works on a totally different schedule – one that’s hurting both technology companies and consumers – technology upgrade. Constant technology upgrade.
How the upgrade culture hurts product quality
Although new tech products may come swiftly and thick, they are not built to last. The greatest and latest smartphone will rarely survive past the end of its two-year contract.
This obviously hurts the consumer – who is forced into an expensive technology upgrade – but it also hurts the product as well as its ecosystem, due to the fact that neither has a chance to mature. Although the new iPhone 6s may have amazing features such as a pressure-sensitive touchscreen, if the battery does not last the day, the device is not so useful.
An amazing battery is something that comes with a device built for longevity. Do you remember the Nokia 3310? This phone could not only last for days without charging, but it could also endure being dropped over and over again. Good luck finding a phone today with the same durability.
Beyond durability and battery power, our technology upgrade obsession has resulted in serious effects for some once-praised technologies and companies. Take for example, the Blackberry. When it was launched it was swiftly adopted for personal, business and government use.
However, as smartphones grew in popularity, the functionality of the Blackberry was overshadowed by the market’s thirst for myriad accessories and applications. Consumers looked for better and newer whistles and bells, and Blackberry’s popularity declined substantially.
Do we have any alternatives?
Rather than continuously upgrading, maybe it’s time for companies to focus on core competencies. Managing fewer technologies reduces the cost of goods sold and increases the product attributes. Consumers will benefit if we pack more expertise into each product.
By moving away from our technology upgrade culture, we’ll build cheaper, better and simpler products.