The Bottom Line: Plan Obsolescence

November 15, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor
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Technology hounds were hit with more than a few new temptations recently, and there’s no doubt that many more are on the way. With the holidays fast approaching, both hardware and software moguls want to grab their share of the market—and disposable income. But whether they like it or not, only buyers with an unlimited wallet size can afford to own all the latest and greatest gadgets.

Take the mini iPad, for example. Even TV viewers with remote controls permanently in hand must admit that the rendition of “Chopsticks” featuring both the full-size iPad and the mini is an entertaining pause causer that gets viewers to stop and listen for a few seconds. Intrigued by a song that brings back memories of Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia dancing across a life-size keyboard in the movie “Big,” viewers are likely to think small(er) and believe that a smaller iPad could serve a great purpose in their lives.

Not to be outdone, Microsoft also chose the upcoming season of giving to introduce its newest product line. Appealing to what appears to be the college crowd—a generation already hooked on smartphones—the commercial shows kids, students and young professionals marching to its tune with seemingly more versatile tablets in hand. Touch screen technology coupled with laptop typing ease certainly does look attractive. And increased computing speed ... well, who doesn’t need that?

E-reader creators want their share of the market as well and have chosen an interesting business model. First, hook consumers on the idea of a library worth of books that can be held in two hands. Too large? Shrink the size. Not enough features? Offer models with near-desktop computer capabilities. Too expensive? Create scaled-down models at more affordable prices.

But as the holiday season begins and temptations grow, take a moment to plan obsolescence. Bask in the moment of joy of owning the latest technology. Play “Chopsticks” or click your newest techno-treasure to a marching drum. Then make it a New Year’s resolution to never again say, “But I just bought the latest model,” and accept that as the New Year’s ball drops in Times Square so too does the latest-and-greatestness of your software/computer/tablet/smartphone. It’s OK, because you’ve planned for it. We’ve said it’s the way of the world for a long time, but it’s time to accept it.

Few consumers—depending on the size of the bank account—can stay on top of all technology. Accept this. Every few years, buy what serves your purposes and, if the budget allows, a few nice-to-haves, and then move on. Despite the frustration, the bottom line is that a large consumer base that hungers for new capabilities is a good thing. It drives creativity; it drives production; it drives the economy ... just plan for obsolescence before it drives you nuts.

How long is it between major computer buys in your household? Are the computers in your home more up-to-date than those at your office? How do you plan for your technologies’ obsolescence?

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