Dying young

I have always noticed how manufacturers of consumer products, especially electronic and digital products such as computers, mobile phones and digital cameras, try to boost their sales by doing two things:

Periodically and strategically upgrading their products: Every year or season, they launch new products that perform better than those of the previous generation. These products may be faster or more powerful; they may have greater memory or storage capacity; they may be equipped with more new features. By maintaining the selling prices, the manufacturers try to give consumers the good feeling that they pay more or less the same amount of money but are getting products of better quality. They also try to avoid the undesirable situation of decreasing revenues as a result of the prices of their outdated products decreasing. The net outcome of such frequent and agressive "upgrading", which typically involves the seamless collaboration of hardware and software developers, is that after a certain during of time, say, two to three years, the performance of the "old" products becomes so "poor" that most consumers would be inclined to go for an upgrade. Even the few who refuse to play the catch-up game may eventually find that they have no choice, as the technical support for the old products will stop.

Making their products a fashion or status symbol: This is what most brand names try to do but of course some are more successful than others. Those who manage to make the consumers feel that it is cool or prestigious to be the proud owners of the latest or most powerful model of their mobile phones are the ones who earn hugh profits. Of course this strategy of linking products with fashion and status works the other way too. When consumers feel that being seen to be using an old or inferior model is a shame, there is pressure for them to seek an upgrade.

Like it or not, we are in an era when the lifespan of products is becoming shorter and shorter, and this may have nothing to do with performance at all. Think about how many old mobile phones you have at the bottom of your drawer despite still being in good working condition, and think about why you went for yet another one.

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