Thursday, 19 October 2017

Slowing pace of technology

My gadgets are lasting longer. But their value for money is actually increasing over time.

Last month, my iPhone 6 plus became 3 generations old, but I don’t yet feel the need to upgrade it. It’s only when it becomes 4 generations old with the release of the iPhone X that I’ll be tempted to upgrade. Rather than this being an example of catastrophically bad product management (who in their right minds makes their latest 8th gen product irrelevant in a matter of months?), I think this actually demonstrates impressive technological longevity.

It’s not just Apple being generous with my wallet; other companies are following the same model. I play games on my Xbox One, even though as of last month it was 3 generations old.

Whilst the rate of technology progress has not slowed, the rate of obsolescence has slowed, at least for these two devices. My phone runs iOS 11, and therefore continues to run all the apps (just don’t get me started on catastrophic battery performance). My Xbox One will run all the games that are released for Xbox One X, thanks to Microsoft’s Play Anywhere programme.

Hardware continues to follow Moore’s Law and improve, but I no longer need to buy new hardware to benefit from improvements. All my apps continue to be updated, and new functionality added, almost always for free. Longevity is assured by software. The rate of compelling improvements has not slowed, yet the cost has become cheaper.

This has always been a characteristic of other industries, such as TV. Every so often, there are jumps in technology with backwards incompatibility, such as the conversion from analogue to digital. But for the main part, traditional broadcasters are very much preoccupied with ensuring that no viewer is left behind.

This accounts for the slow pace of change in the industry. If you look at any EPG listing on any service, the number of SD channels far outnumber the HD channels. You can see repeats of 4:3 programming with ugly black bars on either side. Change is evolutionary because there is such a large consumer base to keep happy. Change is evolutionary because there are technology and content assets that need to be “sweated”. Value for money must be maintained for longer.

This is a lesson being learned and improved upon by Apple and Microsoft. Just as I’m not being forced to upgrade to a 4k TV otherwise my viewing will be cut off, I’m not being forced to upgrade to an iPhone X nor an Xbox One X. But if I do upgrade both X-devices, I can be confident that the devices will last longer, and due to better software, do more, as time progresses. Value for money will increase over time.  My wallet thanks you.

1 comment:

  1. I guess I see this, but I see it also from another point of view - when refresh rates become lower, the Apple's and Microsoft's of the world need to open new niches in order to sustain the growth that the market demands. That's why I still have a phone, a PS4, a work laptop and a Surface...


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