Willy Loman would have loved this. This week, Slate’s Farhad Manjoo is declaring “The Death of Planned Obsolescence.” Manjoo was driven to this proclamation primarily by the consumer electronics industry’s growing tendency to produce products that can receive software updates with new features long after the consumer makes his initial purchase.
“It used to be that a gadget worked the best on the day you bought it; every day afterward, it would fall deeper under the shadow of something newer and more fantastic. But because music players, cell phones, cameras, GPS navigators, video game consoles, and nearly everything else now runs on Internet-updatable software, our gadgets’ functions are no longer static. It’s still true that a gizmo you buy today will eventually be superseded by something that comes along later. But just like Meryl Streep, your devices will now dazzle you as they age.”
The news of Internet-updateable software may seem old to most industry insiders; however, it’s a topic retailers may want to keep in mind the next time they’re standing on the sales floor trying to convince a hesitant late-adopter to take the plunge and invest in a new gadget. Beyond touting the specs on the existing product, there may be room to profit from encouraging customers to imagine the potential future of the device in question, and, more importantly, help realize that they can equip themselves immediately to share in that future when the time comes.