There's a special feeling you get when you turn the calendar from the old year to the new. Whether you anticipate Canonical's two new Ubuntu releases, Microsoft's latest Windows, or Apple's newest big-cat-inspired Mac OS X version, you know something cool is on its way. However, new operating system versions and subversions are only part of the story. New versions of your favorite applications, apps, and gadgets are no doubt on their way as well. It's a never-ending story of update, upgrade, refresh, replenish, and buy, buy, buy.
You can also count on an invigorating flurry of new techno-marketing buzzwords to induce that uncomfortable queasiness you get from their repetitious use. Yes, each New Year brings new products and much marketing fluff with it, but don't get me wrong; I understand that companies need something to differentiate themselves from the competition, and a superior product doesn't always do the trick. I don't have a problem with marketing, upgrades, or fair competition – just the opposite, in fact – competition makes good business. It's the over-the-top claims, hyperbole, and continuous feeling that I need bigger, better, faster, and more that gets on my nerves.
My hope is that companies will release products when they're finished; that they'll make products that last more than six months when the next one hits the market; that they'll fully support their products for more than two years after their initial release; and that I won't feel pressured to have the latest and greatest technology in my hip pocket or on my desk.
I think what led me on this disdainful, anti-new stuff path is when I found out that my still relatively new first generation iPad had become obsolete, albeit subtly, when I saw the announcement that iOS 6 was unavailable for it. I reacted badly. I swore off all Apple products, although I had previously vowed to embrace them after purchasing an iPad and new iPhone 4. Note here that the iPhone 4 is now two generations behind the latest in Apple iPhone technology. Shortly, it will be three generations behind. Last year, Apple released three iPads: the iPad 3, the iPad mini, and the iPad 4.
Of course, it isn't just Apple that's guilty of flooding the market with new products while the plastic packing covers are still intact on the "old" versions. Microsoft's Office has multiple versions that are still in use and are every bit as good as the current ones. Why do I need Office 2013 when Office 2003 seems perfectly suited to everything that I do with it? I haven't seen any new, glaring, must-have features in any version since Office 97. Upgrading an expensive application suite every two to three years is asking too much of businesses and individuals alike.
What happened to the days of keeping and using a product for several years? Whatever happened to in-place upgrades, repairs, and retrofitting products that we already own? Have we commoditized products to the point that now they're disposable? If our products are disposable, shouldn't they be less expensive? Shouldn't they have some trade-in value? Frankly, I'd rather have a well-made product that lasts for several years that I can master and enjoy, without the feeling that what I now own is outdated. If I make a US$ 600 investment in a piece of hardware, I'd like to think that my money was well spent. Two years just isn't enough product life for that much money.
Give me something that I can build on. Give me something that I can feel good about. Give me something that I can use for years, not months. Give me a high-quality product. Give me a brand that I can rely on. In essence, give me my money's worth.
I want to invest in brands, not products. I want to enjoy my investment for longer than it takes the manufacturer to produce the next version. There's nothing wrong with a company producing a new version or a new model, but the new one needs something more compelling than an updated grill and rearranged taillights to make me buy it.
I don't need bigger, better, faster, or more. I need a better reason to repurchase than, "It's new and improved." Compel me with value. Entice me with quality. Tempt me with features and stability. Give me some old-fashioned ingenuity and a heaping helping of honest-to-goodness product longevity, and I'll give you my hard-earned dollars. Deal?
Happy New Year!
Ken Hess * ADMIN Senior Editor