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OPLIN 4Cast #312: Throwing It All Away

Posted in 4cast

trash can’Tis the season for predictions, and technology journalists are among the most prolific predictors of all. You can hardly open a technology news website without seeing an article about the ten (or twenty, or thirty) “top technology trends” to watch for in 2013. One of these futurist predictions caught our eye recently, because we had not already seen it on ten (or twenty, or thirty) other websites: companies will embrace “disposable technology.” The prediction is that more and more often, the best (only?) way to upgrade business technology will be to replace it.

  • Disposable computers become the trend for Apple (GottaBeMobile/Chuong Nguyen)  “The idea for ‘disposable computing’ where users shed their old devices and get new ones stem from Apple’s success in mobile. In the iPod era, the only way to get a larger capacity iPod was to buy a new one as you outgrew the storage of the current model. iPod devices were sleek and did not come with replaceable batteries nor removable memory cards. In the age of the iPhone, Apple created an even tighter ecosystem where you’d have to not only buy your apps through the singular gatekeeper–the App Store–but all components were sealed and not upgradeable.”
  • The ‘sealed-box’ Mac: Cutting-edge design or planned obsolescence? (Computerworld/Richard Hoffman)  “Max it out, or be prepared to replace the whole thing sooner rather than later. Compared to the old strategy of buying only what you need and upgrading later, this will increase both the short-term cost of the computer and the overall cost. That’s because RAM and storage upgrades purchased later when components have generally dropped in price, will need to be bought now, when they are more expensive (and must be bought directly from a single vendor, Apple, instead of whomever has the best component prices).”
  • How disposable is your technology? (InfoWorld/Christina Wood)  “Even as we complain about the planned obsolescence of equipment we’ve spent a fortune on, we covet the next cool thing – an Android phone, a superthin laptop with the new i7 processor, 3-D HDTVs, Google TV. We live in amazing times, and older technology often falls victim to our own desire to swim in these times.”
  • Outlook 2013 (InformationWeek/Michael Healey) [registration required]  “It’s an accepted principle with devices; IT shops know that a PC or laptop really isn’t functional after three years. The lifespan of tablets is likely to be two years. And now this disposable approach is coming to software, with apps that company employees might use for a while, then lose interest in and dump.”

Fiscal fact:
As companies change attitudes about the lifespan of technology, they will also need to make some bookkeeping changes. The InformationWeek article cited above recommends depreciating the cost of PCs in three years, not five; tablets in one year, not three; and cloud apps in three years, not seven.