The importance of choices in a “new object culture”

Over the last decade there seems to have been an accepted shift from product longevity to one of desirability. I remember when growing up that electrical goods seemed to last a lifetime and if they ever broke you would certainly try to fix them first rather than discarding with a wry smile knowing that you could buy another. You also knew that purchases would outlive their warranties by years rather than the current ones that seem to limp across the line and malfunction one or two days after the expiry.

This apparent culture swing clearly has been driven by economies of scale as the price of consumer goods continues to reduce or at least flat line once the early adopter price has been reduced through mass market adoption. Today most products are refreshed every 12 months and the manufacturers expect consumers to replace existing products every 24 months (This is the reason why mobile operators offer 18 or 24 Month contracts). Even in the current times of austerity there is no shortage of consumers ready to buy the next shiny iPad, iPhone, 3D TV, Kindle etc.

There is however a trend emerging from this behaviour which will lock consumers into their choices for years whether they like future products or not. In the digital space if you realise it or not you are being asked to make a choice, join a team and this choice could limit some of your choices in the future.

In the digital space your hardware and software choices may seem endless when you consider buying products from Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Samsung etc however are they really? Everything is now being backed up into the respective clouds but by the time you reach a critical mass or fall out of love with their product strategy, shape, colour etc will you be able to migrate that easily? Over the next few years each provider will need to open up their environments to the software which works best for the consumer however at the moment most are proprietary to one of the platforms. Look at iTunes for example, this was originally the music player for Apple but quickly became the chosen player for most using the MP4 format and is now available for Windows and can be accessed through many different devices and platforms. How would you feel if you had a Microsoft Zune player and can spent hours copying all your music to MP3 and it was withdrawn? What about you‘re precious Photos? Most people are accumulating Gigabytes of photos on their PCs and probably backing up to a Cloud for safety but what if your photography software was only available from one manufacturer and you then wanted to buy a product from something else, could you undo this? Would you bother? These are the questions everyone should be asking themselves, it‘s not only businesses that need a digital strategy consumers do too.

So what is the answer? At the moment the problem for the average consumer is manageable as the amount of data stored is minimal (compared to how much you will accumulate over a lifetime). Choose products which are platform agnostic or the storage resides on your own PC. Try not to convert assets into unknown formats unless it‘s easy to convert back plus ensure that if you are backing up to a cloud you are backing up at the same quality rather than a lower resolution copy which is the usual setting for pictures. The choices you make now will last for a long, long time, so when you want the next shiny toy, don‘t forget to think about your future not just the manufacturers.

Author: Steve Wakefield

Steve Wakefield is an experienced Innovator presently based in London.

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