Planned Obsolescence and Cheap Design of Consumer Products are Dead Strategies in the Face of Social Media

The type of planned obsolescence I am talking about is regarding compatibility and interoperability, not how a device is made obsolete because of technological advances. I am not talking about when a major change happens after a standard has been set for years. The change I am referring to is designed to lock out legacy hardware or software that could be compatible. For the most part, this may go unnoticed by the customers in any given industry, since it may be on a per user basis. But today with blogs and message boards, behavior like this is reported in minutes on sites like Digg.com. Corporate behaviors such as planned obsolescence should be viewed as disingenuous to the user base, and the collective knowledge of the users can come to their own conclusions regarding the motives, and see through flase excuses such as technological advances.

The trend toward emergent online community is a good reason for companies to invest more into design, usability, and durability of their products. Today’s users may be thinking, “Surely, such a large company has invested enough thought into a product that it must measures up to my standards so I can do only light research,” only to find out after the purchase that it does not meet expectations.

If the excuse is: long design cycles with not enough time to change, it only takes a small and determined upstart to differentiate and compete by creating a system with shorter design cycles. While it seems older companies may be hip to new features and new trends in their products, they are slow to notice new ideas about marketing, supply chain, and consumer exceptions. Such companies tend base future success on past success and ignore or not notice the fact that the marketplace has changed. Young companies cannot afford not to be agile, while older companies are so entrenched in bureaucracies that it takes forever to get anything done. Smart companies will listen to ideas from employees at any level, and even charge young employees with thinking of fresh, new, radical ideas that management can pass through. Planned obsolescence and bad design should be on the chopping block, and it is the upwardly mobile new hire that will make type of suggestion and have to weather through the storm of entrenched bozos.

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