When it comes to technology, staying relevant is the name of the game. After all, for every successful technology that we use today, there are dozens of failed competing technologies that have faded into obsolescence. From the horse-drawn carriage to the LaserDisc, the history of technology is filled with has-beens. This harsh evolutionary process is especially evident in the fast-changing world of computer technology, where today’s must-have gadget can quickly devolve into a pricey paperweight.
Unfortunately, as recently noted by New York Times tech columnist Farhad Manjoo, extinction is an inescapable aspect of computer technology. Manjoo noted that even the so-called “experts” have a poor track record when it comes to predicting the next big technological success story. Manjoo cited the example of Barnes & Noble’s (NYSE:BKS) struggling Nook device. As noted by Manjoo, Consumer Reports was raving about the obvious advantages of the Nook just three years ago. However, it now appears that the Nook will soon join the cathode ray tube television and the dot matrix printer on the trash heap of tech history.
However, Manjoo believes that consumers can help minimize their exposure to technological obsolescence by being “promiscuous” with the brands that they invest in. In other words, consumers should spread their bets when it comes to the various tech ecosystems touted by companies like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). Here are Manjoo’s four useful tips for consumers that don’t want to be stuck with the industry’s next Betamax player.
1. Buy Apple’s Hardware
According to Manjoo, no company today can compete with the quality of Apple’s devices. Besides giving consumers the economic advantage of being able to resell their devices for a higher price, Apple also gives consumers more choices with its enormous selection of apps. As noted by Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer during the company’s fiscal first-quarter earnings call, “[T]he App Store now offers 1 million apps in 24 categories,” far more than any other any other app stores. Although Apple puts limitations on how its users can modify their devices, Manjoo noted that this is only a concern for a particular “tinkerer” segment of the overall tech gadget market.
2. Use Google’s Services
Although Manjoo encouraged consumers to purchase Apple’s premium devices, he noted that Google’s services offer users several advantages over the services offered by other ecosystems. Google’s wide-open approach to its services means that consumers can easily download or move their data to any other type of device or ecosystem. This contrasts with Apple’s more restrictive approach that tries to enmesh users in the Cupertino-based company’s own sticky ecosystem.
3. Buy Media From Amazon
Manjoo continued his theme of being promiscuous with technology by encouraging consumers to purchase their books, music, and movies from Amazon. As noted by Manjoo, Amazon gives consumers the greatest degree of “interoperability.” In other words, consumers can rest assured that the media content that they purchase from Amazon will play on their Apple devices as well as it plays on their Android-powered devices. Despite his love for Apple’s hardware, Manjoo is not similarly infatuated with Apple’s media products. “[A] book from Apple’s iBookstore is probably never going to work on an Android phone, because Apple really doesn’t want you to buy an Android phone. So why bother with iBooks?” wrote Manjoo.
4. Bet on Connectors
Manjoo’s final tip for avoiding obsolete technologies is a general piece of advice: “Invest your time and money in connectors.” According to Manjoo, the technologies that help connect disparate technologies together are the ones that are most likely to survive the inevitable evolutionary thinning process. He cited the example of Dropbox as a good technology to invest time and money in. Dropbox is a cloud storage service that is focused on being available for all ecosystems and products. Although only time will tell if Manjoo’s perspective on Dropbox is correct, the tech commentator has given consumers some solid advice for dealing with the rapidly evolving computer technology market.
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