Technologies as a fashion and new fashion as a technology

Original author: Michael Gartenberg
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Entelligence is a column for strategic analyst Michael Gartenberg. In his notes, Michael explains at what stage of development the modern electronics industry is and where it is moving.

Being engaged in the analysis of industrial technologies, I came to the conclusion that to assess the level of analysis, it is necessary to pay attention to the quality of the recommendations that you give, based on experience in predicting trends. During my career, our team had to make mistakes more than once. I’ll tell you a little secret - there is one thing that we predicted completely incorrectly.


One manufacturer, whose name I will not mention, informed us in the late 90s about the desire to develop a line of personal computers that will be targeted at the mass buyer. Moreover, special emphasis in new PCs will be placed on female consumers. The company planned to make computers of various configurations and advertise them in publications like Cosmopolitan, and not in thematic computer monthly, as others did. We decided to analyze this idea and I, with some disdain, replied that it was the dumbest concept I had ever heard (of course, it was presented more accurately, as analysts often do). Then I said that there will not be a single buyer who will buy computers only because they are available in different colors. Then the developer abandoned his plans, and our forecast was found to be correct. True until Steve Jobs showed up with his iMac. In other words, until technology has become part of the style.

Previously, all computers were similar. The computer was just a computer. If you needed a server, you turned the boxes sideways, if you needed a workstation, you painted the case in black or white, if you needed a mobile system, it was enough to attach a pen to the case. Today, technology is becoming the subject of fashion and style. Companies like Apple trumpet not only the functionality of their systems, but also offer fine-grained leather cases as an accessory. The vast majority of gadgets that you hear about today are designed with a lot of emphasis on design, not functionality. This involuntarily makes one recall the classic axiom: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” (that is, the concept of beauty is not contained in the object itself, but in the head of the person who looks at the object or imagines it). For example, socially orientedKIN communicators can clearly see how the developer took care not only of the functionality, but also how this functionality is presented.

Why do technology move into the background when a question arises about style? Firstly, Moore’s law has lost its former relevance, developers need to differentiate their devices in all possible ways [and not just by the criterion of strong / medium / weak]. Secondly, the margin for accessories is simply huge. The extra charge for some iPhone cases is more than the cost of the iPhone itself. Third, as in all markets, older platforms tend to fragment. That is why now we have 500 different brands of toothpaste, which has the same capabilities. And again, that is precisely why many devices are now appearing that are focused on solving specific problems or are performed in a certain form factor that meets the specific requirements of a certain group of consumers.

I do not think this is a bad trend. My watch and car were chosen for a greater degree of aesthetic reasons than because of the rich functionality. So why not choose a phone, desktop computer or laptop by the same principle? In fact, the more the vendor spends time developing the design and features of his device, the greater the chance of success of this device among consumers, the more such innovations the seller can sell.

Just ask yourself, is color, shape and material important to you, or is it all about functions?

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