“Drop that zero, and get with the hero.”
A wise man, named Robert Michael Van Winkle, once uttered those words. Van Winkle was a very popular figure during his prime, and if you were a child of the 80s or followed 80s pop culture, you’ll know him better by his stage name: Vanilla Ice.
Metaphorically speaking, who better to personify the vicious change of trends than somebody like Vanilla Ice? In fact, the mere mention of his name may have made you cringe today, but back in the early 90s, if you were like a lot of people, you bought his albums, went to his concerts, and watched him in movies. There’s really nothing wrong with it – trends change.
Vanilla Ice had the world in his hand: his album To the Extreme became the fastest-selling hip hop album of all time, he opened for rapper MC Hammer (another great metaphor for the “out with the old, in with the new” trends) which helped skyrocket his fame, he dated Madonna, he had a cameo in the popular film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, and he even starred in his own movie Cool as Ice. All of this in the span of just a few years.
Just as quickly as Ice arrived, his popularity dropped, and by the mid-90s the hero became a zero.
This is VH1’s Behind the Music… I’m just kidding. But it’s time for me to get to the point.
Last week, when an updated Kindle Fire, the Kindle Fire HD, was announced, I felt like Vanilla Ice – outdated and obsolete. I purchased a Kindle Fire less than a year ago, and already better device is on the way. I also have a feeling that I’m going to feel the same way about my iPod Touch and my new iPad after Apple’s iPhone 5 announcement later today.
I love competition, and I love when there’s a good battle for supremacy with it comes to technology — especially gadgets, and software. Prior to 2012, if you were a company creating a mobile device, like a telephone or a tablet, and your name wasn’t Apple Inc., the chances of your product surviving wasn’t good.
Late last year, I decided to pick up a Kindle Fire to show my support to Amazon, in hopes that they would have enough influence and power to not only create a product that wouldn’t be shrouded in the Apple iPad shadow, but would possibly stand on its own, perhaps even casting its own significant shadow in the tablet market. Just like the days when Microsoft was the only choice in computers, Apple was becoming such a dominant force that nobody could go toe-to-toe with the reigning champ without being knocked out quickly.
Thankfully, today, more and more devices are co-existing alongside, and challenging, Apple’s undeniably brilliant mobile devices. Apple no longer has the same long-distance advantage, and must find the right balance between iteration and innovation to stay the market leader.
Like I said earlier, I love competition. There is nothing more motivating to create a bigger and better product than a high-stakes industry, where success one day could become abject failure the next. It’s sink or swim, baby — there’s no in-between!
When there is healthy competition, the consumer generally benefits, like having more affordable prices on popular devices, better applications, or cooler features.
However, in order to stay afloat in an ever-changing industry, the devices are in constant perpetual change, as well.
Every year for the past several years, we’ve seen new iPhone and iPad models announced. Each device offers something better than the previous model. This is great, and there’s nothing wrong with updates. The world today is used to updating things: update your computers, update your phones, and update your applications. But these are usually software-based updates, not necessarily hardware ones.
If you want to stay ahead of the curve, when it comes to trends it’s going to cost you a lot of money. Die hard fans will line up outside Apple stores, to be the first to pick up the latest-and-greatest iPhones, iPad, and iPods, and chances are, those same enthusiasts were sitting out there last year getting the model that they’re about to replace.
The unfortunate fact is that we’re getting used to disposable devices, the biggest problem is that they’re expensive. Cell phone contracts generally run for 2 years, but smart phones, especially iPhones, have annual hardware updates. Not only are you getting a new phone, but if you’re doing so only halfway through your 2-year agreement, you’re likely breaking (or at the very least altering) your contract, by paying additional penalties (disguised as upgrade fees) plus you’ve likely extended your contract. Rinse and repeat.
To me, it’s a double-edged sword. I like hardware and technology, but to be required to pay every year for the new hotness seems a bit much. At the same time, in a highly-competitive industry if you aren’t constantly pushing forward, you’ll fall behind.
One thing I’ve liked about our current generation of video games consoles, despite the form-factor refresh for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, were that the updates to the system have all been software-driven. If you were to go back and start up an Xbox 360 from late 2005 or early 2006, the dashboard would look significantly different that what you see today. Same hardware, different software.
Yes, I know comparing mobile devices to console ones is like comparing apples to oranges – they’re not the same, and thankfully, I haven’t been bitten by the bug where I have an uncontrollable urge to update every year. I will say this: $300 iPod Touch that I bought 2 years ago, sure has been running since Apple’s update to iOS 5 last year, and if the iOS 6 update (in addition to a new iPod Touch model) brings it to a complete stall, I may have to try and squeeze a few hundred dollars out of our family budget.
Food — who needs it?