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MAKE TECH UPGRADES GREAT AGAIN! The Problem: Tech Upgrades Just Aren’t That Great Anymore: This…

MAKE TECH UPGRADES GREAT AGAIN! The Problem: Tech Upgrades Just Aren’t That Great Anymore:

This week, after four and a half years of faithful service, I finally replaced my old laptop. I will not bore you with the litany of troubles that led to this decision. The only interesting thing about my decision to replace my old 15-inch Macbook Pro is what I chose to replace it with: a nearly identical Macbook, about four years newer. But not quite the newest model. For the first time in my life, I decided to sit out an upgrade cycle and buy the older model, now being sold at a discount like day-old bread.

I won’t say that the discount played no role in my decision. But in previous years, I’d have swallowed hard and handed over the money, because I am, in the laptop world, a hardcore power user. I game on my laptop. I frequently have a dozen or so applications open, two or three of which are browsers with many tabs open. Faster processors, more memory — these things are sufficiently valuable that I’m willing to pay for them, because they make me more productive.

The trouble is, the upgrade cycle is no longer delivering those things. The processors in the latest model were marginally faster than in the previous one, but you couldn’t add memory, which I needed more. Instead, Apple is focusing on things I care about a lot less, like making the laptop thin — even though that meant losing USB and SD card ports that I still use, and losing a lot of “play” from the keyboard. As a friend pointed out to me, Apple has become obsessed with thinness to the point of anorexia. . . .

And we’re seeing this in upgrade cycles. My 4.5 years is actually on the low side for replacing a computer; the average now is nearly six years, which of course means that a substantial number of users are waiting longer than that. For replacing mobile devices, too, consumers are waiting longer, in part because phone companies are no longer subsidizing the phones to get you to invest in a contract, but also, I suspect, because devices are just not getting better as fast as they once were.

Yes, some of this is physical limits, some of it is software, and some of it is just that existing products are really quite good. I used to buy a new digital camera every 6 months because it was worth it for improved performance. Now I’ve still got my Nikon d300, which is roughly a decade old, and it’s so good I have no real motivation to replace it. The new ones are better, but they’re not that much better for the things I care about.