What got me thinking about the price of technology was a coworker who bought her son an mp3 player from Walmart for $20. Two months later, she finally opened the box and began using it herself. This tiny little device that stores music and pictures, which I recall being all the rage not that long ago, can now be bought for next to nothing. A quick search on the Internet prices mp3 players anywhere between $18 and $300.
Technology evolves very fast. It is rare to see the economic life of a technology—the period of greatest profitability and of greatest value to consumers—exceeding 10 years. Think of the quick evolution of the television set within these past couple of years. It used to be a big clunky thing. Now it can be mounted on a wall like a picture frame, or it’s so large that it has the grandest presence in a room than ever before. The back-and-white television? What happened to that? I remember being given one several years back when my colour television had broken. There was nothing wrong with it. It just wasn’t colour. When I finally bought a new colour television, I enjoyed the added luxury of knowing the shade of an actor’s sweater and the hue of the leaves on the trees in the background.
Technology becomes obsolete due to market competition. There are so many companies out there today that watch what their competitors are doing, and either have the capability to improve and come out with their own versions, or simply copy what is available and offer it at a cheaper price. However, when you choose the cheaper price, you forgo the ‘extras’ which make a device exciting.
Higher prices on technological goods often last for a select period of time, and only as long as the technology is considered new with better computing capability; so the story of the mp3 player and the black-and-white television set. Just this morning the news was reporting that soon enough we will be able to plug our cellphones into our television sets, so we can see the images and screens larger. They’ve been saying this about the Internet, as well. These are the innovative luxuries that will cost much as soon as they become readily available.
But, do you really have to be the early adopter? If you wait awhile, a year or two or maybe three, something else newer, faster, sleeker, and better will come out, making prices come down. You can have the technology. It’s becoming common.