Did you wake up early to reserve your new iPhone last Friday? I did … foolishly early.
I haven’t 100% committed to buying it yet nor have I truly really figured out if I need it. Sure my current phone (iPhone 3G) is well past its prime, but do I really want to enter into an exorbitant contract for 3 years lest pay, heaven forbid, full price for my new phone!?!
But a contract I likely will sign because I am both too cheap and too broke to pay full price. But why am I reluctant to sign a contract (let’s leave the stupidly long term of the contract out of it - and thank your lucky stars that you aren’t in Canada since we have among the most ludicrous mobile phone markets in the world)? I think the reason I don’t want to sign a contract is because I will feel boxed in.
I don’t like talking to utility providers any more than I have to and, as long as things work and my fees are roughly predictable I likely won’t change providers for at least as long as the term of my contract anyway. But the contract still feels like a yolk that holds me in place, a yolk that, were it entirely of my own doing, wouldn’t feel so restrictive.
Family works that way, and attending parties you don’t want to attend because they are thrown by people who would look down upon you or be hurt by you if you didn’t. Life is full of these little fences that pen us in place, invisible and mutable but nonetheless profound and ever present.
Now if I could only figure out how to get my phone cheap, not be on contract, but carry on with the same plan and not have to speak to a CSR person at my mobile provider I’d be golden.
For some time now I’ve been arguing that (media) technologies are becoming increasingly invisible. On the surface this might seem counter intuitive given the current global obsession with defining and thus creating a ‘digital future’ but I still think it’s true.
Take for instance the fortunes of the fastest growing segments of the technology market: mobile devices (I hasten to call them ‘phones’) and (mobile) computers. Most of the worlds largest manufacturers of these hardware spend and make billions on selling objects not because of the objects themselves but because of how well these objects will connect us with our ‘digital stuff.’
Apple recognized long ago that content is king and, it seems, so too now does everyone else. Samsung, Motorola, RIM and many others have started to recognize that it’s not the box that people are buying (i.e. the physical technology) but a gateway to the content they want. And they expect that the content they want will work when they want it, where, and how.
You can see this in the ad posted below. You can also see this in a few seemingly inevitable imperatives built in to most new technology offerings: there is a presumed dominance of convergence over specialization; content is built to be platform independent so proprietary standards, though remarkably too common, are less well respected over free flow platform independence; integration across technology offerings must appear seamless or else the technology fails (in a market sense).
People don’t flock to new devices because they are new, they do so because of the promise of greater, smoother, sleeker access to their (digital) stuff and the technology, the box itself, grows increasingly invisible.
One need only look to cloud computers, Internet protocols, the weeding out of codecs, the number of inputs on flat screen TVs (which are rarely JUST or EVEN for TV anymore), to realize that people want what they want and the technology they choose to access it, as it becomes integrated into their lives and seems indispensable, is virtually irrelevant; invisible.
How did Apple grow its market share so much and so well? Because they recognized earlier than most that content integration and ease of use is where the money is. Good technology is not about sophistication of the object but about the closest replication of ‘perfect analog’ experiences as possible.