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Consumers Buy Less Tech Stuff, Keep It Longer

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the that-doesn't-sound-like-a-bad-plan dept.

The Almighty Buck 507

Hugh Pickens writes writes "The NY Times reports that there are indications that a sea change is taking place in consumer behavior as a result of the great recession: Americans are buying less tech stuff and making it last longer (reg. may be required). Although in many cases the difference is mere months, economists and consumers say the approach may outlast a full recovery and the return of easy credit, because of the strong impression the downturn has made on consumers. For example Patti Hauseman stuck with her five-year-old Apple computer until it started making odd whirring noises and occasionally malfunctioning before she bought a new computer for Christmas — actually, a refurbished one. 'A week later, the old one died. We timed it pretty well,' says Hauseman, adding that it was not so much that she could not afford new things, but that the last few years of economic turmoil had left her feeling that she could be stealing from her future by throwing away goods that still had value. Consumers are holding onto new cars for a record 63.9 months, up 4.5 months from a year ago and 14 percent since the end of 2008, according one research firm. Industry analysts also report that people on average are waiting 18 months to upgrade their cellphones, up from every 16 months just a few years ago. 'We're not going back to a time of our grandmothers' tales of what they kept and how they used things so carefully,' says Nancy F. Koehn, a professor at the Harvard Business School and a historian of consumer behavior. 'But we'll see a consistent inching or trudging towards that.'"

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Good News, Bad News (3, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330018)

The good news here is that the computer buying public is getting more educated about what they need and what's available, and starting to find better deals.

The bad news is that the tech industry has to compete more with itself which means its scrambling over a smaller total of dollars available.

Re:Good News, Bad News (2)

devxo (1963088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330026)

I hope games industry does as well. While I like and enjoy Civilization V, I did go back to Civilization IV and play it with Rise of Mankind mod. It just offers so much more possibilities and features. Civilization V is too dumbed down.

The bad thing is that instead of making the new games better, it looks like gaming industry is making them harder to mod and otherwise make their lifetime last longer. After all, you can't sell expansions, DLC's and new games if the gamers are playing your perfect game.

Re:Good News, Bad News (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330336)

After all, you can't sell expansions, DLC's and new games if the gamers are playing your perfect game.

Not always true. Dragon Age, Oblivion, Fallout 3 & NWN 2 did pretty good in both respects.

Re:Good News, Bad News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330460)

It's not very fashionable to talk about this here - but Flash games are played more than all the consoles put together - and they're getting more popular all the time.

The fact that old media and the "gaming industry" have largely kept out of this arena means that the creativity and gameplay has largely remained unmolested.

I don't think it's a matter of the old interests adapting, they just need to 'go way' - it looks like the consumer, via the market forces involved, will take care of that nicely. Defo a good thing.

Re:Good News, Bad News (5, Insightful)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330028)

The bad news is that the tech industry has to compete more with itself which means its scrambling over a smaller total of dollars available.

I think the industries need a wake-up call, to some extent. I find it remarkable how they expect people to keep buying and buying.

Just because technology gets older does not always make it obsolete, although electronic manufacturers try very hard to make it so.

Re:Good News, Bad News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330150)

I think the industries need a wake-up call, to some extent. I find it remarkable how they expect people to keep buying and buying.

They expect people to keep buying because they cut corners in manufacturing, and thus produce FUD that breaks in under 4 years.

Re:Good News, Bad News (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330168)

Computers and gadgets are relatively new tech, and the feature differences between models have been pretty drastic. 10 years ago, a 2 year old computer was starting to get long in the tooth. Software manufacturers were writing software to take advantage of new features and performance. Likewise, smart phones are starting to hit a level of maturity that makes it far less compelling to justify spending the money. I think the economy has made consumers look at the devices they have and then make an educated decision about the upgrade, rather than an emotional decision. I have an HP laptop ca. 2007. It's perfectly capable of handling pretty much any task a home user would need, and it makes justifying the cost of a replacement much more difficult.

Re:Good News, Bad News (4, Interesting)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330226)

Aside from fashion designers, I can't think of any industry other than tech that is more aware and aggressive when it comes to planned obsolecence.

Re:Good News, Bad News (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330390)

How much of it is intention and how much of it is side effect?

I'd rather spend $100 every two or three years on hard drives that are doubling in size than I would spend $300 on one that is sure to last 10 years.

(This is less true for me today than it was 10 years ago though, a couple of terabytes satisfies my needs pretty easily)

You have to keep buying (4, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330298)

"I find it remarkable how they expect people to keep buying and buying."

But that's exactly what people do till they are trillions and trillions and trillions in debt.

Companies owe the banks lots of money, it has to be paid back or the thugs come rounds and break some legs.

You have to keep buying. There must be Growth!

 

Re:You have to keep buying (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330376)

Why do you hate the 4 billion people that live lives that could be substantially enhanced by increased access to material goods?

In other words, yes, there must be growth.

Re:You have to keep buying (3, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330430)

Growth in some places. There comes a point when an economy goes beyond providing essentials, beyond even providing luxuries, and into the region of consumption for it's own sake. You buying a new laptop isn't going to do very much to buy clean water for the peasents of Elbonia.

Re:Good News, Bad News (0)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330340)

I find it remarkable how they expect people to keep buying and buying.

I find it remarkable that you would find this remarkable. It's been the case since man first developed the idea of barter - why should it magically change now? How could it change now?

Just because technology gets older does not always make it obsolete, although electronic manufacturers try very hard to make it so.

Yeah, my mother kept saying that every time I offered to get rid of her old 30" CRT TV and replace it with a nice new LCD display. She finally caved 2 months ago, and now she can't stop raving about all the benefits of the new TV. Her old one may not have been "obsolete", but there were plenty of great reasons to replace it.

Re:Good News, Bad News (2)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330436)

when you have cut down the last tree and poisoned the last river... etc...
only then will you realise that you cannot eat money.

Benefits of a new TV (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330464)

She finally caved 2 months ago, and now she can't stop raving about all the benefits of the new TV.

Has she yet figured out that one can hook up a PC to an HDTV and surf the web from the couch? That's the biggest tangible benefit of switching from a working CRT SDTV to a new LCD HDTV that I can think of, especially if you're not yet willing to pay extra to the cable company and the video rental store for high-definition sources.

Re:Good News, Bad News (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330458)

I think the industries need a wake-up call, to some extent. I find it remarkable how they expect people to keep buying and buying.

Many tech items are actually quite cheap for what you get. And in some ways they have been getting cheaper over the years, unlike other things (food, drinks, fuel).

For example: a 2TB hard drive. You're getting a fairly high tech item ("cutting edge" even) with fast moving parts and fancy stuff like super strong magnets. Comes with a 3 year warranty. And it stores 2 terabytes! Think about it - less than 10 years ago HDDs of the same price stored only 40GB. All for USD88 ( some burgers even cost more than that ;) ).

In contrast it's hard to get a decent comfortable chair for a reasonable price and people have been building chairs for thousands of years. Amazingly most even get the correct seating posture wrong: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6187080.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Heck, even getting a nonugly pair of jeans for a nonstupid price was difficult. I saw some cheap ones on sale but they were presmudged with grease... Yep, brand new jeans with grease intentionally smeared on them as part of their design! Go figure why they were going cheap... I guess someone in marketing miscalculated the value of greasy jeans.

You do stupid stuff like that in the tech industry you get closed down pretty fast. So I think most nontech industries have it easier. Unlike the DRAM or other tech industries you don't have everyone _required_ to invest billions in jeans/furniture factories just to play "chicken" with everyone else.

So what's a few hundred USD on a new PC - it'll at least perform many times better than my old one.

It might be silly to buy a new PC, but it certainly less significant or silly than paying many thousands on a new car. And how much does your car consume in fuel and maintenance[1] compared to your tech stuff?

[1] As for the smug cyclists/bikers out there, how much does it cost when a truck or SUV hits you? ;)

Wirth's law (5, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330032)

The bad news is that the tech industry has to compete more with itself which means its scrambling over a smaller total of dollars available.

The good news is that as the installed base of five-year-old PCs and netbooks increases, publishers of commercial software may finally realize that the common practice of increasing published system requirements rather than the efficiency of algorithms, commonly called Wirth's law [wikipedia.org] , is costing them customers.

Re:Wirth's law (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330068)

Five years is the typical standard for a magnetic hard disk to fail. (Possibly the source of the noise in the summary) Planned failure creates sales... as annoying as it is for the customers.

Re:Wirth's law (2, Interesting)

Weezul (52464) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330114)

5 years? A desktop hard drive maybe. Apple's laptop hard drives die fairly reliably like 2ish years out. I've never seen one last longer than 3 years, although I've seen some fail in year 1.

There are also issues with Mac OS X not handling failing drives gracefully by not giving other processes any CPU time when the kernel starts working on reading a bad sector, plus even obviously bad sectors are commonly not marked.

Re:Wirth's law (1)

Winckle (870180) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330162)

My MBP's HDD has lasted 4 years and counting.

Re:Wirth's law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330206)

Laughable. I have 5 Mac's in my home right now, and not one has failed, and 4 of the 5 are over 3 years old.

Do you warm yours up it the microwave first?

Re:Wirth's law (1)

slart42 (694765) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330270)

5 years? A desktop hard drive maybe. Apple's laptop hard drives die fairly reliably like 2ish years out. I've never seen one last longer than 3 years, although I've seen some fail in year 1.

You seem to be having bad luck there, or just mistreating your computers very badly. I've been using Apple notebooks for 17 years now, and only once had to replace a hard disk during all those years. In fact that 17 year old PowerBook 520 still runs just fine (if connected to the power supply).

I did have several other hardware issues though, like the screen falling off on the Titanium Powerbook, etc, etc, so the machines are certainly not flawless.

Re:Wirth's law (2)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330284)

I've got HDDs that are over 10 years old which still work fine. I have a couple from my old iBook that I still use, too. Those would be over 5 years old, although, I haven't used them much in the last couple of years.

Can't say the same for laptop optical drives, though. They all seem like crap.

Re:Wirth's law (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330364)

There are also issues with Mac OS X not handling failing drives gracefully by not giving other processes any CPU time when the kernel starts working on reading a bad sector, plus even obviously bad sectors are commonly not marked.

1. MacOS X has Time Machine, which means there is no excuse whatsoever if you don't have a backup. 2. If there are any bad sectors, I want to know about it. 500 GB Hitachi 7200rpm drive cost me £45 including P&P, and about five minutes replacing.

All in all, I treat the hard drive as a consumable. Like the tyres on your car.

Re:Wirth's law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330382)

I support a small pile of Macs > 4 years old that are used everyday and are still using their original drives.
I've got a much larger pile of PC desktops > 7 years old that are used everyday and are still using their original drives.

Re:Wirth's law (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330448)

Five years, or one drop while spinning. Laptops are obviously more prone to being dropped.

Re:Wirth's law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330276)

It really depends on how much abuse it takes. 5 years is too little unless you consistently torture your HDDs.

Re:Wirth's law (1)

kevinmenzel (1403457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330278)

My 80GB system drive is at least 5 years old at this point, running fine with no bad sectors. In fact, most of my drives are pushing on 6 years old with no bad sectors. And my 486 is still kicking with the original 80MB SCSI hard drive it came with in the 80s, and a 540MB hard drive that came from a 486 my family got in 1992... Not that I haven't had hard drive troubles... it's just been a really long while... possibly something about never buying "consumer" hard drives after a few bad experiences with a certain Hitachi 75GB hard drive... (rather, 6 75 GB hard drives in a 2 year period... which then finally got replaced by IBM with both the afformentioned 80GB hard drive, and a 300GB hard drive...) Of course, I have backups of everything important... and in a few months time I'll have online backups of everything unimportant too... but even then, it's just a hard drive. I'm not going to buy a new computer just because a hard drive dies or a fan dies or something like that.

Re:Wirth's law (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330320)

Most people don't bother to troubleshoot a broken computer, they don't open the case. A non-booting computer is broken, and either needs to be repaired or replaced, both of which cost money. When the costs of the repair exceeds the cost of a new computer, the user will chose the new computer. The point of this story is that it's taking longer for computers to reach that point.

Replace the failing component (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330386)

Five years is the typical standard for a magnetic hard disk to fail.

Which can be replaced by a local computer repair shop with another hard disk, not necessarily another computer. As I understand it, hard disks and RAM are the components most often designed to be replaced, even on laptops.

Re:Wirth's law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330086)

Haven't heard of Wirth's Law before now, thanks for pointing that out.

Re:Wirth's law (1)

hittman007 (206669) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330158)

The bad news is that the tech industry has to compete more with itself which means its scrambling over a smaller total of dollars available.

The good news is that as the installed base of five-year-old PCs and netbooks increases, publishers of commercial software may finally realize that the common practice of increasing published system requirements rather than the efficiency of algorithms, commonly called Wirth's law [wikipedia.org] , is costing them customers.

In the days of Windows XP this wasn't an issue. When they usually came out with a user version of Windows every year and a half or so how long was XP the latest version of Windows out? Five plus years? then at least through the Windows Vista days almost all software (and hardware for that matter) work work with XP or Vista. Even now *most* hardware/software that you buy will work with Windows XP. That being said I see XP compatibility in most items being dropped sooner rather then later as there were many changes when they switched to Vista (ans many members of slashdot are well aware).

Also consider that with the very low pricing of computers today from the price wars over the last two decades, and the fact that labor prices have not gone down, if something like a motherboard or hard drive goes bad outside of a warranty it often doesn't cost the customer to much more (and often costs less) to get a new computer that is more powerful that the original.

Like it or hate it, the low to mid range computers sold in the last five plus years are throw away devices. They simply don't have the reliability of the computers that came before. I worked for a major computer manufacturer ten years ago, and even then they kept what they considered a three year supply of replacement parts.

I buy a new Apple device almost every month. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330228)

I'm just a barista, and I don't make a lot of money, but even I manage to buy a new Apple device almost every month.

Each month, I put all of my first three weeks of earnings toward buying a new iPhone or an iPad or an iBook or an iPod. I already have 14 different types of iPods, and 8 iPhones. Next month I think I will save up for a new Mac mini (it will be my 12th).

It's my duty as an American to buy as many Apple products as I can, even if it means that sometimes I don't have enough money for rent, and sometimes not even enough money for food.

Re:Good News, Bad News (4, Funny)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330240)

Well, it's about time. That whole "consumer" thing is just so much sick shit. I happen to be a citizen, a taxpayer, a voter, and a PRODUCER. Consumption is a goddamned DISEASE! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuberculosis [wikipedia.org]

Re:Good News, Bad News (-1, Troll)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330366)

Well, it's about time. That whole "consumer" thing is just so much sick shit. I happen to be a citizen, a taxpayer, a voter, and a PRODUCER

Really? I looked up "runaway1956" on IMDB, but only got this [imdb.com] . Have you produced anything I might be familiar with, or was it all indie stuff?

Indie stuff (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330428)

I looked up "runaway1956" on IMDB, but only got this. Have you produced anything I might be familiar with, or was it all indie stuff?

The tendency to look down on "indie stuff" solely because it hasn't been reviewed by the mainstream media is characteristic of someone who accepts or even benefits from a divide between those who create works and those who "just consume" [gnu.org] . It is in the mainstream media's interest to downplay prosumption [pineight.com] because it competes with products of entertainment conglomerates that own the mainstream news media [pineight.com] .

My VCR is still my recording workhorse (2)

thomasdz (178114) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330030)

Although I have an EyeTV for my Mac and can record TV shows when I need to... my day to day TV recording needs are still met with my VCR that I've had for the past 10 years.
(I also bought my first CD player in 1993...what's that 10 years after CDs started getting produced)
(and I have a twenty-year old VAX 4200 minicomputer running OpenBSD as my home firewall)

Re:My VCR is still my recording workhorse (1)

thomasdz (178114) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330040)

And yes, my Mac is a five-year-old PowerPC-chipped Mac Mini.

Re:My VCR is still my recording workhorse (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330058)

And yes, my Mac is a five-year-old PowerPC-chipped Mac Mini.

And you work on it with your retro clothes, lensless glasses, while listening to indie bands?

Hipster!

Re:My VCR is still my recording workhorse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330122)

I don't want to start a holy war here, but what is the deal with you Mac fanatics? I've been sitting here at my freelance gig in front of a Mac (a 8600/300 w/64 Megs of RAM) for about 20 minutes now while it attempts to copy a 17 Meg file from one folder on the hard drive to another folder. 20 minutes. At home, on my Pentium Pro 200 running NT 4, which by all standards should be a lot slower than this Mac, the same operation would take about 2 minutes. If that.

In addition, during this file transfer, Netscape will not work. And everything else has ground to a halt. Even BBEdit Lite is straining to keep up as I type this.

I won't bore you with the laundry list of other problems that I've encountered while working on various Macs, but suffice it to say there have been many, not the least of which is I've never seen a Mac that has run faster than its Wintel counterpart, despite the Macs' faster chip architecture. My 486/66 with 8 megs of ram runs faster than this 300 mhz machine at times. From a productivity standpoint, I don't get how people can claim that the Macintosh is a superior machine.

Mac addicts, flame me if you'd like, but I'd rather hear some intelligent reasons why anyone would choose to use a Mac over other faster, cheaper, more stable systems.

Re:My VCR is still my recording workhorse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330140)

There are lots of intelligent reasons why people insist on using macs. Most of them are just not from the point of view of the customer.

Re:My VCR is still my recording workhorse (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330056)

Although I have an EyeTV for my Mac and can record TV shows when I need to... my day to day TV recording needs are still met with my VCR that I've had for the past 10 years.

My eyes are bleeding from just reading that statement.

I hope you at least buy new blank tapes every now and then.

Re:My VCR is still my recording workhorse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330064)

I have m0n0wall running on a headless white box Pentium 200 (underclocked to a P166) as a home router. It is loud as hell and very annoying but it has been running 24x7 for years.

Re:My VCR is still my recording workhorse (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330410)

How many watts does the firewall pull?

You could easily run that on a 100 watt system, which is still almost 900 kilowatt hours per year, so even if you only pay ~$0.10 per kw-h, $90 per year per 100 watts of draw introduces lots of opportunities for a replacement being the parsimonious choice.

I would rather buy a quality product... (4, Insightful)

stox (131684) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330038)

and keep it for years than have the latest and greatest every year. Sadly, it is getting tougher and tougher to find those quality products,

Re:I would rather buy a quality product... (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330072)

Bought my MBP 17" some 5 years ago and it is still going strong, with just some flickering on the bottom half of the screen that i can easily remedy with a piece of plastic. Definitely worth spending a bit extra to get quality.

Re:I would rather buy a quality product... (1)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330326)

The other good thing about Macs is the higher resell value. Handy when you want to sell your old computer to help pay for the new one.

Re:I would rather buy a quality product... (5, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330082)

It is, and was always, a case of research. Making up numbers for argument's sake, only 2% of products in a certain category are worthwhile. Usually they're no more (or not much more) expensive than the rest. But you have to sift through the other 98% of garbage (or relative garbage) to find them. Pricing cannot be counted on as a guide because marketing people are wise to the fact that people perceive a link between higher price and better quality, although this is not always the case. So most of the time you are "just paying for the label", as the saying goes.

Cheap crap is a feature of inflation (2, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330102)

vs deflation.

In a deflationary environment, money becomes more valuable over time, so when people spend some, they look for products which are going to last longer or which are higher quality items. As a result, producers who produce higher quality, do better than those who produce cheap crap.

In an inflationary environment the reverse is true, it is more important to get rid of the money, and in fact getting into debt also makes sense as well. The quality matters less because you can just buy another one using money which is devaluing anyway.

Re:I would rather buy a quality product... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330174)

I bought my MacBook in December 2007. 3.5 years later all that's wrong with it is some chipped plastic and a superdrive where the loading mechanism makes crunching noises (but still works on the bi-monthly occassion I use it). I'm a pretty tough user too.

Do I want a new one? Sure, will I be buying one anytime soon? No.

Re:I would rather buy a quality product... (1)

plut4rch (1553209) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330452)

I totally agree. I occasionally still use Thinkpads from 7-12 years ago (great keyboards, nice for writing and coding), and they all work (except a 380 that needed a new HDD and CMOS battery 2 years ago). They really were solid pieces of kit. I don't know about more recent Thinkpads however, as I've not owned a Lenovo. Are they still as reliable?

Consumers making tech stuff last longer? (5, Insightful)

fatp (1171151) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330044)

The summary said " Americans are buying less tech stuff and making it last longer"?

No worry, manufacturer are making everything last shorter

Double B.S. (1)

transami (202700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330050)

1) Consumers will go back to their old "disposable" life style just as fast as you can say "mo' money".

2) But why does every just take fro granted that the economy will return to "normal" any time soon?
 

Re:Double B.S. (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330120)

3) what is "normal" anyways?

Re:Double B.S. (2)

Junta (36770) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330242)

Well, to point one, I personally had a couple of relatives who lived during the great depression who would antagonize at length over the need for every little item and the relative costs down to the penny. If they had gone through the line only to find out they misunderstood a discount that means they would end up paying 2 cents more than the next cheapest bread, they would either hold things up while they traded bread, or even give up their place in line if the cashier would not wait for them. The obvious fact of the lengths they would go to over 2 cents is striking, but it also means they so carefully examined the alternatives that they *remembered* exactly how much the alternative bread was. I know not everyone was changed to that extent, but a non-trivial part of the population will be effected, depending largely upon the degree to which they were impacted or *felt* like they were impacted.

This is just what happends in bad times (4, Insightful)

a_n_d_e_r_s (136412) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330074)

When people have less money they keep their items for a longer period. They have functional items and don't have the money and there is less peer pressure to buy the latest since for many the money is tight. They dont waste their money by buying new items they don't need.

This more or less always happen when the economy are bad.

Re:This is just what happends in bad times (5, Insightful)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330118)

The problem during this one is it was so severe that many who are making money are still not spending.

For example I have $3,000 sitting in my bank right now. I need a new phone but refuse to pay more than $140. Even at $140 I will have bad anxiety for purchasing it.

For those reading this it does not make any sense. But I was broke, and jobless for years. I am just used to eating top ramen and living broke. My brain is wired to think any spending is bad and dangerous. I may just keep my useless free phone that barely works out of guilt. $100 is a ton of money!

These mindsets are created during depressions more than recessions. This one has qualities of both. Most of the new jobs are minimum wage. Fear is still there as businesses love restructuring and financially engineering jobs that can be done with less and less skills via cheaper workers. The rest go to India.

The question is how do you change the mindset? Without that we are in trouble. However, a good savings rate more help the economy more long term so I do not know.

Re:This is just what happends in bad times (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330218)

>> For example I have $3,000 sitting in my bank right now.

My how you've fallen, Billy Gates.

Re:This is just what happends in bad times (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330380)

For example I have $3,000 sitting in my bank right now. I need a new phone but refuse to pay more than $140. Even at $140 I will have bad anxiety for purchasing it.

$140 per month ... The real big money is in the multi-year service contracts, unless you're carrying exclusively for free 911 service. $3000 will just barely pay for two years of iphone, if you carefully never exceed your monthly limits and don't buy many accessories, apps, or media. Realistically you can't afford an iphone with only three grand and should stick to pay as you go or a plain ole phone, unless you can somehow make more than $3K after taxes by owning the phone... I certainly cannot.

I do the pay as you go thing and $140 is probably about right per year. Note I do not talk on the phone as much as a stereotypical teenage girl. Thats only a couple thousand minutes of service spread across a year, probably only a couple calls per day average.

One good thing about the crisis (4, Insightful)

cybergabi (1962340) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330090)

The environment will be happy.

Gini giveth, Gini taketh away (2, Insightful)

epine (68316) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330092)

From the perspective of the wealthy one percent--whose greatest concern is finding a bank of historical Swiss virtue with a fresh coating of wikicaulk--the Gini has delivered unfathomable riches.

In America, with the repeal of the estate tax, tau is better than ever. The majority of the population who tacitly supported the "death" tax revocation against their present interests--in favour of interests they wish someday to have--now find themselves pinching their threads. Who would have guessed?

Here's an interesting theoretical question. Under what conditions does accelerated inequity appeal to the majority of a democratic population? And how long can you keep the descending majority from figuring out they have more to gain by repealing the obsolescence tax (which they actually pay) rather than the death tax (as aspirational indignity increasingly far from reach)?

New computer not needed (1)

Xian97 (714198) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330094)

I used to purchase a new computer every couple years. Now I find with the exception of high end gaming my 4-5 year old computer will still do everything I want to do at an acceptable speed. Even the gaming works, just not at maximum settings.

It wasn't that long ago that if you were a couple years behind the curve then many operations were extremely slow. That does not hold true anymore, at least in my case.

Re:New computer not needed (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330388)

That was always true...

Old stuff works fine (5, Interesting)

ytaews (1837554) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330096)

I think that, at least for the average user in their day-to-day tasks, five or six year old computers still perform adequately, and people really have no reason to upgrade. My uncle has an eight year old IBM ThinkPad which he still uses as his primary computer, and it runs Windows XP, Outlook Express and Office 2003 just fine - and that's all he needs. Given, it's more or less approaching the end of its life, the battery doesn't hold a charge and the HDD is as slow as a dog, but having seen his friends' bad experiences with new hardware and the bloated mess that was Vista, he's reluctant to upgrade.

And that bloat I think is causing a lot of this. New hardware isn't much faster than the old if it's dragged down by a bloated OS. And I think it's fair to say that most of these new 'features' aren't really necessary at all, so people don't see a need to upgrade. Why do you think XP still has such a large market share? Because people already have it, it does what they need it to, and there's no real need for them to upgrade.

Re:Old stuff works fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330454)

And that bloat I think is causing a lot of this. New hardware isn't much faster than the old if it's dragged down by a bloated OS.

As a case in point, my 3-yr-old HP laptop was getting slower and slower. Rather than reinstall XP I decided to upgrade to Win7. I did a fresh install on a new HD and guess what, it ran even slower! Even though Win7 can supposedly run on 512MB (this requires major doses of suspension of disbelief) I solved the problem by increasing my RAM from 1GB to 2GB. I really hate bloatware.

A warning shot for the industry. (4, Insightful)

zerofoo (262795) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330098)

I don't see this as a return to frugality - I see this as a warning shot for the industry.

Innovation in the electronics and technology industry is stagnating. What really separates a high-def TV, smart phone, or computer from one of 5 years ago?

Consumers seem to think not much.

As much as I love my new Verizon iPhone - it's not really leaps and bounds better than my old 3GS I gave to my wife. My company switched to Verizon, so I was forced to "upgrade". If I was paying for it, I wouldn't have made the switch.

I think TV manufacturers saw this trend coming a couple of years ago, so they scrambled to put 3D in to every TV they could hoping it would spur another round of upgrades - and most of the world said meh...

The low-hanging fruit is gone - the tech world will need to really think creatively to create the next round of stuff that people find useful.

-ted

Re:A warning shot for the industry. (1)

Sirusjr (1006183) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330292)

I agree completely. Every company seems to want to release fancy mp3 players that do more than playing music and as a result don't really give me much reason to ditch my Zune and upgrade to some $300 monster that has less storage capacity but can also play movies on a tiny screen and ditches buttons for a touch screen. Hell I'm still using a SDTV and plan to do so for quite some time. If it dies, I have access to hundreds of perfectly good TVs people are getting rid of while they upgrade to HD for next to nothing. I care about 3D in my TV even less than I care for HD.

Re:A warning shot for the industry. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330392)

What really separates a high-def TV, smart phone, or computer from one of 5 years ago?

I agree, frankly. I have an HDTV and a computer from 5 years ago, or so. I have no complaints. The new ones are better, obviously, but they don't really provide anything that I'd get a lot of use out of that my current stuff doesn't already have. In the 80s and 90s, each generation of computers provided functionality that the previous generation just didn't have. The programs that you could run were different. The speed difference was obvious. With one generation, suddenly it became practical to rip MP3s and store them on your hard drive. A few generations before, having a CD drive on your computer was novel.

Now, it's sometimes hard to tell the difference. Newer laptops might have better battery life. They might be smaller and lighter. Or not. They certainly have a lot more computing power, but most people won't really notice unless they're running high-end games or encoding video. Desktops are even more of a wash. Except for the exterior design, I doubt I could tell the difference between my 5 year old computer and a comparable model sold today by the same manufacturer.

The only thing that makes me want to buy a new TV is to get better black levels and contrast. Even then, I haven't bought one because they aren't enough better to warrant the money.

Re:A warning shot for the industry. (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330398)

I don't see this as a return to frugality - I see this as a warning shot for the industry.

If I was paying for it, I wouldn't have made the switch.

Uh, sorry? I'm not seeing the warning shot here, I'm seeing a guy admitting that if his new toy would have cost him some bucks it just wouldn't have happened.

In the meantime, I really don't think there is enough high level thinking going on in most consumer markets to support your assumption. The market still quivers in anticipation over every new tech toy. 3D isn't big yet but it will be. This was a mistimed market after the wide acceptance of affordable LCD/Plasma displays and the analog broadcast ban in the past 5 years. Had 3D been introduced 2 years ago it would have had a much faster adoption.

Re:A warning shot for the industry. (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330416)

The low-hanging fruit is gone - the tech world will need to really think creatively to create the next round of stuff that people find useful.

The companion problem is thinking hard about covering your target market, in all fields, not just tech, such as marketing and artsy-craftsy stuff. Used to be simple, everyone owned a SDTV in an "entertainment console" roughly the size of a dorm fridge.

We're headed to a hyper fragmented market. Middle class folks with traditional old dorm fridge sized CRT SDTVs. Poor people with giant HDTV big screens (sorry for the stereotype, but it runs true). Rich folks with the new 3D TVs but no knowledge of how to use them, or projector setups run in the dark. Then there's the slingbox and itunes viewers. How are the TV director, camara man, and art director planning to handle even simple artsy stuff like font selection, even worse think of backgrounds.

Re:A warning shot for the industry. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330420)

It's pretty obvious what the next step in TV evolution is. We all want web, video streaming and music streaming and all the other goodies that we have on our computers and phones. Right?

Throw in a WiFi chip, web browser and apps. A simple OS to tie these elements together. Add a Wiimote-like controller to control the thing.

I bet the developers at Apple have been working on it for a couple of years already.

extract every bit out of my stuff (1)

Imabug (2259) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330100)

I tend to hang onto all of my stuff until it breaks beyond repair or is no longer functional for me. I hung on to my Dell Dimension 8100 and kept it going with upgrades and replacements for almost 10 years. It's still usable, but I needed more computing power for number crunching so I got a new computer.

I used my Tungsten T3 for 4 years until it accidentally got washed in the laundry. Replaced it with another one and still using it 3 years later.

still watch tv on a 10 year old 23" CRT

Longevity (5, Interesting)

mccalli (323026) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330106)

"For example Patti Hauseman stuck with her five-year-old Apple computer until it started making odd whirring noises and occasionally malfunctioning before she bought a new computer for Christmas"

Yep. I have a five year-old Mac Mini which I upgraded the CPU in (1.5 CoreSolo->2Ghz Core2Duo), a three-year old MacBook Pro, my wife has a five year-old MacBook (the original one). They are all doing fine for the moment, though ominously it looks like Lion is 64-bit only and so the original 32-bit MacBook will have to go.

This isn't a Mac-only thing either. I'm sure someone would be able to point me at their five year-old PC laptop and say pretty much the same thing - basically unless you're doing really demanding tasks or gaming, anything from the last five years is fine.

I have two applications where I wish I had slightly more modern hardware - Logic 9 (music production) stutters at times when I use a lot of audio effect plug-ins, and I wouldn't mind more than 4Gb so that I could run virtual machines a bit more smoothly. That's it - my day-to-day existence is more than catered for with this hardware, indeed it's pretty much overkill.

Cheers,
Ian

Realism (4, Insightful)

camcorder (759720) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330112)

Welcome to the normal way of living America!

Re:Realism (2)

Deep Esophagus (686515) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330170)

<getoffmylawn>

No kidding, I thought the tags for this story should include "suddenoutbreakofcommonsense". Just yesterday I reluctantly gave up a clock radio that I have been using for over 30 years, because a well-meaning relative gave me a new one for Christmas. The old one has been dropped hundreds of times; once when I was living in hot, humid Houston it had a colony of cockroaches living inside it; the case is so loose it pops apart if you so much as look at it -- yet it has not lost any functionality after three decades of wear and tear.

I expect the new one will need replacing in a year or so.
</getoffmylawn>

Re:Realism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330412)

Indeed! "SPreading the wealth around," as Obammy is so fond of (fond of for the rest of us, but not for his wealthy cronies) means dollars come out of your paycheck to subsidize illegal immigrants outbreeding us in our own country in the hopes that their kids will vote Democrat.

interesting... (0)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330124)

that it gets worded that she worries about stealing from her own future, rather then some kids or grandkids. That is a bigger shift in mentality then this short term frugality. Used to be that people planned long term for not just themselves but also the next generation or so. Now it is all me me me, with no care for even their own kids (except as perhaps status symbols "look it got enough free time that i can take care of my own child" or insurance when age finally kicks the legs out from under you), much less any generations more remote.

The corporate propaganda/marketing machine should be proud, it have shown that people can have their habits changed if one maintain a message long enough.

Re:interesting... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330154)

There's nothing particularly bad about it, life is (on average) more secure now than it was 200 years ago, the great majority of people have little reason to expect that their children will have difficulty obtaining food 20 years from now (of course, there are plenty of naysayers that think the world is doomed by then, but whatever).

Gross (2)

Xacid (560407) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330160)

Am I the only one appalled by this part "Consumers are holding onto new cars for a record 63.9 months"?

Cars don't really go obsolete that quickly. What sense is there in buying new cars all the time? However, this figure doesn't account for the large demographic who buys used so maybe that duration would prove to be much higher? Basically the early adopters vs. the average consumers in the auto industry.

Re:Gross (2)

mattcsn (1592281) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330178)

If you don't buy a new car every three years, how on earth are you supposed to show your neighbor how much bigger your penis is than his?

Re:Gross (3)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330288)

Typically I just whip it out one day at a dinner party. It's always a great hit.

Re:Gross (1)

funkatron (912521) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330310)

If you don't buy a new car every three years, how on earth are you supposed to show your neighbor how much bigger your penis is than his?

You stop being a pathetic consumer and instead use the traditional manly method of "accidentally" leaving your curtains open.

Re:Gross (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330446)

That only works if you actually have a significantly bigger penis. Hence the popularity of status symbols. I don't have a car.

Re:Gross (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330332)

If you don't buy a new car every three years, how on earth are you supposed to show your neighbor how much bigger your penis is than his?

Orgies .. they're called orgies. That's how!

Re:Gross (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330370)

That number floored me too. Our family of 4 has a 2002 Dodge Van, a 2005 Toyota Camry, and - since my daughter just started driving - a 2005 Ford Focus (purchased used for her). I love not having a car payment and haven't had a monthly car payment in over 2 years (had a 4 year loan on the Camry). I don't see any reason to replace any of those vehicles at this point. None of them are to the point where they need constant expensive repair, and believe it or not the infrastructure hasn't changed so they still use the same fuel, oil, wiper fluid, brakes, etc. that new cars do. We'll probably replace the 2002 van in 2 more years. But an average of 5 years and 4 months? I think this is driven by the "can't do basic math" leasing crowd more than anything else.

Re:Gross (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330438)

Cars don't really go obsolete that quickly. What sense is there in buying new cars all the time?

In a word, "reliability". 5 years will put the average car at 100,000 - 150,000 km. By that point, you're guaranteed to need increased maintenance and more frequent repairs. Some major components are getting close to the failing point. The vehicle starts to be a bigger investment in terms of time and money. It's the same reason why police departments and other government agencies tend to sell off their vehicles around this time.

Personally, I don't care - my vehicle is almost 5 years old at this point, and I plan on keeping it for another 5 unless something extreme happens. But I have the time and the inclination to work on it myself, so it's not a drain on me. Your average soccer-mom, or her doctor, dentist, and lawyer, might feel a bit differently.

a better consumer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330188)

I think some people just had a wake up call. I think its silly how fast some people toss good items for something slightly better sometimes. People should hold on to cars for more than six years and cellphones longer than 2 years. My last car had 200,000 miles on it before it crashed by someone else. I keep cellphones as long as they work most of the time. I think my wifes phone was going on 4 years before we upgraded it this last time.

It's just smart money management. I know this does not help the economy monster, but when the economy was only held up by people living above their means. It was bound to crash sooner or later.

Media Dictates Hardware Turnover (1)

retroworks (652802) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330196)

Windows 95 killed the P1, Windows 98 killed the P2, the CD killed the tape player, digital broadcasts kill the rabbit ear TVs. I think the main exception is display devices. I guess that doesn't explain the cars and toothpaste economizing, but I'm always amazed how many people attribute most obsolescence to hardware planning. Most hardware "planned obsolescence" occurs in hindsight - lack of support for repairs, parts, ink, etc., most major changes are driven by software.

It's what the rest of us do anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330198)

Well, if you're from NZ and wasnt born with a silver spoon in your mouth, or been brainwashed by the consumerism monster. We tend to keep and use things..

Same phone for the last 8 years. Works fine. Same laptop since 2005, works fine. The way I see it, the money I dont spend on technology junk I dont *really* need to live my life, I can spend on something fun, like travelling.

Re:It's what the rest of us do anyway (1)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330246)

I hear Cubans rebuild 50's Chevy's, essentially making them last forever. Can you imagine what would happen if Americans were forced to do the same? Madness, I tell you, madness.

Major reason : less changes (2)

Pascal Sartoretti (454385) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330222)

I think that the reason is much simpler : the advances is hardware are becoming less significant. When I compare my brand new iPhone 4 to my previous original iPhone, there are not so many huge changes. My wife is perfectly happy with the previous one :-)

And same for desktop computers : faster, cheaper, quieter, and that's pretty much it. If I compare today's iMac with the one I am typing this on (3 years old), the changes are only incremental ones.

Apples have long shelf lives (1)

clemfoley (540680) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330256)

Before switching to Apple, I was going through a PC laptop every 12 months. My MacBook Pro is going on three years and I really have no need to upgrade despite the allure of the new models. It's not hard to see many older MacBook models floating around. I wonder how much of the increased shelf life is due to the increase in Apple switchers?

Re:Apples have long shelf lives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330328)

If you were honestly going through a "PC laptop" a year you were doing something wrong and probably should have your geek card status revoked.

BTW: If you want to be a fanboi don't make it so obvious.

Funny, I've had my desktop for 63.9 months, (4, Funny)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330272)

too ...

(emerge is still running)

Ten year old computer (2)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330324)

I still have (and use) my computer that I bought ten years ago. Sure, it might not be powerful enough to run the newest games (although, surprisingly, it can run quite a few games that I would expect that it couldn't), but it works for my needs. In this case, buying another computer just for the sake of buying one is rather pointless.

bad news (0)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330346)

Bad news Patti Hauseman, Apple has taken note of your unacceptable buying behavior and has decided to revoke your membership in the Cult of Jobs. Only those that blindly upgrade their hardware multiple times a year are permitted to maintain their memberships.

If you wish to have your membership re-instated, please provide proof of purchase for an AT&T iPhone, a Verizon iPhone, an iPod (Touch or Nano only), MacBook, and iPad. Note that refurbished models DO NOT count.

This just in (1)

stealth_finger (1809752) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330374)

In times of less money people don't want to replace everything and they want the tech they buy to last more than six months before shitting out on them. Actually people want that all the time but then if stuff doesn't break why would people buy the same stuff again and keep this sham we call an economy going.

Headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330394)

"Consumers Buy Less Tech Stuff, keep it longer"

Than non-consumers?

Also greener (3, Insightful)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330396)

I don't know about you guys, but I try not to swap new gadgets all the time not just for economical reasons. It's also a hell of a lot less of a strain on the environment if you can use something longer.

Anecdotes, not data (2)

paiute (550198) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330408)

I'm sending this from a 2004 iBook. First computer I bought was a LCII. Had to throw it out ten years later. It still worked. Bought a Bondi Blue iMac to send to college. Gave it away ten years later, still working, replaced it with a MacBook Pro. Replaced the LCII with a Power Mac G3. Had to discard it ten years later. It still worked. Where it used to sit is an eMac bought for a student. It still works, and I am looking to give it away. It was replaced by a MacBook. Bought an iMac a couple of years ago because the eMac was too slow.

Only hardware problem I ever had was in the G3, which had a loose connection inside. While it was in the shop, I bought a used Mac Plus in a thrift shop for $5. Used it to word process. When the G3 came back, I put the Mac Plus in the garage and used it to write on when all the other computers were occupied.

I have tossed or given away a lot of retail value because they just got overtaken by technology.

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