Planned Obsolescence: is there anything we can do?


Now I have been talking about this subject for years and some believe it is a thing and others really do not.  I remember years ago when a company was attempting to get me to resell their brand of products explaining that they would ensure repeat customers because if they did not purchase the extended warranty the power supply used would break in one year and 2 months instead of the normal 3 years. I was mortified.  This was an industry I loved and I felt this was outright cheating clients.  I changed vendors and started to look at just building them myself.  This way I could just order the best parts and offer them to my clients.

After lots of research I noticed that many of the parts that are reasonable in price are designed to break and a certain time frame.  I found that just $10  – $40 more in cost would render a product that would last 5 to 8 years.  Well if you do that do all the parts of a system then your costs goes way up.  So what is the solution.  In my opinion the solution is simple, tell the client and allow them the choice.

A lot of hardware is designed for failure within two to three years.  Since the software updates usually render older hardware obsolete anyway within three years it just made sense to make cheaper hardware. But not everyone wants to keep up with all the software changes.  I have clients that still use windows XP but on a closed network that has no internet access or USB ports to plug anything into. This is not the norm, but there are a lot of people that are able to still use old hardware. Just as the refurbish business is growing Microsoft discontinued alot of the software that allow older OS system to work.  Now that Windows 10 is the norm, it renders computers with small amounts of ram useless.

This is happening not just with computers but with cell phones and TVs.  It is now cheaper to throw away the computer than to fix it. So what can we do to stop this and or solve it.  Well Kyle Wiens, CEO of the repair site iFixit started assigning repairability scores to products that would come in their shop.  This was designed to show how easy it would be repair a product without special tools.  But how to do people to use it.  Well leave it to France to come up with a solution.

France has decided that for products to be offered to their citizens after jan 1 to have a repairability index that is publicly available before the purchase. This index would include five criteria: Availability of manuals with tech specs, easy of disassembly, price and availability of parts needed for repairs, and a wild-card element that is specific to the class of the product. Accord to the French government only 40 percent of broken electronics are repaired.  That means most people find it too hard to repair and just replaces it.  Wiens has assisted the French government with how to roll this out for products like smartphones, laptops, washing machines, lawnmowers and televisions.

The issue is even with all in place, how do you enforce it.  Will consumers even care?  Well the idea is that once the scoring system is public on packaging it would encourage competitors to push back on each other.  Apple would call out Samsung for their next phone that has a high index where their product will last longer because it is easier to repair. Will it work, well only time will tell.  But it is a step in the right direction to reduce the amount of electronic waste we are producing as well as be more transparent to consumers about the expected life of their products.


About Author

An avid gamer, JoeBoy has been reviewing and playing video games for over 30 years. Starting a non-profit call SolgamesUSA Foundation, JoeBoy has promoted using games to increase interest in learning about computers. He also runs a computer company: Your Computer Solutions Inc. that has been providing remote and on site services all across the country.

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