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Even procrastinators are beginning to realize that the holiday shopping season will soon be upon us. If you’re shopping for personal electronics, you will have an incredible array of new gadgets offering tempting – and bewildering – technological wonders.
Computers come in more sizes than ever before.
There are tablet computers with screens ranging from 5 ½” to 13”, table top computers as large as 84”, and smart phones with screens varying from 2.2” to 8”. Wearable technology devices such as smartwatches and fitness bands are priced from $150 to $500; “name” designer embellishments can kite these prices up to $18,000.
And yet market analysts have been telling us for years that computing is a mature industry that is in its declining years. The number of computer manufacturers has been consolidating steadily. The average business computer is eight years old. Desktop computer sales have been steadily diminishing for the last 5 years; laptop computer sales are beginning to drop and iPads are being supplanted by less expensive Android devices. Emulating the pattern of the automotive industry, computers have become a commodity item.
By 2004, computing hardware had achieved a level of performance that allowed speedy execution of common computing tasks. Prior to this, the only way to assure decent performance was to steadily upgrade to the best hardware available. At last, modestly priced devices offered more performance than an average user would ever require. Upgrading had become of minimal concern; one simply replaced an aging or broken computer with a newer equivalent model. Ever eager to please, manufacturers responded with cheap but “good enough” computers designed to be simple drop-in replacements for existing computers – a strategy still relentlessly pursued today.
In the era of good enough computing manufacturers compete primarily on price. Added features and services have become significant profit centers. Now you’re no longer just shopping for a computer, you’re shopping for an entry into an expanding digital ecosystem willing to provide all your communication, news and entertainment needs.
If you are content with the speed and capability of your current computer there is little need to automatically upgrade equipment every few years as long as the manufacturer still provides security updates and operating system support. If you have family or friends who simply must have the latest and greatest gadgets, you may be quite content with their discarded treasures – and they may even teach you how to use them too!
It may be wise to transition to new equipment gradually while your familiar aging devices are still functional; it’s certainly not unusual to have several computers in today’s household. If it has been some time since you purchased a new computer, you will have a significant learning curve to conquer no matter what you choose. When you can delay no longer, you’ll likely find just what you need – after all, you are the only one who can finally decide what’s good enough!