Planned Obsolescence

Ed Wenck | Feb 13, 2020

Peter Aylett (Archimedia/HTE) has an iPad graveyard. Tablets that are now effectively paperweights, with processors that simply can’t process the current iOS. Aylett has a photograph that he uses as the opening slide for his newest CEDIA Talk, “Planned Obsolescence.”

“Computers are infamous for their rapid obsolescence,” notes Aylett, “and now most everything an integrator installs is a computer, even if it’s in disguise.”
“It used to be that everything we installed was passive,” he says. Now, a device has a life that’s limited in part by “disintermediation” – when a supplier issues, say, a firmware update, that supplier has cut out the middleman (you, oh CEDIA integrator) between the factory and the end user. And often, the device itself is designed to become obsolete in just a few years, usually with the advent of the next version of that device.
A great example? “We have 4K TVs that were sold with HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) – and now they’re bricks on the wall after HDCP 2.2 went into effect,” says Aylett.

“Sell the idea of platforms, not systems."

Aylett notes that a prominent manufacturer recently told its customers that some of its older gear would soon stop receiving updates. This wasn’t a nefarious position. “They had to,” says Aylett. Those older products just can’t keep up.
So what’s an integrator to do?
“Sell the idea of platforms, not systems,” says Aylett. Get the client accustomed to that fact, like his or her phone, that smart speaker or that media server will eventually be outmoded. Curate the updates for your clients. Understand how to make the home network as robust and expandable as possible.
“And borrow an idea from the commercial world,” Aylett suggests. “Give the client the cost over the life of that installation -- the ‘refresh cycle.’” It’s a bit of math that CFOs demand so that they can budget over time, as Aylett explains: “If a system is expected to last for ten years, what will be the ultimate cost per year?”