There have been headlines lately about a number of tech companies, broken hardware and the associated social media rage. Some of it born of frustration with inadvertently broken hardware such as the preview program on Google Home speakers, some from anger over losing functionality with the Sonos saga currently emerging and most of it has been caused by a lack of understanding.
A quick refresher on what has happened
By far the biggest eruption of rage lately was directed as Sonos. They announced that they were ending support for their older hardware, most of which is 10 or more years old. To try and put into some context, the hardware we’re talking about wasn’t designed to stream media but Sonos made it happen.
As the market changed, Sonos worked to ensure their old hardware still delivered a great user experience and now the time has come where that legacy hardware just can’t keep up with the expectations of the current streaming world.
The actual problem is that Sonos was originally going to block updates for all hardware in a network, based on the presence of legacy hardware, or at least that’s how it was understood.
Whether that was the intent or not, the correction came quickly that old hardware will not receive new features vs being disabled or disabling your other hardware updates also.
Would you prefer a consistently great user experience or continued updates? Old hardware can’t necessarily do both
In its press statement, Sonos addressed exactly this fact starting that their old hardware is at a point where continuing to update it could well jeopardise the user experience.
Another recent example is the Google Home speakers that have suffered some interesting failures as a result of “bad” updates. One was a firmware update that bricked some speakers and users who contacted Google were able to have their speakers replaced. The other was associated with the preview program but was able to be recovered.
Updates will end at some point – it’s not fair to expect indefinite support
Personally I feel like there’s a loss of perspective when the hardware is an active part of your daily life vs “infrastructure” in your home. Unless you’re paying a subscription fee of some sort to ensure you continue to receive updates, then it’s not fair or realistic to expect indefinite support.
In a recent Technology Uncorked podcast, Geoff Quattromani nailed it when he said:
How many people have got a product in their house that’s over 10 years old and has received a software update this year?
He’s absolutely right.
If you’ve got a 10 year old PC that’s still working and meets your needs, you’re very lucky! I don’t know anyone with a mobile phone that old and similarly aged TV’s probably aren’t “smart” TVs that require software updates.
At that age, for a business to invest time – as a by-product, money – in updating a device just isn’t a reasonable expectation of manufacturers. That actually highlights another issue with some of the upset that users have expressed lately.
Buyers expectations and standards aren’t consistent
With the rapid progression of our connected world, there are huge numbers of users who update their mobile phone every year at a cost of over $800.00 every time.
While more focussed on mid-range manufacturing, HMD Nokia has made a big deal of their commitment to 2 years OS upgrades and 3 years of security updates. This means that after 3 years, your phone will no longer receive updates. For some further context, the Google Nexus One was released 10 years ago and realistically, that hardware just wouldn’t handle Android 10 with all of the feature development since that time.
Perhaps it’s the expectation that has been set for us by phone manufacturers and hey… more power to them. But this makes me wonder why it’s so unacceptable for a device that costs $150 to fail or why a 10 year old $800 device to stop getting updates is met with such a significant reaction.
It’s easy to understand something that users haven’t seen any degradation of performance from can give you a false impression of general electronic health, but in the background, it could be working at absolute capacity to keep up with your current needs – far beyond it’s designed capacity and life expectancy.
How long can you reasonably expect equipment to last?
There’s a lot to consider when trying to answer this question but for a lot of users its a very simple thought process, it cost me a lot of money so I want it to last a long time. There are hardware limitations involved as well.
While the majority of current release hardware is designed on 64-bit architecture, for any hardware running on a 32 bit there is a hard date when it will cease to function in January 2038. It’s then that the timeline hits its capacity to understand the time and we’ll face another potential Y2K style tech-armageddon where binary time will go from:
11111111 11111111 11111111 11111111
00000000 00000000 00000000 00000000
Where the “time” correlates to December 1901.
That aside though… what is a reasonable time to expect hardware to last? I have my own expectations and thoughts on this
I expect something to last its warranty period, I expect that a more expensive item like a laptop will live long enough to have some resale value and consider a $500 item “disposable” after a few years.
But I also have some caveats on that… for a start, if it’s a particularly expensive piece of tech I expect a 3-year lifecycle as a minimum, more if the cost is higher. eg. an $800 phone I would expect one to two years and a laptop I’d look for three more with a decent resale value behind it.
What are your thoughts?
Everyone has their own thoughts on what is fair and reasonable. Share with us your thoughts on technology, cost and its expected lifespan.
- Do you think it’s fair to expect 10 years or more of from hardware?
- How long do you believe it’s reasonable to expect software updates to be available?
- Do you believe we should expect longer life of more expensive items?
- Do you believe the upset caused by Sonos’ decision to end new features on old hardware was a justified reaction?