The more advanced a computer user, the quicker you can reach a decision. I had a friend contact me yesterday. You might recognize his name because it was used in the Server Quest game. Matt Berg sent me an email that it was time for a laptop refresh and wanted some feedback on the options he was considering.
I’ve known Matt for years now so I knew I could ask a couple of quick probing questions and see where he was leaning. Here was my first question to him, “What is your preferred laptop LCD screen resolution?”
Right out of the gate he mentioned 1440×900 was not quite big enough for his needs. That immediately knocked two of the three machines off his list because that was the max native resolution of the laptop LCD screens on those models. His third candidate offered 1680×1050 and 1920×200 screens so I told him what I thought about each.
We of course talked about the weight of the machine, size, battery life, performance, etc. but all of that was really a moot discussion at that point. Don’t under estimate the screen. It isn’t a place you want to sacrifice your wants versus your needs.
What about a netbook?
We really didn’t enter into that discussion although it did come up yesterday under a different context. In fact, I have seen a number of interesting discussions in the past couple of days. Let me ask you a question. When you buy technology today, what do you expect it’s lifespan to be?
Let me ask the question differently. When you buy something today, do you expect to upgrade it or run it into the ground? Here’s more context. If you buy a $299 netbook, how do you answer the questions? What about a desktop or laptop?
Until recently many people opted for future proofing their purchases by looking for machines that could be upgraded. This would help them jump from one generation to the next with something like an operating system. However, we all make bad decisions or get “burned” by a business decision some other hardware provider makes. For instance, what if a video chip maker decides not to create a Windows driver for your video card? It happens. You bought the card and it worked at the time you bought it. But 2, 3, 4, or 5 years later they end-of-life the card and you hit a dead end. Trust me, I feel your pain. I have a couple of video cards for sale if interested.
I have already started to reset my expectations. When I purchase technology now, I expect that it will run what it runs at the time I purchase it for a reasonable period of time. If I purchase a phone, I expect the phone to work with the OS that came on it for the life of the contract. 12 or 24 months, no more. Video cards I now buy for the here and now.
What is your strategy?
My computer purchases are typically pretty powerful. Even for personal purchases. I know my hand-me-downs will serve my family and extended family well. But it’s becoming clear that strategy is probably flawed.
Would I be better off buying cheaper machines up front and expecting a shorter life span? This is really something you need to think more carefully about as well. This is especially true if you are recommending machines for customers. You can look at some recent trends for examples of this. I’m sitting in a room right now with fifty customers and there are several netbooks on the tables. Instead of being a device worth thousands, it’s worth hundreds.
The decision that gets made in a larger organization is different. Usually you are buying thousands of devices so the capital expenditure and amortization schedule is different. But lifespan, management, future proofing and a dozen other factors are still in play.
I’m interested to know if you have changed your purchase habits. What is driving it? The economy or the technology? How big of a consideration is the the software?