I wish I was born about ten years later than I was. I was born in ’81, and being born in ’91 or so would have been better for me. Not that I feel a need to be ten years younger, I just think that if I was born in ’91 or so, I would have no concept of companies caring about the consumer, and I’d have no concept of things and devices being able to last for decades. Take an NES from 1987, or any console from the Gamecube down and you’ll find that many of them–as long as they weren’t kicked around, and even then–can still do exactly what they were meant to do, and you can rock out a good time with little concern.
Or I remember watching TV on a 24″ Zenith monster of a glass-tube television in one of those big wooden cabinets. When I was watching TV on it as a kid, it was already some 30 years old! And I know the family member that is still watching TV on it today. And all of these things will likely keep working. But nothing seems to be built to last like all of that stuff from decades ago, anymore.
Now, the easy argument against what I’m saying is that devices and products today are so complex, you can’t possibly expect something to fail on them more readily. Well, I call bullshit on that notion for a couple of reasons. First off, just about everything comes on a single circuit board today and is so integrated, there’s not much in the way of parts that could actually fail. But the real reason I call bullshit on that idea is something else entirely.
Recently I reported on this site how–after barely over a year–Google’s flagship Nexus 9 tablet was taken down from the Google Store without even a mention by Google (or without a flagship tablet replacement). As I mentioned, this is uncanny since devices like the 2012 and the 2013 Nexus 7, along with the Nexus 10, all stayed in their respective version of the Google Store for years, and would even overlap being sold with newer models (the older ones obviously at a discount).
Now the Nexus 9’s contemporary, the Nexus Player (an Android TV device) has also been quietly removed from the Google Store, without a single mention or any kind of Google-branded Android TV replacement. And bear in mind, Android TV was–supposedly–a significant new push by Google to get into the living room.
Not that the Nexus Player was anything to write home about. It had terrible specs, and it’s a wonder that Google even let it go further than the drawing board (though the separately-sold $50 ASUS-built game controller was rather nice). When compared to the 500GB version of NVIDIA’s SHIELD TV (NVIDIA’s Android TV device, and the Nexus Player only had 8GB of storage, by the way), and all of the unique and popular games that are only available on the SHIELD platform, it’s easy to see why the Nexus Player wouldn’t do so well against such heavy duty competition. But superior competition doesn’t stop Alphabet/Google in other markets. Consider, just because Samsung and other smartphone manufacturers make significantly more powerful and superior-in-every-way smartphones to Google’s Nexus smartphones doesn’t mean that Google stops making Nexus phones. So not being a market leader shouldn’t stop Google in the Android TV space. And to not have a new model of some kind available in the Google Store? That just feels like a throwing up of hands and quitting on Android TV, a platform that is barely two years old.
And it all speaks to that original second point I wanted to get to. There’s no reason that the Nexus Player couldn’t last you for years, if not decades (and it may get software updates for some time, still). Yeah, only have 8GB of storage is going to limit how much you could put on it, and a decade from now–with the Cloud hopefully NOT taking over the world–you probably couldn’t fit a single game onto it. I get that. But build-wise, and even software support-wise, it should be fine.
But the Nexus Player won’t be fine. Why? Not because there’s some new flashy thing that you just have to have because reasons…but because of the incessant need for growth…and growth pleases investors. You see, the very dirty and not-so-secret secret in Silicon Valley (a broad term) is that tech companies aren’t interested in giving the consumer what they want, or in giving the consumer any long-lasting value. Tech companies are interested in getting more VC’s and making investors happy if they’re public. That’s all they care about. And the easiest way to show growth to investors and make them happy is by releasing new OS versions and new devices, or laying off entire teams that work on projects (perhaps such as Android TV) that have never had the chance to build the groundswell that a product line needs to be a cult-followed success (the goal–or at least it used to be–of any company).
SIDE NOTE: Let me guess, you’re going to say that since the Nexus Player was such a piece of shit, it’s a good thing that Google stopped selling it? Certainly, that is a good thing, but then why did they release such a piece of shit in the first place? In my opinion, it’s because most of Silicon Valley doesn’t actually produce things that people want, nor do they pay attention to what people want (outside of bullshit metrics that they think matters in their algorithms). These companies think they know better than you what you want…but obviously the piece of hockey puck-like crap that the Nexus Player (and the Nexus Q, remember that?) proves that these companies actually have no idea what people actually want or need. My point being, Google should have known ahead of time that no one wanted this garbage in the first place by doing good ol’ fashioned consumer research (once a lucrative business when companies used to actually care about consumers).
Tech companies don’t give a shit about the consumer anymore. I’d be that most tech companies would be just tickety-boo if you threw away your smartphone every week and bought a new one with supposed “new features”. And it’s sad, because when I worked for tech companies, I remember wanting to build things that are solid as a rock and would last the customer an eon. I would think about the tech that I loved and bought–like say, an Atari 2600–that was still kicking and delivering exactly what I wanted out of it: a good time. But like I said, that attitude seems to have gone the way of the dodo. And Google, with various products and services (most notoriously the Revolv Hub), is the most egregious of the bunch, it seems. I’m to the point that I wouldn’t trust a Google service or buy a Google product for any reasons, since I can imagine in 6 months to 2 years it will be either nonexistent or effectively obsolete.
It’s not, “give the customer value” in business anymore. Now it’s, “get the customer hooked and keep selling iterative products that we could have sold them 10 years ago but we’re out of new ideas so we’ll just add a camera to the front”. It’s insane.
Don’t misunderstand me, “profit” isn’t a dirty word, I agree. But as I always say on my tech podcast Sovryn Tech, “value” isn’t a dirty word either. But words like “value” and phrases like “built to last”, sadly, seem to be a things of the past.