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Going to CES with a Really Old Blackberry

11 Jan, 2011 By: Stephanie Prange

The ball-thingy fell out of my Blackberry. I tried to fix it, but various little plastic and metal parts kept falling out.

Should I get a new ball-thingy for my Blackberry? Should I get a new phone/e-mail device? My employer settled on the latter, but — unfortunately — it wouldn’t be available until after the Consumer Electronics Show.

Thus, I was stuck with a cumbersome, but working, black behemoth of a Blackberry with the old click wheel at CES. How embarrassing!
I might as well have walked around with a cell phone the size of a banana (if you don’t remember, see the last few scenes of My Best Friend’s Wedding).

It got me thinking about planned obsolescence, you know the idea that companies create things to become obsolete so you have to buy another version.

It has worked quite well in the home video business. Studios that sold classics to folks on VHS were able to get them to buy the same movie on DVD and perhaps yet again on Blu-ray Disc. Extra features via “special editions” offered other chances to prompt the public to buy yet again. The promise of 3D Blu-ray could extend that format even further, leading consumers to buy films they have in 2D in 3D as well. On the cusp of CES, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment announced plans to release at least 15 movies in 3D Blu-ray in 2011, including animated classics The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, and current theatrical releases Tron: Legacy and Tangled.
But what comes after Blu-ray?

Streaming and download options, obviously, are the brave new world of home entertainment. But how will planned obsolescence look in that realm?

Certainly, download and streaming speeds will improve, offering better and better picture and sound quality that will someday match Blu-ray Disc.

Consumers will have to store their digital purchases on a hard drive of some sort or in the “cloud,” amongst the amorphous digital field controlled by outside servers.

In that environment, will anyone really want to “own” a movie or TV show?

As content becomes ephemeral, unattached to physical technology, many of the old models may fall by the wayside.

We are already seeing the concept of windows change. For instance, should the studios allow consumers to see movies in their homes shortly after they hit theaters — for a price? Perhaps, that is the new world of obsolescence — windows. If you want to get the latest title in the highest quality, you will need to buy into an earlier window. Still, windows are just part of the equation.

Digital technology is sure to offer more options than ever before for HOW consumers see a movie or TV show — on a small screen or large, with a low-quality picture for mobile or on high-definition for the big screen, just after it has left theaters or broadcast or many months or years after the last promotional spot has run.

The technologies that deliver movies are more diverse than ever, as are the options for consumers in viewing a particular movie or TV show. What may be obsolete to one consumer accustomed to seeing the latest content could be just the ticket to another who likes to view content on demand on a mobile phone, no matter how old it is.

Planned obsolescence in the content world could one day become obsolete.

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