Style vs substance

Hyping up the latest gadget is one thing, but do enterprises sometimes invest in IT just because it's new and shiny too, asks Brid-Aine Conway.

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By  Brid-Aine Conway Published  January 27, 2008

The sight of Steve Jobs pulling the MacBook Air out of a manila envelope on stage earlier this month during his keynote speech at MacWorld 2008 reportedly elicited "gasps" from the audience. And to be fair to Jobs, anyone can see why. At 1.94cm thin and weighing just 1.36kg this is a piece of technology that does what Apple does so well - it looks really amazing.

Of course, as so frequently happens at the launch of a new Apple product, PC versus Mac rivalries were ignited in the office. Logical, reasoned and informed cases for both sides eventually broke down on the simple and irrevocable argument from the Mac crowd - "But it's sooo cool!"

It's hard to argue with that kind of logic, especially when your own PC loyalties are beginning to waiver in the face of unadulterated longing for something that new and shiny. And it is a common feeling in the consumer electronics market. Think of websites like Gizmodo.com which reviews gadgets and technology and has a tagline that reads "So much in love with shiny new toys, it's unnatural". And, after all, that is the job of the manufacturers, marketers and advertisers, to make consumers want something so badly, they'll pay its asking price.

The MacBook Air is not at an unreasonable price, although it's definitely at the upper end of the market, but it is something that not a lot of people really need, even if they're in the market for a new laptop. None of the arguments in the office ran "But I really need something that's only 1.94cm thin because that's exactly the amount of space left in my overnight bag after I've put in my pyjamas, toothbrush and spare socks."

In fact, many of the people who buy the Air will never even have considered if they really need it or what else the market might have to offer. The part of all this that is a worry is how often this acquisitive "I want, I want" attitude spills over into enterprise IT consumption.

While it's often true that you get what you pay for, the converse isn't always the case. Just because a technology is new and expensive (or shiny), doesn't necessarily mean it is the best, or even more importantly, the best for a particular organisation. All too often, people (and enterprises) get caught up in wanting the best and latest technologies without stopping to consider if they really need them.

When looking at the latest offerings in the world of modern video-conferencing for the reviews in this month's issue of ACN, it was obvious that the much hyped and high-priced telepresence products offered by different vendors, while fantastic technologies, were not products for universal adoption.

These are luxury executive products and many enterprises will find themselves just as well served (and their technology budgets much less squeezed) with lower-priced and lower-tech solutions.

While it might seem time-consuming to look closely at everything on offer in every area of IT before making any purchase, unlike individual consumers, an enterprise may have to live with its choices for a long time. More importantly, the wrong decision could result in higher costs and loss of revenue for the company or a severe bashing from the competition.

The fact is, enterprises can experience buyer's remorse just as easily as consumers and it can be avoided in exactly the same way - taking the time to look at what they really need and finding that in the market, instead of rushing headlong to join the queue of other bedazzled prospective customers.

3557 days ago
Magnus Nystedt

So what's your verdict on the MBA? Is it much-hyped and over priced? Magnus

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