Saturday, December 31, 2011

Is technology really getting more affordable? That depends on who's saying it...

Article originally published on Technorati as "Is Technology Really Getting more Affordable?"

This is a time of year when everyone has a list.  Best of, Worst of, Predictions for and the like.  Seems we have a preoccupation with looking where we've been while trying to guess where we're going.  At the beginning of 2011 most technically inclined folks were preoccupied with the next Iphone and Net Neutrality.  Now we're debating SOPA/PIPA and whether 2012 will finally bring an Android tablet to rival the IPAD. 

Oh yeah, and maybe we'll get a new version of Windows that will realize Microsoft's hopes to rival Apple's omnipresence on a myriad of devices...

That's all fine and good but one thing that hasn't changed is the push to make our data portable via "The Cloud"  and the costs associated to get it there.  With maturity and broader acceptance (read that volume) we usually enjoy better service at reduce costs.  That doesn't seem to be the case, however.

I'm a frequent viewer of Leo Laporte's Twit.TV video podcasts.  In fact I watch them more frequently than regular television.  I'm sure I'm not alone in my viewing habits.  It's an excellent source for tracking technology trends and news where you prefer a more relaxed but still professional presentation.

Still, as I watch I sometimes feel a sense of incredulity at what the hosts consider an acceptable price  when discussing products and services.  For example, Ford is a sponsor of a number of Twit.Tv podcasts with Twit produced commercial spots interwoven in their shows.  On one the 2012 Ford Focus is featured.  Economy, styling, and of course technology are featured in the spots with Ford's Sync technology being the centerpiece.  Sync can apparently integrate with the features and services on your Smartphone and make them available via voice control without distracting you from driving.

I have no issue with Ford or Twit's celebration of a technology.  What I take some issue with is what is considered affordable.  In one commercial Leo claims the Focus with Sync is affordable.  I went on Ford's website and built a similar vehicle with features equivalent to the example in the commercial.  When I was done I was looking at a $24,000 subcompact with a 4 cylinder engine. 

I personally don't find $24,000 for an entry level car line to be affordable regardless of whether it integrates with Pandora .  If you want the all electric version be prepared to shell out #39,500 for a base model.  That's not affordable either.

I'm not picking on Twit, however.  They're just  part of a larger community with a passion for new technology to the exclusion of all else.  It seems that technology companies are trying to redefine what affordable is whether or not it has any basis in reality.  Can the latest Smartphone make you more productive?  Perhaps, but is it worth the $200 price and 2 year commitment at a ridiculous monthly rate? 

Is it worth $300 for an operating system for your computer whose only purpose is to provide an environment for even more expensive software suites?   Probably not but we've been conditioned to accept the ridiculous as necessary.  Our personal fortunes may be waning but Apple, AT&T and Microsoft are doing just fine thank you.

I'm not against technology or progress but I'm stalwartly opposed to their marketing being promoted as the basis for my personal economy.  Market forces can dictate what a fair price is but they seem to be getting ignored with the latest technology trends.  Just as a box of fruit loops at $50 with a one year contract isn't justifiable or even sane;  Costs of $120 or more for  monthly cell phone bills aren't either for what you get. 

Technology features prominently in our future and promises to change the very concepts of work and play.  I applaud the liberation it's already brought to those who couldn't flourish without it.  But the price we pay needs to be dictated by those who use it, not someone's marketing department. 

I'd just like to see tech journalism push for real affordability instead of the perception of it.