Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Devil Wears Prada...is technology fashionable?

Continuing the discussion on mobile phones, there were some news in the papers last week, related to an LG-Prada phone. (http://www.macworld.com/news/2007/01/18/prada/index.php) This was supposed to be a high-end LG cell-phone, very much along the lines of Apple's iPhone (we shall make the distinction between Apple's iPhone, and the original Linksys' iPhone). The phone is a tri-band GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) model (900/1800/1900MHz) with support for EDGE data transmission. It will go on sale around February in Europe only. It will cost around €600 or US$775.
When I saw Apple's iPhone, it looked great. Looked like a gadget that even though it is very pricey, I'd love to have. However, a Prada phone? a Gucci Phone?. I wouldn't pay for fashion, but I definitely would for functional benefits (e.g. larger color screen, or fast email access).
So I think to myself... is technology getting fashionable?... surprisingly, the answer is yes!. Apple started a revolution in consumer products with the iMac, then the iPod. People would develop cults for design, so no wonder that brands such as Prada, Gucci and Calvin Klein want to jump into the high-tech industry and generate an ultra thin market for them to tap into.
Now, is this bad for the industry?... i don't think so. All it can do is generate more money for the industry as a whole and continue fostering innovation (for another market, not for the fashion market). We shall see if this happens... meanwhile, we stick with technology as a source for increasing productivity, lowering opex, and generating more revenue instead.

[by the way... it seems that it is really hard for me to keep up with daily postings, therefore I've decided to make it weekly]


Gregor said...

I understand the need for "fashionable" tech and I am one of the people that just "has to have" that certain phone. However, I do not know if this is good for the industry. For years acquaintances of mine have based their hardware purchasing decisions on benchmarks. An important factor was that people purchased the product that was either the fastest for their application or the best "bang for the buck". With the introduction of fashion, we are leaving the rather scientific approach to product evaluation, suddenly the prPhone is better than the plain-vanilla nokia, because it has a label on it? As a scientist, I would prefer to have objective comparison criteria differentiating products and not whether there's a little triangle on the phone or not.

It seems clear that all this "marketing differentiation" that has been going on in the industry recently is a sign of its maturity. While it helps companies increase their profits, it also distract from the central idea of this industry: to generate ever "better" products. No longer does it matter whether Intel or AMD have the faster chip, it matters whether it's a GuccIntel or a PradAMD...

Leo Boulton said...

Market Maturity indeed Greg... though the question is, are cellphones still considered "High-Tech market" (complete oposite of a Mature Market), or an "Accessory" (matured market)? This is precisely what I am talking about, how items are leaving the technology space for the every-day life of consumers... because of the empowerment of consumers.
The reality is that cell-phones are no-longer high-tech devices, but rather a personal device. I shall write about this more later... interesting topic.