Andrea DiMaio

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Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
15 years at Gartner
28 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies strategies, Web 2.0, open government, cloud computing, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio

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Sometimes I Wish I Were A Luddite

by Andrea Di Maio  |  January 28, 2013  |  2 Comments

For anybody who has been watching the evolution of consumer technology, it is quite clear how devices are becoming obsolescent much sooner than in past years. My parents used the same fridge for over 30 years and the same TV set for almost 20, and my hi-fi has been serving me well for over 20 years. Things have changed with digital technology, and now laptops, tablets, cellphones, TVs get replaced ever few years or – sometimes – every few months.

One thing is to know this, another thing is to experience it. I have been one of the first owner of an iPad in my circle of friends and colleagues. I remember I bought in Chicago a few days after its launch, and when I flew back I had all flight attendants around me watching this strange new device (and making me feel so proud of getting their attention).

Now, less than three years after its purchase, people opening their shiny new tablets during a meeting, look down on me with disdain, watching the unmistakable iPad 1 cover, and I can clearly ask the question in their eye: “is there a problem with this guy? Can’t he afford a new one?”. Oddly enough, if there is somebody at the same table, holding just paper and a pen, people look at him or her with curiosity mixed with respect, and that person can say “I would miss the feel of paper in my hands”.

Until when you concede and buy yourself a device, you have all sort of defenses. If somebody asks you “have you ever considered to buy yourself a tablet?” you can say many things, ranging from “I share one with my partner” to “I am not good at typing and my handwriting is horrible” to “I touch-type so I’d rather use a laptop” to “I’m a Luddite” (although this would be hardly credible for a technology analyst). But if you have the old model, then how do you defend yourself against that the “What’s wrong with this guy?” question in your counterpart’s eyes?

Sometimes people approach me and ask more direct questions: “Don’t you miss the camera?”, “Hasn’t that become horribly slow?”,How do you manage with apps that can’t be updated any longer?” and so forth.

Reality is that I can’t find the personal business case for upgrading. I have my bunch for applications for watching video, playing and recording music, reading and annotating books and documents. I have lost access to corporate email when I missed the upgrade to iOS 6, but I have other devices for that.

I admire those who keep upgrading and buying themselves the latest toys, and even find ways to give their old models to their kids. But, when I try to figure the scene at my place, I can already hear my kids saying “You got it wrong Dad. You keep the old clunker, and we get the new model”.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dan Sholler   January 28, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    What you have here is the classic case between commerce and software lifecycles. When things are relatively new, the vendor comes out with highly productive big-bang innovations and users jump at the chance to have them. As the things mature, the vendor keeps adding every year (or whatever cadence) but the installed base is large enough that a certain percentage is satisfied with what they have, and cannot justify the upgrade. In those early iterations, the vendor abandons most notions of backward compatibility, because this is seen as a means of hurrying people to the whiz-bang new features. In later iterations, backward compatibility is maintained to avoid annoying the customer base and having them go to a competitor.
    I am old enough to recall when the expected life of an enterprise business application (like an accounting system) was 3 years. It is now more like 15. This evolution is happening at a much more rapid clip in these consumer devices like smartphones and tablets.
    The cycle can get restarted at any time, by a new really valuable and desirable whiz-bang innovation, and the software could have backward compatibility problems based on other factors, but in general this trend has been followed with almost every technology.

    I am sure in a few years, no one will blink an eye when you pull out the Iphone 4. but they will still think that IPad is a clunker.

  • 2 Richard Fouts   January 28, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Yes, becoming a luddite is an attractive option some days. When I posted this on my Facebook page, people went nuts and responded overwhelming with things like “every day”.

    “Having one of those days where I want to disconnect, go off the grid, and escape to some South Pacific island. Ever feel like that?”