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29 June 2006

Friday, March 31, 2006

I am a Gadget Slut (TODAY, 20060331)

As Gollum would lisp: "We likes innuendo, we doess, precious. SSS." A highly enjoyable piece. c


This story was printed from TODAYonline I am a Gadget Slut As long as they meet my needs, doesn't really matter where they come from Friday • March 31, 2006 AS MOST people will tell you, I love my gadgets and toys. It is so bad that when I tell my wife I am in the vicinity of Sim Lim Square, her immediate response is: "Don't buy anything ah!" But those evil technology companies, they always tempt me with their latest offerings by introducing more and more features (like a new colour). How does a simple man like me resist? One of my overseas readers, "Whitebait", even called me an "A-grade gear slut" and meant it as a compliment. He said because of my shameless posting of photographs of my latest acquisitions on my blog, he can justify spending money on things like "a pure metal, germ-free pop shield with adjustable gooseneck". I pointed this out to my wife, and told her I was helping to provide a valuable service for technology enthusiasts around the world, but she just said: "Don't buy anything ah!" I tell you, it is not my fault. We Singaporeans have all grown up expecting upgrading in all areas of our lives. Better grades, better jobs, better lifts — these are the things that warm the heart of a true Singaporean. So, can anyone blame me for wanting to upgrade my gadgets, too? Perhaps one day, they will build a gadget that will do everything for me. I can imagine a product — let's call it The Zeus Tech 3000 — that becomes my do-it-all (or bao ka liao in Hokkien), device. That way, I need never buy another gadget again, because the Zeus 3000 will always meet my needs. The Zeus Tech 3000 can play music, videos, and make coffee. And those are just the basic features. Once every few years, the Zeus Tech company will announce the newest models, even if the older ones have been doing a good job. This is important for the sake of self-renewal. If it does not offer newer, younger and better models, people might buy another brand. Its 99-per-cent market share did not just materialise overnight and the company knows it cannot just depend on past victories or old track records (who listens to records these days, right?) to keep its existing customers. And when Zeus Tech introduces its latest models — preferably three at a time, so that people don't get confused — it goes all out. Blitz the newspapers, TV and radio with photos and a list of features. And even if the models only come in one colour, white, the company points out that actually, each model is different, yet the same. In the past, the older Zeus Tech series was famous for its uniform quality. The music player of the older Zeus Tech 1000 series, for instance, only had one dial for volume control. But people now want variety and more voices. So the company now offers an equaliser function that can give your music a Rock voice, Classical Voice, or Jazz voice, too. Tech support from the Zeus Tech company is excellent. Nothing is allowed to fail. Repairs are dealt with promptly and swiftly. People really liked that about the company. In fact, they got so used to the efficiency of the tech support that they took it for granted. Nobody cared about the Gadget Wars anymore because, hey, the Zeus Tech series always worked. In fact, the customers felt little love for the product because it was so much a part of their lives, so they stopped giving feedback to the company. But that got Zeus Tech worried. Because if the customers did not feel strongly about the product or technology itself, how could the company make them feel excited about its next line of products? This was also affecting R&D because people just stopped telling Zeus Tech what they wanted from the product — they assumed Zeus Tech would be able to decide for them what features they wanted in upcoming versions. Some did try to give their feedback to the company in the past, but there was a feeling that Zeus Tech was not listening. The 2000 series, for instance, had a few features which some people said were bugs in the system — the music player kept playing only one kind of music — but the dissenting customers were told that those were not bugs, those were features. In fact, the company told them, well, the 2000 model was designed to play the kind of music it thinks is best and healthiest for the customer. So, now, some users are starting to look at the new models from the other smaller brands. Some of these smaller brands have had the same old models, playing the same old songs, though they had their loyal following. But the smarter companies, like Hammer and Circle Systems, started to offer models that were newer and had many similar qualities found in Zeus Tech's series. The users seem quite impressed with the Hammer Systems alternative offerings. Its devices are a little rough around the edges and the tech support is understaffed. But some customers like the company's enthusiasm and willingness to listen, and also the fact that it's the underdog. Occasionally, the smaller tech companies complain that Zeus Tech monopolises all the best parts for its devices, like cornering the market on semiconductors and chips. But this does not stop the smaller firms from trying to find alternative sources of good parts for their models, although it is hard, since Zeus Tech pays good money for its parts. Zeus Tech also has a tendency of enforcing its patents and copyrights aggressively in the courts. Some smaller tech companies even get sued for badmouthing Zeus Tech's products without basis. But in my fantasy technology world, Zeus Tech knows how to play the game and how to adapt to survive. But then, so do the smaller companies, it seems. And perhaps, that is the way how things get better for everyone. Maybe there is no such thing as a gadget that can do it all for me. I don't mind which company I get my gadgets from, as long as the gadgets meet my needs. I just like to see them all trying harder for me. After all, I am an A-grade gear slut. mr brown is the accidental author of a popular website that has been documenting the dysfunctional side of Singapore life since 1997. After writing this column, he went to Sim Lim Square again. Really. Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved. ref: Psst... mr brown, your help's needed. Desperately! (TODAY, 20060406)








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