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Is The 6-Month Product Cycle Upon Us? 272

Posted by timothy
from the even-planneder-obsolesence dept.
Mark Goldstein writes "What is perhaps more interesting than the 4 new Konica Minolta cameras announced today is the rapid product cycle that seems to have been established by both Konica Minolta and other manufacturers." Rather than the yearly model updates that people have come to expect, the article notes that three members of this batch aren't even a year old, and one is only six months.
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Is The 6-Month Product Cycle Upon Us?

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  • by solarmist (313127) * <joshua@olson.gmail@com> on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @09:52AM (#9631349)
    Yeah, sure. The picture quality'll go up, but the overall quality go down, just like video games, or processors, or....

    All show and no substance...

    I mean that's what seems to be happening with these rapid production cycles; they concentrate so much on improving one aspect that the entire product suffers, or at least starts to suffer, from it.

    And let's not forget our favorite one, Microsoft; Although I'm sure this is not the main reason M$ sucks... *Insert M$ bashing here* *and here*

    *and here*

    *and a little more here...*
    • by DZign (200479) <averhe@nosPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @09:55AM (#9631375) Homepage
      ever checked car radio systems ?
      models also change a lot and quite fast, while just the looks which have changed while the features are almost the same..
      at least usually external cd-changers stay the compatible but if you have a changer of 2-3 years old it can be quite a task to find out with which current radio it still works (as I found out recently)
    • by millahtime (710421) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:09AM (#9631522) Homepage Journal
      There are 2 big areas that suffer in this faster life cycle.

      1) Reliability - products will be more prone to fail. But, I guess this just forces you to go out and get a new one. Kind of like how many cars are now "disposable". You have them for a couple years and dispose of them to get new ones.
      2) Quality - They aren't the quality products they used to be. They sure don't build them like they used to.
      • by Moofie (22272) <leeNO@SPAMringofsaturn.com> on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @11:17AM (#9632242) Homepage
        Things are also a lot cheaper (in real dollars) than they used to be.

        There were no good old days.
    • New bussiness model? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bircho (559727)

      The only reason i can find for this is about TCO (total cost of ownership)

      My dad had a TV set that lasted 20 years. Yeah 20 years non-stop. 3 years with a computer and it's already trash. Same with cellphones, printers, etc, etc... You spend a lot more to keep those devices working.

      My Canon bjc4000 printer is about 8 years old and it's better than most new cheap printers.


      • I have an HP Laserjet II (IIp me thinks) that I bought from a bust co. 8 years ago for $10. It's worked great for the last 8 years and was probably in heavy business-use service for its first 5+ years. At $10 bucks, it was a fantastic investment.

        Of course, the neighborhood lights dim when it fires up so any "savings" are probably being killed by my electric bill.

    • Meanwhile my SR-T 101 still makes pretty pictures whenever I show it how, and the shutter button isn't lost under a mound of features.

      My usual question about product cycles is, "how many of them will go whooshing by before they make some change I care about?"
    • by kingLatency (624983) <.ten.tsacmoc. .ta. .nhak.xela.> on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @11:03AM (#9632105) Homepage
      Actually, the picture quality won't go up. The current trend has been to increase the resolution of the low-end cameras while keeping too-small sensors in them. This reduces the image quality, but increases marketablitiy. Also, manufacturers increase their still cameras' video capabilities, things like 640x480 videos. It's completely pointless. Unfortunately, this doesn't lead to a better product. As prices for larger CCDs drop, then we might see some improvement.
    • by W2k (540424) <`wilhelm.svenselius' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @11:15AM (#9632222) Homepage Journal
      I mean that's what seems to be happening with these rapid production cycles; they concentrate so much on improving one aspect that the entire product suffers, or at least starts to suffer, from it.

      And let's not forget our favorite one, Microsoft; Although I'm sure this is not the main reason M$ sucks... *Insert M$ bashing here* *and here*

      While I agree with the general idea that too rapid production cycles can be bad, Microsoft is hardly a major villain in this case. For each new Windows version, there have been improvements across the board, not just on single areas. Some would argue that this is not true for the Windows 95-98-Me line, which aren't quite as different from one another as the NT-2k-XP line (and 2k-2k3). However, 2-3 years is hardly a "rapid cycle" when talking computer software.

      Let's also not forget that Windows Longhorn is still another year away at least, will have MAJOR new features across the board according to the information from Redmond thus far, and it's been some time since XP was released (2k3 doesn't count as a "new" Windows in this context as it's just XP for servers). So regarding OS's, Microsoft are hardly guilty of pushing a "rapid product cycle" in order to squeeze consumers for money (they compensate by charging lots for their software instead - different story which I will not bother with here).

      Microsoft Office is, however, a different story. OpenOffice.org has only a subset of Microsoft Office 2003's features, but I don't find myself missing anything. I guess this means nothing of massive substance has been added to Office since '95 or so - but others would digress. There have been huge debates over this before but I think the general consensus is that the new features, however insignificant, must be of value to somebody, so there's no harm in Microsoft releasing new versions of Office every year - after all, there's not much more that can be added to Word or Excel in terms of "major features" (think "major" like the introduction of USB support in Windows 98 here. Now THAT's major!) but some will likely get the new versions anyway for the extra bells 'n whistles. Anyone who doesn't need the new features can just stick to their old versions or get OOo if they hit EOL. Problem solved.
    • I believe the engineering term used at a DoD shop I was at is "Shovelling sh*t" ... if people are stuck taking what you give them, and you get paid no matter what, your "production rate" increases dramatically.
  • Whats next? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jj_johny (626460) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @09:54AM (#9631360)
    Can the six month job cycle be far behind?
  • So What? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by I_Love_Pocky! (751171) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @09:54AM (#9631364)
    I think it is great to put out new products when ever they are ready. I don't feel compeled to always have the newest model, because I know that even with a 1 year product cycle, I will always end up the loser (money-wise) that way.

    The six month turn around just means that when I do need to buy a product it is more likely that it will be a time of year when I will be buying a realitively new product.

    I think this is a good thing (unless this turns out to be too little time for testing).
    • How about this...lets say Company X has developed 10 new innovations for their camera line which is currently 6 months old. To edge out Company Y, they only need to utilize 6 of those innovations. With such short product cycles, they are likely to pockets whatever they can and save it for the next round. Much like a game of spades...you're not going to trump a 3 of hearts with an ace of spades if the 3 of spades will do the same job. With longer product cycles, they would be likely to release everything
  • Good for business (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ePhil_One (634771) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @09:54AM (#9631367) Journal
    Since most of these updates are minor tweaks, rapid product cycles help remove that sales lag that hits about 9 months after a product is released; I dont want to buy now becaus enext years model is due soon.

    Of course, this plays havoc with review readers, since by the time a product is reviewed, a new batch of products is out...

    • by jj_johny (626460) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:08AM (#9631502)
      There is a big downside of such rapid product changes. It takes a fair amount of time to stock the sales channel. This means that before you see the latest digital camera on the shelf at the local camera store, it has to go through a three or four hands. This means that a product that is going to be replaced in six months spends the first month or more not available to people. Also, when a new product is introduced all the existing products that are in stock go down in value. If you are running a retail store, you can easily get stuck with product that is obsolete but can't be sold for cost. This is what caused the big computer retails to have so much of a problem when they were reluctant to mark down old product. This was especially true in the height of video card wars.
      • It takes a fair amount of time to stock the sales channel. This means that before you see the latest digital camera on the shelf at the local camera store, it has to go through a three or four hands.

        A good point, but I think it's balanced by the lack of advertising and promotion most cameras get. Unlike Video cards, there isn't the rush of salvitating maniacs aching to get their hands on the latest and greatest; its much closer to a commodity market where most folks walk into their favorite retailer thin

    • Re:Good for business (Score:4, Informative)

      by Biogenesis (670772) <overclocker.bren ... optushome.com.au> on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:17AM (#9631602) Homepage
      It plays havoc with people wanting a linux compatible Wifi card as well. Basically no wifi manufacturer has released a card that at one stage had say a nice prism or orinoco chipset in it that hasn't changed it for something uncompatible like a Broadcomm or TI.

      eg:
      Netgear WG311 was an Atheros supported by the madwifi [sourceforge.net] driver but is now a Texus Intruments which is yet to have a stable driver (partial success has been had with this one [sourceforge.net], just not by me). At *least* Netgear had the kindness to call the TI version "WG311v2" and change the box slightly (documented here [netgear.com] it still makes it really annoying when you see "supported" next to "wg311" at places such as here [linuxquestions.org], then you buy one and find out it's changed from 4 weeks ago)

      The (in)famous Linksys WMP11 used to be a linux-friendly prism but is now a Broadcomm or inprocomm (I think it's been both according to The List [linux-wlan.org]

      Many other wifi cards have undergone such massive (I consider a chipset change massive) changes without there model numbers changed and it makes getting a wireless card for linux *VERY* difficult and frustrating.
      • ...one that NIC makers seem notorious for (in my past experience D-Link was the WORST for this).

        It's the practice of releasing a new "revision" of the same model that is essentially a totally different product, which give the perception of a longer product cycle when it has actually been a scant six months for a long time.

        For example, why the HELL do they make a product called "D-Link DFE530" for a few months, then drop it and release ANOTHER "D-Link DFE530" with COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CHIPS on it? They ar
  • Only for some. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @09:54AM (#9631368)
    This is why I hate cell phones.

    I just want a phone, I don't want to pay for new features I don't need in a new phone in 6 months after my current phone falls apart because they made a piece of crap.
    • C'mon man, you REALLY don't want the NGage? ;)
  • Upon us? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alizarin Erythrosin (457981) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @09:55AM (#9631370)
    It has been for a while then. Unless nobody seem to notice that the video card market has been in a 6 month product cycle for a long time now.
    • Re:Upon us? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Biogenesis (670772) <overclocker.bren ... optushome.com.au> on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:05AM (#9631482) Homepage
      Which is why I haven't bought one for about 5 years.

      Personally I want my purchases to *last*, I don't care if a "better" product is available the fact remains that when I bought something it did what I expected and required it to do and a year later it should still do it, hopefully for much longer.

      I really dislike the way the entire technology arena is going, I am only 19 and already I see far too much "progress" for comfort. I look at my dad who has been able to keep the same job for 19 years and I know that I simply won't be able to do that.

      But in all this change, I think we should all remember Ecclesiastes 7:10:
      Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?" For it is not wise to ask such questions.

      People longed for the past 5000odd years ago and they still do it today, humans all share an odd similarity.

      I sorta strayed a bit there...Aw well.
      • Re:Upon us? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nelsonal (549144) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:37AM (#9631792) Journal
        I think Ecclesiastes probably has a lot of good advice for modern folk, after all the guy writing it was desparate after gaining everything the world had to offer (wealth, women, wisdom, power) and none of them made him happy after a short honeymoon period. I'd guess that many Americans are getting to that point or will be there in a few years. I've always thought the saddest people in the world are like Paris Hilton. Unlike those of us who can dream that being wealthy, popular, or beautiful would make us happy; they know that they do not and have little left to look forward to.
        • Re:Upon us? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tekrat (242117)
          I've always thought the saddest people in the world are like Paris Hilton. Unlike those of us who can dream that being wealthy, popular, or beautiful would make us happy; they know that they do not and have little left to look forward to.

          Sorry, but my heart's not gonna' be bleeding for Paris Hilton when there are people in the US who have to bust their asses every day for minimum wage, and the large majority of humans on the planet would give their left arm to have 1/10th of her looks and money.

          And no, I
  • Rather than the yearly model updates that people have come to expect

    Have we? I'm more surprised that anyone expected model updates once a year. I expect them whenever the manufacturer believes that bringing out a new model is economically viable. I certainly don't see a new model 6 months after the last one as being particularly noteworthy.

    Is this just an American thing? I mean, the rest of the world has never had things like cars being different from one year to the next, yet in the US, you seem to have a new version of each car model each year, being arbitrarily different to the last, apparently just for the sake of being different and new for that particular year.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      "I mean, the rest of the world has never had things like cars being different from one year to the next"

      Puhleaaase!

      How about Japan? How about Europe? How about the freakin' rest of the world!
      • No, your parent was right.

        The most popular car in europe, the VW Golf [volkswagen.de], is right now in its 5th incarnation, since about a year or so. I bought my own Golf IV in 2000, and it was already 2 years old then (my car, not the general Golf IV model, that was older). It is not a "98' Golf", though, but a "Golf IV", and nobody really cares about the production year, except maybe a local garage, when a certain part changed due to some production reason.

        And that is really different from the habit of labeling ame

        • Yeah , we have VW's over in the US also. They are also quite popular. In fact we have quite a few European cars companies over here. Except for the crap ones like Renault and Citroen. Cars generally go on atleast a 3 year cycle in which they do not have any major changes. The parent post really was stupid as it was implies that the cars are under going a major change every year. Popular models generally keep their name even though the design changes. For example the Honda civic has been around since t
    • by Otter (3800) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:09AM (#9631513) Journal
      Is this just an American thing?

      On the contrary, it's particularly an Asian thing, both in electronics and in cars. The Japanese auto makers change things at the part level much more frequently than the Americans do, for example.

      It seems like a lot of British and Europeans forget how much more connected the US economy is to East Asia than theirs are.

  • cellphones too? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bircho (559727)

    i don't know about you guys, but my old motorola brick was less laggy and had better sound (i know... digital is better) than my brand new siemens.

    they are not caring about quality anymore.

    • Re:cellphones too? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mrm677 (456727)
      i don't know about you guys, but my old motorola brick was less laggy and had better sound (i know... digital is better) than my brand new siemens.

      If you old Motorola brick was analog (AMPS), then that probably explains it. Your digital cellphone compresses a voice stream into a measly 9600 or 14400 bps. Yeah, its great in a car because the codec also gets rid of noise, but I think overall voice quality stinks and relish the days of AMPS with occasional static. Second, your call is dropped if you hit a
    • Well, considering that analogue cellphones have been obsolescent around 10 years ago, and end-of-life 5 years ago in most of the world, I'd say that yes, digital is probably better.


      It's more down to handset design, though. My 3-year-old Nokia sounds a hell of a lot better than the new one I tried (and didn't like). The 7110 that it replaced was even better, with a nicer UI, but kept switching itself off.

      • Obsolete? Sure.

        Still works better and in more places than digital? Yes.

        *(in the US that is, YMMV)
    • Just remember:

      Our cameras come with a lot of great features...Like a phone.
      -Any modern phone producer

      Believe it or not that was actually a slogan used on a billboard for a phone. I can't remember which one but it really turned me off buying a new one as I know that mobile phone cameras are crappier-than-webcam quality and if the phone is just an added feature of the camera I guess I'm better off with 2 cans and a bit of string.
  • by heironymouscoward (683461) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (drawocsuomynorieh)> on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @09:56AM (#9631385) Journal
    Markets that are in periods of rapid change obviously have rapid product cycles. When the race to the bottom is finished, and the winners have divided up the market, the product cycle will slow down again.

    There are still too many camera manufacturers and the costs are still too high. The market will slow down when the cost per camera has come down to around $20 and the functionality is more than the average consumer wants. There will always be a market for premium products but this is not what is driving the current cycle: it's the mass market.

    Standard technology curve... aka Heironymous' Law.

  • Faster != better (Score:5, Insightful)

    by supercytro (527265) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @09:57AM (#9631401)
    The problem is that shorter release cycles are not necessarily better for the consumers. For the average consumer, it's hard enough to choose a brand amongst the myriad models out there. Then the buyer can look forward to having their model devalued with a new upgrade.

    The manufacturers, will also lose out as they end up haemmoraging their own profits by reducing the return on research investments as well as losing the opportunity to build up a brand like Apple did with their iPod.

  • by bje2 (533276) * on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @09:58AM (#9631405)
    Analyzing the 6-month life cycle from the different points of view...

    Consumer - on one hand (as the second link points out), this is great for the consumer, because newer models causes the prices on the older models to drop, and then the consumer can possibly afford "more" camera then they otherwise could...of course, the flip side to this, is that you have to be satisfied with a camera that is "out of date"...

    Retail Store - although I'm sure all major electronic stores like Best Buy, Circuit City, etc, have excellent supply chain management, I still gotta believe they get stuck holding the bag a little when new cameras are announced every six months, and suddenly all of the current cameras they had in stock suddenly become devalued...

    Camera Company - obviously this is good for them...we've seen it time and time again, with cell phones being the most recent example...even though a consumer may be happy with their current product, they just have to have the most up-to-date, shiny, feature filled version of whatever it may be (cell phone, camera, pc, etc)...

    The bottom line is, I still think it's good for the consumer...look what this same type of accelerated cycle has done for the home PC...parents everywhere can now buy much more PC then they could ever use, very cheaply...yoou just gotta be able to live with not having the best and fastest thing out there (ugh, this might be the wrong forum to propose that idea)...
    • by swb (14022) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:13AM (#9631558)
      of course, the flip side to this, is that you have to be satisfied with a camera that is "out of date"..

      The major bad thing about this is that the more rapid the product cycle, the crappier the firmware or supporting desktop software is, making us more and more dependent on frequent and numerous software updates to get relatively bug-free operation.

      With ultra-fast product cycles, we're looking at software obsolence and product abandonment far faster than we otherwise would have. The device may still work, but have critical bugs/problems/issues that aren't resolved without buying the next item in the product cycle.

      It's obviously something less of an issue with devices that have a non-proprietary data interface (eg, memory cards), but something like the iPod really needs its proprietary software to function as designed. But it's still a critical issue regardless if the firmware inside the device doesn't work right.

      I love updatable firmware, I hate the fact that it's become an excuse for manufacturers to release broken products and sometimes fix them as they go.
      • Or not fix them at all. Toshiba with their e740 may have just used a cheaper rom chip then a flashable chip as they neever released mroe then one firmware update and it still did not fix critical issues with the device. Then Microsoft released Windows Mobile 2003 and they did not offer an upgrade for it.

        Flash to just 6 months ago when they released the e805. It was and currently still is the only PDA with a 640x480 LCD. Microsoft released Windows Mobile 2003 SE. Toshiba followed up and released it fo
    • by oolon (43347) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:15AM (#9631575)
      Currently there is a camera revolution going on so it is natural to expect to have alot of choice and new models. If you want to look at a mature market look at the VCR one, there is very little choice in the highstreet all are almost idendical, and the price is very low. I expect you will see the cameras that Minolta is removing are not well placed in the market, so they have taken the decision to replace a model that is only 6 months old with one that will perform better in the market, sound sensible to me! Considering the current size of the market and the lose of market share if they don't do this. I don't expect we will see a 6 months cycle, however to do expect to see poorly performing (in sales) cameras to be quickly replaced and better selling ones to be more slowly replaced.

      All this will continue while the market is red hot (which is great for the customer). When it slows down the choice will not be so good but atleast everything will be cheap!

      James
    • >
      you have to be satisfied with a camera that is "out of date"...

      Which is a nice way to get out of the rat race. I fail to see a problem here.

    • Yea...great for the consumer. What about us folks who have to have the latest and the greatest but can't afford it? I've accumulated almost $3 trillion in debt thanks to products like this. Guns, planes, toilet seats, etc...the list goes on. The manufacturers all tell me this new one is better then what I have, so I *have* to get them. Please stop forcing my hand.

      George Bush
    • even though a consumer may be happy with their current product, they just have to have the most up-to-date, shiny, feature filled version of whatever it may be (cell phone, camera, pc, etc)... - are you sure that's everyone you are talking about? I am not even sure that's the majority. When it comes to cell-phones I prefer to stick with the older simpler model [motorola.com] to all of the feature creaping contraptions that I see mostly teens use nowadays. I would have still be using my old Samsung from 4 years ago, but
    • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@@@keirstead...org> on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:36AM (#9631775) Homepage
      Whenever you shorten a product development cycle, you always cut into QA and testing time. Shorter development cycles will inevitably lead to lower quality for the consumer over the long run.

      Now, whether this lower quality will even be noticeable, or whether it is a valid tradeoff for increased functionality, is yet to be seen.

    • I like the way you've taken the opposite side to a lot of other people but even among your valid arguments I'd still rather just buy a product and have it last a long time. If it did what I bought it to do the day I bought it why shoulden't it do it in 1, 5 or even 10 years time. I know that in 1994 you could get a 486 machine for word processing and if you could still easily get printer cartriges for printers made in 1994 I'm sure it would still be quite a usefull machine, but do you still see people using equipment that old? I find it a sad fact that you don't and an environmental hazard to boot with all the wasted recources going into products that will be landfill in 2 or 3 years.

      I know that I will always be one to laugh when I see a 4 year old fridge thrown out and a 40 year old fridge continue to cool like it was brand new. Even if it is only used to cool beer at some summer beachhouse I admire the fact that it was built to last. Imagine how satisfying it would be knowing that the camera you bought today was powered off a plutonium heat cell and would last as well as the Voyager probe [nasa.gov].
      • I know that I will always be one to laugh when I see a 4 year old fridge thrown out and a 40 year old fridge continue to cool like it was brand new. Even if it is only used to cool beer at some summer beachhouse I admire the fact that it was built to last.

        I always think it's a real shame when people keep old refrigerators around. Even putting aside the old death-trap fridges with the locking mechanisms that tend to kill children, the power consumption on old fridges is high enough to make the new models pa

    • I call it bad for the consumer. It is harder to keep track of what is good. Six months is not enough time for a product to gather a reputation, good or bad. When I'm new to a particular product, I generally look around for site reviews and user impressions.

      That said, the auto industry isn't above having mid-year updates and mid-year introductions, they just don't do it often.

      I don't think the computer necessarily benefitted from model year-itis, because products stick around for a good while after intr
    • Retail Store - although I'm sure all major electronic stores like Best Buy, Circuit City, etc, have excellent supply chain management, I still gotta believe they get stuck holding the bag a little when new cameras are announced every six months, and suddenly all of the current cameras they had in stock suddenly become devalued...

      I'm not sure how Best Buy treats all of their suppliers, but with software you don't see a dime until your software sells from their shelf, so it's the manufacturer who get's stuc
  • Microsoft et al. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pubjames (468013) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @09:58AM (#9631409)

    I've often wondered why Microsoft and the other main software companies have not abandonded the idea of major product releases. Incremental releases (like those in the OSS world) make a lot more sense, as the product then evolves more organically. There is no real reason why MS couldn't start doing this for it's products. It would be much easier to get people to "subscribe" to products then, which would be good in the long term for Microsoft's revenue stream.
    • by Timesprout (579035)
      For the vast majority of people incremental releases are a pain in the ass. I dont want to install an application that has partial or buggy implementation and have to continually install newer versions to get over these issues. Release early/often might work for a limited developer audience but for a mass market I think people will just say if you cant do it properly first time then dont bother.
      • I dont want to install an application that has partial or buggy implementation

        You shouldn't have to. We're talking about incremental releases, i.e. releasing small changes frequently, rather than large changes infrequently. That's got nothing to do with how the software is tested and quality controlled.
        • by SlamMan (221834)
          Because product testing takes time. Good testing takes lots of time. The cost of the testing, and time involved, has very little to do with what new features were added or changed, os it works out far better for people who test their products, if they have releases less often.
    • by HerbieStone (64244)
      What kind of updates would you sell? I guess there are some types of updates possible:

      - Security updates. Microsoft provides them for free. Don't see how they could sell them.
      - Data updates. Like with AVirus software. Updates to virus signatures. MS could sell a subscription to Powerpoint-Clipart Galleries with regular updates or new Fonts... well, that's what I can think right now
      - Feature updates. That's what MS is trying to do with every major release. The Same with more features. People don't like th

  • The fashion industry has been dealing with this forever, and I predict similar trends will appear in music (closing fast), and then computers. By the time you buy something that's 'in fashion' at a traditional store, the designers have already released the next season's line. There is absolutely no way to stay 100% current, unless you are a designer yourself, and even then, your wardrobe will always be off by about 3 seasons.
  • by Sheepdot (211478) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @09:59AM (#9631417) Journal
    So, how much did Konica Minolta pay for this ad? I mean, if you analyze the actual content, there's NOTHING to this that would signify this post is a "story" or even remotely newsworthy.

    Welcome to Slashdot, where we debate the commonplace if we can't find a better way to work in an advertisement.

  • Dogbert (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mfh (56) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @09:59AM (#9631418) Journal
    Seems they finally figured out Dogbert's release system. In order to make more money, you need to make more products, and release them more frequently. Also it doesn't account for any crappiness in the product, just that more of any given line will produce more revenue to the company.

    Bad for quality, great for the corporate stocks!
  • Faster != Better (Score:3, Insightful)

    by holy_smoke (694875) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:03AM (#9631457)
    Marketing folks don't understand that though. To them, faster product cycles = quicker access to profits and market advantage.

    To engineering it means rushed deveopment schedules, hurried design, tooling, testing, and release to production.

    Its a delicate scale. Push it too far towards marketing and you risk significant quality problems. Push it too far toward engineering and you miss your market window.
  • This is news? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Nimrangul (599578)
    Hardware isn't the only thing that uses a six month production cycle, OpenBSD has been doing it for a while now.

    Honestly, technology does advance fast enough in some fields to support this kind of cycle. It's kind of hard to do it in a more matured area, like automobiles or household appliances, but when the technology behind digital cameras is constantly improving it only makes sense to push it out quickly; before that new technology is made obsolete.

  • I hope not! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Halo- (175936) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:04AM (#9631462)
    The product I work on is currently on roughly a quarterly schedule. (Our customers demand it.) The problem is, that with development that "fast" most innovation gets throw out the door. Each "release" is pretty much a bug-fix with maybe one or two absolutely-critical new features. The complexity of keeping up with multiple linked development streams is enormous, and the result is more mistakes and a much lower level of code refactoring.

    I can't imagine physical products are much different. Sure, you get a new model every 6 months, but what's really changed? Personally, I'd like to wait a year, and get a substantial benefit. My experience is that shorter cycles are good for the marketing droids (who always have vaporware "almost" ready to release) and bad for the customer and the developer.

    Oh, and another funny thing. The same customers who demand quarterly releases also bitch about the fact they have to migrate ever four months. I told them there was a simple solution to that problem... :)

  • This has been the case with video cards for as long as I can remember... at least since the Voodoo2.
  • Versionitis. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OS24Ever (245667) * <trekkie@nomorestars.com> on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:05AM (#9631470) Homepage Journal
    One of the things I have disliked about the computer industry and it's constant improvement is what I have started calling Versionitis. It seems that something 'bigger, badder, and faster' is always around the corner. Due to the cost of some of these items it sure makes some consumers go into a infinite loop waiting for the 'next big thing'.

    What fails to get mentioned or noticed by consumers is that digital cameras and mega pixels they support have reached a plateau as to what they are used for to why I need that many MP.

    3MP was enough for a 8x10 print, 6MP got you into the 13x19 range. anything higher than that just makes the files bigger and can introduce more compression artifacts as you try and reduce the file size with all the detail presented.

    I've got a Canon D60 that I bought in 2002. I've been adding lenses and the like over the last few years but the camera itself is a workhorse and I have no MP reason to replace it. however I'd like a few faster things like shutter speed and whatnot more than how many MP they do.

    I've had to reign in my self-control quite a few times on big ticket items. It was about 18 months ago when I decided that getting a new computer once a year was stupid and a waste of money. My Powerbook G4 867Mhz is doing me just fine still. The only thing that'd force an upgrade is manipulating larger MP camera images in Photoshop, so keeping everything in check on upgrades sure helps keep money for other things.
    • Re:Versionitis. (Score:3, Informative)

      by _PimpDaddy7_ (415866)
      The new 8MP cameras produce tremendous amounts of noise at low ISO.

      For the price of these 8MP cameras, you can get the canon rebel digital or even the Nikon D70 and you have a quality digital SLR, ability to change lens, and excellent results at low ISOs.

      I just bought a Canon 10D. As the parent said in this thread, I just need the lenses and this package will be good for me for years...

    • Re:Versionitis. (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
      Say what you like, but I'd prefer to have 7.2 MP for an 8x10 print. That is calculated at 300dpi. 200dpi is noticibly blurrier in a photo print (3 MP). If I keep the print at arm's length, it might not be noticible, but at half arm's length, it is obvious to me.
  • This reminds me of something I read about digital cameras once. Apparently the product cycle for digital cameras is so rapid that one camera, by the time it was awarded camera of the year, was already out of production.

    I suppose with PC assistence, designing and building just about anything has become easier. It used to take forever for ideas and techniques to spread. Nowadays if your stuck at anything, you can google for the answer. Applies more to software design, but at least it's easier for designers to find components now. Didn't it take only 6 months for the iPod designers complete the design from the outside in, using off the shelf parts. That would have been a lot harder if they didn't have the net and emails I'd wager.
  • by way2trivial (601132) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:05AM (#9631474) Homepage Journal
    I read about the newest products, and usually salivate and plan to purchase some, manage to time it so that the first real price drop hits the week after I buy

    I purchased a 799$ camera that then went to 799$ with a 100$ rebate, about 10 days after I purchased. then to 699 after the return policy/price match date ran out..
    I've also done this with cell phones, and cpu's

  • cheap cheap cheap (Score:2, Informative)

    by A_GREER (761429)
    I think it ia WALL*MARTidous, everyone wants the best stuff cheap, companies are trying to meet the demand, but there are still a few people who want quality, look at PCs, dell==CHEAP, they sell zillions of units a year, vs. say aleinware, or apple who combined don even touch half of dell, but have MUCH better quality.
    • yeah, dell does equal cheap...that's what they are!...cheap pcs for the home user...do you know what it says on the title bar when you bring up alienware's home page [alienware.com]...it says Innovate High-Performance Custom PC's...when my mom (or the millions of other mom's) are looking for a PC to do their e-mail and shop on iQVC, they don't need the latest and greatest video card or flat panel monitor...they just want affordability...

      ...why was the Toyota Camry the best selling car practically every year in the 90's???
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:11AM (#9631532)
    This is yet another method in a long string of concocted schemes to stimulate artificial demand. Do we need a new car every year? Of course not but if we tweak the headlight to point in a different direction we can pawn it off as something new and improved and play to the elementary school insecurities of the American consumer and the need to have to have the latest fashion trend so as to be ahead of the Jones'. Look at the durable goods industry, appliances used to have a generic shape and would last consumers decades, now they are purposely designed with color patterns and quickly dating exterior body kit panels so that they can be disposable products in a couple of years when they break down or become rapidly dating fashion faux pas displaced by the next color change and bodykit panels.
    • by danila (69889) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @11:05AM (#9632129) Homepage
      Bullshit. Nobody expects consumers to buy a new product every year. But consumers do expect producers not to sit on their asses for the whole year, but come up with something original instead. Especially in a rapidly developing industry. I may be perfectly content with my 4 year old PDA, mobile phone or camera, but if I decide to upgrade tomorrow, I don't want to buy a 2002 or a 2003 model (unless I am being cheap), I want to buy a 2004 model, which is faster, bigger, better has more features and is generally more badass.

      If a particular manufacturer decides that once every 3 years is enough, it will not sell anything for the 70% of the time, because everyone will buy updated models from the competitors instead.
  • by turgid (580780) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:13AM (#9631566) Journal
    "The number of nervous breakdowns amongst staff doubles for every halving of the product cycle time."

    "If you're enjoying your work, you're not working hard enough." - Scottish proverb.

  • by mrm677 (456727) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:19AM (#9631611)
    Konica-Minolta recently merged and before, Minolta was behind in the digital game. It is likely that they had a lot of R&D going on, but due to the merger, things were unclear and it took time to get things settled and to get products out the door (with the new name).

  • by mrm677 (456727) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:23AM (#9631654)
    I always wondered why they didn't call the new company "Monica".
  • Lets face it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arieswind (789699) * on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:26AM (#9631690) Homepage
    Lets face it, the average consumer does not have the time or money to rush out and buy the new model every 6 months... I know that I for one dont replace my electronics until they break, or become very inconvinient to use, and I think most technology consumers are more that way than some tech obsessed people who replace everything they own the second something new comes out
    • Re:Lets face it (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mqx (792882)
      "the average consumer does not have the time or money to rush out and buy the new model every 6 months"

      It's not just about the "continual upgrade cycle", which I have seen people get trapped into (always needing the latest model ...); but it's also about the new adopters who want to buy a product, and they are either going to buy state of the art from Company X, or Company Y - meaning that unless both X and Y continue to keep pace and outdo each other, they'll fall behind in the market.

      I think the pace in
  • Another Opinion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by richard_willey (79077) <richard_willey@h ... il.com minus bsd> on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:28AM (#9631699)
    Here's my perspective based on far too much time working as a Product Manager:

    I strongly prefer development models that are based on incremental releases that ship at regular intervals. Ideally, I prefer systems in which a new version of the product ships one every 4 monthes. Those features/functions that are "ready" get included in a release. Features that aren't ready will be slipped until the next version.

    This development process requires MUCH more work to set up. Code needs to be modular enough that features can be added/subtracted from a candidate without destablizing the entire system. Furthermore, there isn't much down time for release engineering. As soon as one release has shipped out the door, the next one is almost ready for testing.

    With this said and done: From my perspective, companies that focus on a small number of "Hail Mary" releases produce crappy products. If you only shipping one release every 18 -24 months then EVERYTHING gets shipped with that release, regardless of the quality of the code. Equally significant, your release engineering process inevitably gets very sloppy since the individuals running this never get sufficient practice. Finally, you are inevitably forced to push out large numbers of patches to fix all the crap that contaminated your original version. These patch releases re-introduce most of the same problems that crop up with a "regular" release model, but without the right infrastructure to support this model.

    Far better to bite the bullet and design for success from the beginning...

  • by wisdom_brewing (557753) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:29AM (#9631714) Homepage
    its all marketing, they can release exactly the same product (and i mean identical) except for model number and people will buy it for more instead of the older version... its an old idea, where someone designs a perfect (literally) product, they still need to make the standard version worse, release some inferior and better versions but keep headroom above to keep releasing updates, if they release the product as a perfect one therell be a rush to buy it, but then once half your friends have it you dont want it anymore because you want to have something different... anyway...
  • dammit (Score:2, Funny)

    by troon (724114)

    My Minolta A1 should be delivered tomorrow, and now it's already discontinued and out of date.

    Just like kernel releases, I guess...

  • by kabocox (199019) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @10:47AM (#9631926)
    I don't care about somethings changing all the time, others bug me out. My pet peeve is cell phones. The entire cell phone industry should be standardized so that all batteries, chargers, and other items would fit every phone. Heck, I'd like them to one print cartiridge for 1-2 years across all the models. It seems with ink jet printers that they are on a 3 month cycle. (I'd rather just have one decent item that I know is good and buy that one each time.)

    I hate having to look up the new model and if all the extras would still fit into the new model. It is very annoying.
  • by wfberg (24378) on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @11:53AM (#9632628)
    Nokia expects to "launch" 35 new models this year. Thirty-five! And that's down from a projection of 40. Launching them 5 at a time as Nokia does, that means that their "product cycle" is less than 2 months.. And I still happen across shops that happen to have the phone I owned 5 year ago sitting quietly on the shelf, still unused in its original wrappings.

    And they all do the same job. Whilst there's no shortage of potentially substantial features to be added, you can count the number of phones that support for example 3G on the fingers of 1 hand. The rest send text-messages, dial and play a game or two.

    In truth, nobody needs all those new features. Bluetooth is very handy, and GPRS is nice for data (until 3G comes along), but you can already get all of that in last year's boring businessman-model.

    These new models are all basically the same, or rather, based on only a few underlying hardware platforms. Obviously the N-Gage is different from your average teenager's phone or a smartphone, but within each type the variation is both endless and pitifully trivial.

    Motorola was a master at this, they even kept older models in production by placing the new hardware with dumbed-down software in the older shell, adding a weight to keep the handset weighing as much as the old model(!).

    The same is of course true of Digital Cameras. Each new model only replaces the CCD with a few more megapixels, or adds some software feature, perhaps changes the shell to something less plasticcy looking. The Olympus range is a good example. Or IIRC the Canon 10D which can be made to do almost all of the 1D's tricks, except take more pictures per second (due to RAM speed/amount apparently).
  • by Matey-O (518004) <michaeljohnmiller@mSPAMsSPAMnSPAM.com> on Wednesday July 07, 2004 @12:08PM (#9632784) Homepage Journal
    I think the overlying job of technology is to completely overturn old technology, say 'heh, that was easy, wonder what we can steamroller next?'

    Currently, Digital photography and portable music players have a bullseye painted on 'em, but the same happened with keyboards, mice, cellphones, PDA's, laser printers, video cards, etc.

    There's a period of churn, where the vendors fight for every last scrap, then move on leaving one or two large players and razor-thin margins.

    I predict flat screens will be the next big target, what with DLP, LCD, and LCoS technologies falling under the economy of scale.

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