Thursday, November 16, 2017

Planned software obsolescence is not a myth

The NY Times reports:
The phenomenon of perceived slowdowns is so widespread that many believe tech companies intentionally cripple smartphones and computers to ensure that people buy new ones every few years. Conspiracy theorists call it planned obsolescence.

That’s a myth. While slowdowns happen, they take place for a far less nefarious reason. That reason is a software upgrade.

“There’s no incentive for operating system companies to create planned obsolescence,” said Greg Raiz, a former program manager for Microsoft who worked on Windows XP. “It’s software, and software has various degrees of production bugs and unintended things that happen.”
That guy is lying. The companies certainly have an incentive to induce customers to upgrade to the latest version. Microsoft is notorious for planting logic bombs in Windows 7 and 8 to trick users into upgrading to Windows 10.
Here’s what happens: When tech giants like Apple, Microsoft and Google introduce new hardware, they often release upgrades for their operating systems. For example, a few days before the iPhone 8 shipped in September, Apple released iOS 11 as a free software update for iPhones, including the four-year-old iPhone 5S.

The technical process of upgrading from an old operating system to a new one — migrating your files, apps and settings along the way — is extremely complicated. So when you install a brand-new operating system on an older device, problems may occur that make everything from opening the camera to browsing the web feel sluggish. ...

The good news is that because tech companies are not intentionally neutering your devices, there are remedies ...
This article is contradicting itself. Now it acknowledges that these companies do make software changes that slow down your device, and these changes are timed to coincide with the availability of upgrades that the company wants you to get.

The catch seems to be the word "intentionally". And maybe the word "nefarious".

The companies are certainly intentional about their upgrade policies. They are certainly intentional about writing bigger and slower software on the assumption that you will be buying devices with more memory and faster chips. They are certainly intentional about adopting business strategies that make more money for the company. So how is this different from the "conspiracy theory"?

I guess the Microsoft guy is trying to say that they don't deliberately put in bugs for the explicit purpose of annoying users. Instead the bugs just occur naturally in all the software they write, and they are most conscientious about fixing the bugs in the latest and best-selling products. The "planned obsolescence" is not from deliberately planted bugs, but from bugs that occurred naturally and deliberately not fixed because they were assigned low priority.

This seems like a distinction without a difference to me.

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