Thursday, October 02, 2003

The Immutable Laws of Consumer Electronics?

Is there such a thing? Here are a few suggestions:

- Integration will always Increase (essentially a restatement of Moore's Law)

- Size and Weight will Always Decrease (ditto). Maybe a corollary to this that devices will become portable.

- Cost of Storage Will Always Decrease (Moore's law covers various RAM and Flash devices and a lot of writers have suggested a Moore's law for magnetic and optical storage)

- Analog will move to Digital (audio moved from tapes to CDs, video from VHS to DVD. Moves are afoot for digital TV and radio. Is digital power in our future?)

- Moving parts will be eliminated when at all possible (which is why magnetic storage is removed from devices whenever solid state storage is able to replace it). Another aspect of this, however, is the MEMS movement, which is going to try to do to mechanical devices what semiconductor manufacturing has done with electronic devices: shrink and integrate.

- Monochrome will move to color (photographs, TVs, printers, PDA displays, Gameboys, cellphone screens)

- Wired to wireless

- Gilder would suggest a law on bandwidth (I actually think he tried to promote a "Gilder's Law" for broadband to compete with Moore in silicon)

- Gates would put one on personalized content (non-recordable media to recordable media being but one aspect)

- Styling is increasingly important - In portable electronics styling has become more and more a differentiating feature. Cellphones are as much a fasion accessory as a tool for communication. Ditto MP3 players. I think laptops have a segment in this area. Apple is probably the only player who has done a good job on this in the desktop area.

- My personal one on the list is Window Manager's Law: Consumer electronics and the components that make them in the long term are all commodities and making money on either is VERY hard

This last case is why we have such a large emphasis on branding and a rush to streamline manufacturing and operations ("I'm sorry, we just sent your job to India"). There is no difference between an HP and a Dell computer - they use all the same components from the same suppliers. The winner will be the one who has the most efficient operations and the best sales channels to move the equipment (the brand helps the channel).

Any others?

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