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Planned obsolescence

Planned obsolescence

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Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence in industrial design is a policy of deliberately planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete or nonfunctional after a certain period of time. Planned obsolescence has potential benefits for a producer
Production, costs, and pricing
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to industrial organization:Industrial organization – describes the behavior of firms in the marketplace with regard to production, pricing, employment and other decisions...

 because to obtain continuing use of the product the consumer
Consumer is a broad label for any individuals or households that use goods generated within the economy. The concept of a consumer occurs in different contexts, so that the usage and significance of the term may vary.-Economics and marketing:...

 is under pressure to purchase again, whether from the same manufacturer (a replacement part or a newer model), or from a competitor
Competition (economics)
Competition in economics is a term that encompasses the notion of individuals and firms striving for a greater share of a market to sell or buy goods and services...

 which might also rely on planned obsolescence.

In some cases, deliberate deprecation of earlier versions of a technology is used to reduce ongoing support costs, especially in the software industry. Though this could be considered planned obselescence, it differs from the classic form in that the consumer is typically made aware of the limited support lifetime of the product as part of their licensing agreement.

For an industry, planned obsolescence stimulates demand by encouraging purchasers to buy sooner if they still want a functioning product. Built-in obsolescence is used in many different products. There is, however, the potential backlash of consumers who learn that the manufacturer invested money to make the product obsolete faster; such consumers might turn to a producer (if any exists) that offers a more durable alternative.

Planned obsolescence was first developed in the 1920s and 1930s when mass production
Mass production
Mass production is the production of large amounts of standardized products, including and especially on assembly lines...

 had opened every minute aspect of the production process to exacting analysis.

Estimates of planned obsolescence can influence a company's decisions about product engineering
Product engineering
Product engineering refers to the process of designing and developing a device, assembly, or system such that it be produced as an item for sale through some production manufacturing process. Product engineering usually entails activity dealing with issues of cost, producibility, quality,...

. Therefore the company can use the least expensive components that satisfy product lifetime projections. Such decisions are part of a broader discipline
In its original sense, discipline is referred to systematic instruction given to disciples to train them as students in a craft or trade, or to follow a particular code of conduct or "order". Often, the phrase "to discipline" carries a negative connotation. This is because enforcement of order –...

 known as value engineering
Value engineering
Value engineering is a systematic method to improve the "value" of goods or products and services by using an examination of function. Value, as defined, is the ratio of function to cost. Value can therefore be increased by either improving the function or reducing the cost...


Origins of the term

Origins of planned obsolescence go back at least as far as 1932 with Bernard London's pamphlet Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence. However, the phrase was first popularized in 1954 by Brooks Stevens
Brooks Stevens
Clifford Brooks Stevens was an American industrial designer of home furnishings, appliances, automobiles and motorcycles — as well as a graphic designer and stylist....

, an American industrial designer. Stevens was due to give a talk at an advertising conference in Minneapolis in 1954. Without giving it much thought, he used the term as the title of his talk.

From that point on, "planned obsolescence" became Stevens' catchphrase. By his definition, planned obsolescence was "Instilling in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary."

The term was quickly taken up by others, but Stevens' definition was challenged. By the late 1950s, planned obsolescence had become a commonly-used term for products designed to break easily or to quickly go out of style. In fact, the concept was so widely recognized that in 1959 Volkswagen
Volkswagen is a German automobile manufacturer and is the original and biggest-selling marque of the Volkswagen Group, which now also owns the Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, SEAT, and Škoda marques and the truck manufacturer Scania.Volkswagen means "people's car" in German, where it is...

 mocked it in a now-legendary advertising campaign. While acknowledging the widespread use of planned obsolescence among automobile manufacturers, Volkswagen pitched itself as an alternative. "We do not believe in planned obsolescence," the ads suggested. "We don't change a car for the sake of change."

In 1960, cultural critic Vance Packard
Vance Packard
Vance Packard was an American journalist, social critic, and author.- Life and career :He was born in Granville Summit, Pennsylvania to parents Philip J. Packard and Mabel Case Packard...

 published The Waste Makers, promoted as an exposé of "the systematic attempt of business to make us wasteful, debt
A debt is an obligation owed by one party to a second party, the creditor; usually this refers to assets granted by the creditor to the debtor, but the term can also be used metaphorically to cover moral obligations and other interactions not based on economic value.A debt is created when a...

-ridden, permanently discontented individuals."

Packard divided planned obsolescence into two sub categories: obsolescence of desirability and obsolescence of function. "Obsolescence of desirability", also called "psychological obsolescence", referred to marketers' attempts to wear out a product in the owner's mind. Packard quoted industrial designer George Nelson
George Nelson (designer)
George Nelson was a noted American industrial designer, and one of the founders of American Modernism. While Director of Design for the Herman Miller furniture company both Nelson, and his design studio, George Nelson Associates, Inc., designed much of the 20th century's most iconic modernist...

, who wrote: "Design... is an attempt to make a contribution through change. When no contribution is made or can be made, the only process available for giving the illusion of change is 'styling!'"

The document Light Bulb Conspiracy claimed that the Phoebus cartel
Phoebus cartel
The Phoebus cartel was a cartel of, among others, Osram, Philips and General Electric from December 23, 1924 until 1939 that existed to control the manufacture and sale of light bulbs....

 deliberately limited the expected lifetime of an incandescent light bulb to 1000 hours.
However, 1000 hours was a reasonable optimum life expectancy for most bulbs. A longer lifetime could be obtained only at the expense of efficiency: more electricity is wasted as heat and less light is obtained.

Rationale behind the strategy

In Democracy in America
Democracy in America
De la démocratie en Amérique is a classic French text by Alexis de Tocqueville. A "literal" translation of its title is Of Democracy in America, but the usual translation of the title is simply Democracy in America...

 (1840), Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis de Tocqueville
Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution . In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in...

 noted the rise of planned obsolescence in the United States:
"I accost an American sailor, and I inquire why the ships of his country are built so as to last but for a short time; he answers without hesitation that the art of navigation is every day making such rapid progress, that the finest vessel would become almost useless if it lasted beyond a certain number of years."

The rationale behind the strategy is to generate long-term sales
A sale is the act of selling a product or service in return for money or other compensation. It is an act of completion of a commercial activity....

 volume by reducing the time between repeat purchases
Purchasing refers to a business or organization attempting for acquiring goods or services to accomplish the goals of the enterprise. Though there are several organizations that attempt to set standards in the purchasing process, processes can vary greatly between organizations...

, (referred to as shortening the replacement cycle). Firms that pursue this strategy believe that the additional sales revenue it creates more than offsets the additional costs of research and development
Research and development
The phrase research and development , according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, refers to "creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of...

 and opportunity cost
Opportunity cost
Opportunity cost is the cost of any activity measured in terms of the value of the best alternative that is not chosen . It is the sacrifice related to the second best choice available to someone, or group, who has picked among several mutually exclusive choices. The opportunity cost is also the...

s of existing product line cannibalization. The rewards are by no means certain: In a competitive industry, this can be a risky strategy because consumers may decide to buy from competitors. Because of this, gaining by this strategy requires fooling the consumers on the actual cost per use of the item in comparison to the competition.

Shortening the replacement cycle has many critics as well as supporters. Critics such as Vance Packard
Vance Packard
Vance Packard was an American journalist, social critic, and author.- Life and career :He was born in Granville Summit, Pennsylvania to parents Philip J. Packard and Mabel Case Packard...

 claim the process wastes resources and exploits customers. Resources are used up making changes, often cosmetic changes, that are not of great value to the customer. Supporters claim it drives technological advances and contributes to material well-being. They claim that a market structure of planned obsolescence and rapid innovation
Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society...

 may be preferred to long-lasting products and slow innovation. In a fast-paced competitive industry market success requires that products are made obsolete by actively developing replacements. Waiting for a competitor to make products obsolete is a sure guarantee of future demise.

The main concern of the opponents of planned obsolescence is not the existence of the process, but its possible postponement. They are concerned that technological improvements are not introduced even though they could be. They are worried that marketers will refrain from developing new products, or postpone their introduction because of product cannibalization issues. For example, if the payback period for a product is five years, a firm might refrain from introducing a new product for at least five years even though it may be possible for them to launch in three years. This postponement is only feasible in monopolistic
A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity...

 or oligopolistic
An oligopoly is a market form in which a market or industry is dominated by a small number of sellers . The word is derived, by analogy with "monopoly", from the Greek ὀλίγοι "few" + πόλειν "to sell". Because there are few sellers, each oligopolist is likely to be aware of the actions of the others...

 markets. In more competitive markets rival firms will take advantage of the postponement and launch their own products.

Technical or functional obsolescence

The design of most consumer products includes an expected average lifetime permeating all stages of development. Thus, it must be decided early in the design of a complex product how long it is designed to last so that each component can be made to those specifications.

Planned obsolescence is made more likely by making the cost of repairs
Maintenance, Repair and Operations
Maintenance, repair, and operations or maintenance, repair, and overhaul involves fixing any sort of mechanical or electrical device should it become out of order or broken...

 comparable to the replacement cost, or by refusing to provide service or parts any longer. A product might even never have been serviceable. Creating new lines of products that do not interoperate with older products can also make an older model quickly obsolete, forcing replacement. Examples include change of formats and peripheral devices in computers, change of formats in home audio recordings and movies (records to tapes to CDs and VHS Video to DVDs to Blu-ray).

Planned functional obsolescence is a type of technical obsolescence in which companies introduce new technology which replaces the old. The old products do not have the same capabilities or functionality as the new ones. For example a company that sold video tape decks while they were developing DVDs was engaging in planned obsolescence. They were actively planning to make their existing product (video tape) obsolete by developing a substitute
Substitute good
In economics, one way we classify goods is by examining the relationship of the demand schedules when the price of one good changes. This relationship between demand schedules leads economists to classify goods as either substitutes or complements. Substitute goods are goods which, as a result...

 product (DVDs) with greater functionality (better quality). Associated products that are complements
Complement good
A complementary good, in contrast to a substitute good, is a good with a negative cross elasticity of demand. This means a good's demand is increased when the price of another good is decreased. Conversely, the demand for a good is decreased when the price of another good is increased...

 to the old products also become obsolete with the introduction of new products. For example video tape holders saw the same fate as video tapes and video tape decks.

Proprietary batteries

Many portable consumer electronics
Consumer electronics
Consumer electronics are electronic equipment intended for everyday use, most often in entertainment, communications and office productivity. Radio broadcasting in the early 20th century brought the first major consumer product, the broadcast receiver...

 contain proprietary, often lithium-based batteries. These batteries typically last only about 500 cycles before losing large amounts of their capacity as well as slowly losing capacity when not in use.

Rechargeable lithium battery packs usually contain integrated circuits (IC)
Integrated circuit
An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit is an electronic circuit manufactured by the patterned diffusion of trace elements into the surface of a thin substrate of semiconductor material...

; they are required because of the above average risk of fire or explosion the batteries have when improperly charged. The IC keeps track of statistics of the battery to determine the current full charge point for the battery. A manufacturer can set the algorithms of the IC to be ultra conservative or time/cycle based, rather than based around the physical properties of the battery cells; this artificially limits the life of the battery. The IC will not permit the device to charge the battery any more than the IC dictates.

Production of these batteries is usually stopped at around the same time the product is discontinued, therefore rendering the product worthless once the batteries start to wear out. Some people will reset the ICs in the battery pack, and obtain almost their original runtime on the battery (minus the natural decay the battery cells), only to have to do it again in the future because the IC ran down the limit.

While battery packs can be rebuilt and fitted with new cells, this is either too costly or too time consuming for most consumers.

Systemic obsolescence

Planned systemic obsolescence is the deliberate attempt to make a product obsolete by altering the system in which it is used in such a way as to make its continued use difficult. New software is frequently introduced that is not compatible with older software. This makes the older software largely obsolete. Even though an older version of a word processing program is operating correctly, it might not be able to read data saved by newer versions. The lack of interoperability
Interoperability is a property referring to the ability of diverse systems and organizations to work together . The term is often used in a technical systems engineering sense, or alternatively in a broad sense, taking into account social, political, and organizational factors that impact system to...

 forces many users to purchase new programs prematurely. The greater the network externalities in the market, the more effective this strategy is. Oftentimes, developers of hardware will try to prevent a product from being backwards compatible with older interchangeable cartridges and proprietary connector plugs.

Another way of introducing systemic obsolescence is to eliminate service and maintenance for a product. If a product fails, the user is forced to purchase a new one. This strategy seldom works because there are typically third parties that are prepared to perform the service if parts are still available. One place it does work is in proprietary software
Proprietary software
Proprietary software is computer software licensed under exclusive legal right of the copyright holder. The licensee is given the right to use the software under certain conditions, while restricted from other uses, such as modification, further distribution, or reverse engineering.Complementary...

, where copyright
Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time...

 forbids third parties from performing some kinds of service. One example of this type of obsolescence is Microsoft
Microsoft Corporation is an American public multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA that develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of products and services predominantly related to computing through its various product divisions...

's termination of support for earlier versions of Windows and older service packs on more recent versions.. Another example would be that the recently introduced Internet Explorer 9 web browser will not work on Windows XP (which can only use up to the IE8 web browser). Apple Inc.'s Mac OS X
Mac OS X
Mac OS X is a series of Unix-based operating systems and graphical user interfaces developed, marketed, and sold by Apple Inc. Since 2002, has been included with all new Macintosh computer systems...

 (introduced following the purchase of NeXT
Next, Inc. was an American computer company headquartered in Redwood City, California, that developed and manufactured a series of computer workstations intended for the higher education and business markets...

 in 1997) is Unix-based and incompatible with previous versions of the company's operating systems, although a compatibility layer was provided for several years. This strategy can have an unintended consequence; if a customer is not dependent on the specific proprietary system they may switch to a different system in hopes of longer support.

Style obsolescence

Marketing is the process used to determine what products or services may be of interest to customers, and the strategy to use in sales, communications and business development. It generates the strategy that underlies sales techniques, business communication, and business developments...

 may be driven primarily by aesthetic
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. It is more scientifically defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste...

Design as a noun informally refers to a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system while “to design” refers to making this plan...

. Product categories in this case display a fashion cycle. By continually introducing new designs, and retargeting or discontinuing others, a manufacturer can "ride the fashion cycle". Such product categories include automobile
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

s (style obsolescence), with a strict yearly schedule of new models; the almost entirely style-driven clothing
Clothing refers to any covering for the human body that is worn. The wearing of clothing is exclusively a human characteristic and is a feature of nearly all human societies...

 industry (riding the fashion cycle); and the mobile phone
Mobile phone
A mobile phone is a device which can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile network operator...

 industries with constant minor feature enhancements and restyling.

Planned style obsolescence occurs when marketers change the styling of products so customers will purchase products more frequently. The style changes are designed to make owners of the old model feel "out of date
Keeping up with the Joneses
"Keeping up with the Joneses" is an idiom in many parts of the English-speaking world referring to the comparison to one's neighbor as a benchmark for social caste or the accumulation of material goods...

". It is also designed to differentiate
Product differentiation
In economics and marketing, product differentiation is the process of distinguishing a product or offering from others, to make it more attractive to a particular target market. This involves differentiating it from competitors' products as well as a firm's own product offerings...

 the product from the competition, thereby reducing price competition. One example of style obsolescence is the automobile industry, in which manufacturers typically make style changes every year or two. As the former CEO of General Motors
General Motors
General Motors Company , commonly known as GM, formerly incorporated as General Motors Corporation, is an American multinational automotive corporation headquartered in Detroit, Michigan and the world's second-largest automaker in 2010...

, Alfred P. Sloan
Alfred P. Sloan
Alfred Pritchard Sloan, Jr. was an American business executive in the automotive industry. He was a long-time president, chairman, and CEO of General Motors Corporation...

 stated in 1941, "Today the appearance of a motorcar is a most important factor in the selling end of the business—perhaps the most important factor— because everyone knows the car will run."

Some marketers go one step further: they attempt to initiate fashion
Fashion, a general term for a currently popular style or practice, especially in clothing, foot wear, or accessories. Fashion references to anything that is the current trend in look and dress up of a person...

s or fad
In biochemistry, flavin adenine dinucleotide is a redox cofactor involved in several important reactions in metabolism. FAD can exist in two different redox states, which it converts between by accepting or donating electrons. The molecule consists of a riboflavin moiety bound to the phosphate...

s. Successfully created fashions or fads include Beanie Babies, Ninja Turtles, Cabbage Patch Kids
Cabbage Patch Kids
Cabbage Patch Kids is a line of dolls created by American art student Xavier Roberts in 1978. It was originally called "Little People". The original dolls were all cloth and sold at local craft shows, then later at Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia...

, pet rocks
Pet rock
Pet Rocks were a 1970s fad conceived in Los Gatos, California by advertising executive Gary Dahl.-Development:In April 1975, Dahl was in a bar listening to his friends complain about their pets. This gave him the idea for the perfect "pet": a rock...

, acid wash jeans
Jeans are trousers made from denim. Some of the earliest American blue jeans were made by Jacob Davis, Calvin Rogers, and Levi Strauss in 1873. Starting in the 1950s, jeans, originally designed for cowboys, became popular among teenagers. Historic brands include Levi's, Lee, and Wrangler...

, and tank tops. Obsolescence is built into these products in the sense that marketers are aware of the shortness of their product life cycles
Product life cycle management
Product life-cycle management is the succession of strategies used by business management as a product goes through its life-cycle. The conditions in which a product is sold changes over time and must be managed as it moves through its succession of stages.Product life-cycle Like human beings,...

 so they work within that constraint. When Beanie Babies sales revenue started to decline, company president Ty Warner decided to go for one last Christmas marketing push and then drop the product.

Another strategy is to take advantage of fashion changes, often called the fashion cycle. The fashion cycle is the repeated introduction, rise, popular culmination, and decline of a style as it progresses through various social strata. Marketers can "ride the fashion cycle" by changing the mix of products that they direct at various market segment
Market segment
Market segmentation is a concept in economics and marketing. A market segment is a sub-set of a market made up of people or organizations with one or more characteristics that cause them to demand similar product and/or services based on qualities of those products such as price or function...

s. This is very common in the clothing industry. A certain style of dress will initially be aimed at a very high income segment, then gradually be re-targeted to lower income segments. The fashion cycle can repeat itself, in which case a stylistically obsolete product may regain popularity and cease to be obsolete.

Notification obsolescence

Some companies have developed a version of obsolescence in which the product informs the user when it is time to buy a replacement. Examples of this include water filters that display a replacement notice after a predefined time and disposable razors that have a strip that changes color. Whether the user is notified before the product has actually deteriorated or the product simply deteriorates more quickly than is necessary, planned obsolescence is the result. In this way planned obsolescence may be introduced without the company going to the expense of developing a "more up to date" replacement model.

In some cases, notification may be combined with the deliberate disabling of a product to prevent it from working, thus requiring the buyer to purchase a replacement. Inkjet printer
Inkjet printer
An inkjet printer is a type of computer printer that creates a digital image by propelling droplets of ink onto paper. Inkjet printers are the most commonly used type of printer and range from small inexpensive consumer models to very large professional machines that can cost up to thousands of...

 manufacturers who employ proprietary smart chips in their ink cartridges to prevent them from being used after a certain threshold (number of pages, time, etc.), even though the cartridge may still contain usable ink or could be refilled. Some medical equipment also exploits this technique to ensure a steady stream of revenue from sales of replacement consumables.
This constitutes programmed obsolescence in that there is no random component to the decline in function.

Obsolescence by depletion

When a product consumes a resource, as when a computer printer consumes ink and paper, it is generally understood that this is unavoidable. But some products also consume related resources that need not be consumed. For example, a 4-colour inkjet printer that is used mostly for printing in gray scale and seldom in colour, may be pre-programmed to deplete colour inks while printing black, so that the colour cartridge(s) must be replaced about the same time as the black ink cartridge.

Economics of planned obsolescence

Planned obsolescence tends to work best when a producer has at least an oligopoly
An oligopoly is a market form in which a market or industry is dominated by a small number of sellers . The word is derived, by analogy with "monopoly", from the Greek ὀλίγοι "few" + πόλειν "to sell". Because there are few sellers, each oligopolist is likely to be aware of the actions of the others...

. Before introducing a planned obsolescence, the producer has to know that the consumer is at least somewhat likely to buy a replacement from them. In these cases of planned obsolescence, there is an information asymmetry
Information asymmetry
In economics and contract theory, information asymmetry deals with the study of decisions in transactions where one party has more or better information than the other. This creates an imbalance of power in transactions which can sometimes cause the transactions to go awry, a kind of market failure...

 between the producer–who knows how long the product was designed to last–and the consumer, who does not. When a market becomes more competitive, product lifespans tend to increase. When Japanese vehicles with longer lifespans entered the American market in the 1960s and 1970s, American carmakers were forced to respond by building more durable products.

There are some industries where there is significant competition and consumers have chosen to go for products that will fail more quickly anyway. All that is needed is that the probability of repeat purchasing from the
same producer exceeds that of initially choosing the producer.

Even in a situation where planned obsolescence is appealing to both producer and consumer there can also be significant harm to society in the form of negative externalities. Continuously replacing, rather than repairing, products creates more waste
Waste is unwanted or useless materials. In biology, waste is any of the many unwanted substances or toxins that are expelled from living organisms, metabolic waste; such as urea, sweat or feces. Litter is waste which has been disposed of improperly...

, pollution
Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, disorder, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem i.e. physical systems or living organisms. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light...

, uses more natural resource
Natural resource
Natural resources occur naturally within environments that exist relatively undisturbed by mankind, in a natural form. A natural resource is often characterized by amounts of biodiversity and geodiversity existent in various ecosystems....

s, and results in more consumer spending
Consumer spending
Consumer spending or consumer demand or consumption is also known as personal consumption expenditure. It is the largest part of aggregate demand or effective demand at the macroeconomic level...

. One workaround for these setbacks can involve a consumer getting more tech-savvy about them so they can jury-rig them to work with newer equipment similar to a MacGyverism; and upcycling
Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value....

 the resources can offset the budget for home projects, whereas downcycling allows for more generalized purposes to live on. And those consumer strategies can counter the setbacks.

Others have defended planned obsolescence as a necessary driving force behind innovation and economic growth
Economic growth
In economics, economic growth is defined as the increasing capacity of the economy to satisfy the wants of goods and services of the members of society. Economic growth is enabled by increases in productivity, which lowers the inputs for a given amount of output. Lowered costs increase demand...

. Many products, such as DVD
A DVD is an optical disc storage media format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than Compact Discs while having the same dimensions....

s, become both cheaper and more useful the more people have them. Planned obsolescence will also tend to benefit those companies with the most modern and up-to-date products, thus encouraging extra investment in research and development
Research and development
The phrase research and development , according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, refers to "creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of...

 that often has large positive externalities.

Obsolescence and durability

If marketers expect a product to become obsolete, they can design it to last for a specific lifetime. If a product will be technically or stylistically obsolete in five years, many marketers will design the product so it will only last for that time. This is done through a technical process called value engineering
Value engineering
Value engineering is a systematic method to improve the "value" of goods or products and services by using an examination of function. Value, as defined, is the ratio of function to cost. Value can therefore be increased by either improving the function or reducing the cost...

. An example is home entertainment electronics which tend to be designed and built with moving components like motors and gears that last until technical or stylistic innovations make them obsolete.

These products could be built with higher-grade components, but they are not because it is stated that this imposes an unnecessary cost on the purchaser – see overengineering
Overengineering is when a product is more robust or complicated than necessary for its application, either to ensure sufficient factor of safety, sufficient functionality, or due to design errors...

. Value engineering will reduce the cost of making the product and lower the price to consumers. A company will typically use the least expensive components that satisfy product’s lifetime projections.

The use of value engineering techniques have led to planned obsolescence being associated with product deterioration and inferior quality. Vance Packard
Vance Packard
Vance Packard was an American journalist, social critic, and author.- Life and career :He was born in Granville Summit, Pennsylvania to parents Philip J. Packard and Mabel Case Packard...

 claimed that this could give engineering
Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

 a bad name, because it directed creative engineering energies toward short-term market ends rather than more lofty and ambitious engineering goals.

Planned obsolescence in software

Software companies are sometimes thought to deliberately drop support for older technologies as a calculated attempt to force users to purchase new products to replace those made obsolete. Most proprietary software
Proprietary software
Proprietary software is computer software licensed under exclusive legal right of the copyright holder. The licensee is given the right to use the software under certain conditions, while restricted from other uses, such as modification, further distribution, or reverse engineering.Complementary...

 will ultimately reach an end-of-life point, at which the manufacturer will cease updates and support. As open source software can always be updated and maintained by the end user, the user is not at the sole mercy of a proprietary vendor.

It may sometimes be economically infeasible to offer perpetual support for software. This especially applies to network-related software, where continued development work may be necessary to close new entry points for malicious attackers and malicious software. Covering these costs would either require a continual maintenance fee or a much higher upfront cost. Thus network-related software may reach an actual end-of-life, where support has been withdrawn from the provider and continued use of the software would yield an unacceptable security risk to the customer.

Fair trade

In the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, planned obsolescence engineered into products is considered a breach of customer rights. The Office of Fair Trading
Office of Fair Trading
The Office of Fair Trading is a not-for-profit and non-ministerial government department of the United Kingdom, established by the Fair Trading Act 1973, which enforces both consumer protection and competition law, acting as the UK's economic regulator...

 and Trading Standards Institute
Trading Standards Institute
The Trading Standards Institute is the professional association which represents trading standards professionals in the UK and overseas.-History:...

 investigate claims of products consistently failing just after the warranty period expires.

See also

  • Backwards compatibility
  • Disc rot
    Disc rot
    Disc rot is a phrase describing the tendency of CD or DVD or other optical disks to become unreadable due to physical or chemical deterioration...

  • DIVX
    DIVX was an unsuccessful attempt by Circuit City and the entertainment law firm Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca and Fischer to create an alternative to video rental in the United States.-Format:...

  • DVD-D
    DVD-Ds, also referred to as disposable DVDs, are a type of digital video disc that is designed to be used for a maximum 48 hours after the containing package is opened. After this time, the DVDs become unreadable to DVD players because they contain a chemical that, after the set period of time,...

  • Functional obsolescence
  • General Motors
  • Phoebus cartel
    Phoebus cartel
    The Phoebus cartel was a cartel of, among others, Osram, Philips and General Electric from December 23, 1924 until 1939 that existed to control the manufacture and sale of light bulbs....

  • Continuous obsolescence
    Continuous obsolescence
    Continuous obsolescence or perpetual revolution is a phenomenon where industry trends, or other items that do not immediately correspond to technical needs, mandate a continual readaptation of a system; such work does not increase the usefulness of the system, but is required for the system to...

Further reading

  • London, B. (1932) Ending the depression through planned obsolescence (Full Text PDF)

External links