Tech “Cool” Factor

Apple haters many times like to say that people who buy Apple products are “sheeple” that just want to feel cool. The argument is that folks are paying for a brand name, and styling vs. the “important” specs.  The funny thing is that many times the haters are right, and the fact that they use this type of argument shows how little they understand why people really buy tech.

Technically minded folks have a tendency to hyper focus on the resources a product offers, and not care so much about the touch feely aspects of the product.  A better CPU, and more RAM is more important than a clunky design or UX.  But as technology becomes more and more main stream it becomes more of a fashion statement, and something that people want to enjoy using. I think this is where a lot of new technology is failing miserably.

Have you ever watched someone play a VR game?  Really… have you sat there and watched a person play in VR?  They look like idiots.  Marketing people create these sharp videos where people look cool, and sexy going between the real world and VR.  The reality is more like watching an upright person go through an epileptic fit while attached to cast offs from a Radio Shack going out of business sale.

In the AR space Google really showed how people thought of Glass when within the blink of the eye users were termed “Glassholes”.  Glass was so creepy in such a profound way.  I owned a pair and putting them on instantly made me feel like a prick.

I’ve been thinking about this since a party I went to recently.  The person hosting the party was using a Google Home for the music.  The marketing people want you to think of a voice controlled world were the device is at your beck and call. The reality was a bit cringy.  Having the host have to stop a conversation every once in a while to tell the Home to do something was odd enough, but… then… half the time the Home did not understand and so the host would have to repeat the command.  Their voice would inch up in loudness as if they were trying to talk to a deaf person. Do you remember when you were a kid, you’d visit a friends house, and the friends parents would start to have an argument.  You know how cringy it is when you and your friend just sheepishly look at each other and shrug your shoulders as the parents begin to scream?  Now imagine that only replace one of the spouses with a bot.

I think a very profound problem that the tech industry is having is that so much of the new technology is fundamentally not cool. I remember when 900Mhz cordless phones were cool. I remember when beepers were cool. I remember when cell phones the size of briefcases, PC’s, Laptops, SmartPhones and Tablets were cool.  When most of us bought these products we really didn’t need them.  As time went by they became indispensable, but when we first put down money it was because of the cool factor. Knotted up telephone handset cords were just ugly.  A wireless phone was sleek. A cell phone the size of a brief case was a literal brick, but… but you were important enough to need to haul a brick around with you. When I was a consultant I made a chunk of change installing things that did nothing for ROI, but the CEO wanted clients and employees to know that the business was cool.  I look around now and most of what I see is not “geek chic”, rather “geek duct tape”.  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but whenever you interact with it reminds you of geek life from the bad old days before “geek” was something that was cool.

I’d have you think about this as you try to sell products to your boss or clients.  Esthetics matter.  Your CEO worked his ass off to afford a fancy car, big house, nice clothes, and all the other things required to try to overcome their penis issues.  They want to feel like a GOD, not… not… a person who has to argue with their dishwasher to clean the dishes.  Think about this when proposing projects and products.  CxO’s are never going to fully grasp latency, or bit rot.  They will understand looking cooler than their peers!

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