Are We Building Products That Are Too Good?
Several weeks ago I sat in front of my laptop and couldn’t get an Internet connection. My laptop is part of my wireless network running through a Linksys router. So I check the router. The power light is on, all the proper lights are blinking and it seems to be running fine. Hmmm, it must be the Internet server. So I check the computer that is directly hooked to the Internet. I discover that the server is working fine! So, I call Linksys, the manufacturer of my wireless router, since they have always been helpful in the past. After reading the serial number to them and having them walk me through a few quick checks, they tell me that my wireless router is functioning just fine and that they can get me up and running again in just a few minutes. “Great,” I’m thinking. But not so fast!
“However,” they say, “get out your credit card. Did you know that your Linksys router is now over five years old?” says the technician. “It is an older G-type model and it is no longer supported by CISCO, our new owners. In order for us to fix it, you must pay us a customer support fee of $39.95. But…. for a mere $59.95 we can sell you our latest N-type model, which is new and improved with much faster speed, freight included. It will arrive at your door in a matter of days!”
“No Good!” I said, “This will not solve my immediate problem since I need to have my Internet working today!”
“Well, “says the Linksys technician, “if you purchase the new router, it also includes two years of customer support, and this support will commence today just as soon as your credit card transaction is approved. We can then get your existing router running for you now while you wait for the new and faster N-type router to arrive!”
Hmmm, for $30 extra bucks I might as well get the latest and greatest, I thought. So I give up my credit card numbers while dreading what is sure to be a 60 minute customer support phone session to restore my existing router to working order. To my surprise, the technician took over control of my PC, and asked me to pick a new name for my network. It could be any other name other than the current name, which was “James.” Within two seconds my wireless network was up and running again with a new network name and my new $60 dollar router was on its way to my front door!
“What just happened?” I thought. Was I just a victim of premeditated obsolescence? “We would never do this in the window and door industry!” I thought. Can you imagine, pre-engineering an insulating glass unit that fogs after only 5 years? Or a balance system that, after only five years, will not hold the window open? Or a vinyl or wood frame that starts cracking or fading after only five years? How about low-e coatings that stop working or argon gas that escapes after only five years?
Instead of building obsolescence into our window and door products, we are building them better than ever! Ten, 20, 25 and even lifetime transferable warranties abound. Low E-coatings are not going to evaporate or rub off. Vinyl frames are formulated with plentiful portions of UV inhibitors to prevent fading or cracking. Wood is treated with advanced preservatives. And then there is the insulating glass unit itself. If it fogs due to moisture infiltration or chemical out-gassing, the view through the window would be obscured and the window near useless. But with the tough test requirements that NFRC now requires for insulating glass units (ASTM E2190), window and door fabricators are now ensuring homeowners that insulating glass units will stand the test of time. Not only will insulating glass units stay clear for many years to come, but they will also hold their performance features for the life of the unit!
So what will spur future fenestration customers to ever want to replace their windows and doors 10, 20 or even 30 years down the road? If it is not due to failures, then it will have to be out of need or desire for new technology. As I see it, product innovation is the key. We have to keep adding performance attributes year after year. Durability is a given, but what will keep our industry growing in the years ahead will be improvements in ergonomics, energy performance, aesthetics and new technology as yet undefined. I know the players in this industry and I would put money down that they are up to the task!
So, is the N-type router giving me faster Internet speeds? Not yet! I was just informed that in order to realize the faster speed, I will also need to buy N-type wireless network cards for each of my six computers. Go figure!