Hot off the press. U.S. consumers, during our economic doldrums, are buying technology gadgets rather than washers, apparel and furniture that last a few years. Apparently the lure of a smartphone or blu-ray DVD player is more appealing than the five-year old toaster that…well, makes toast.
One 28 year-old guy was quoted: “Who cares about a toaster?. If it still works, let it be.” Somehow I can’t imagine techies saying the same thing about their $3,000 LCD TV hanging on the wall. If you pay that kind of money for an electronic gizmo, you expect more than “it works.”
Is it that the toaster doesn’t play a song by Sting while it’s burning the bread? Or that your coffee table has no pizazz?. It just sits there staring at you?
If that’s the reason for the 2% decline this year in consumer purchases of staples, toaster and coffee table manufacturers need to hustle. How about inserting a blue-ray DVD player with HD screen into a coffee table? Think of the advantages for couch potatoes. Rather than having to get up and fix their audio systems ten feet away when the remote dies, they could just touch a few buttons on the coffee table. Voila, up pops a blu-ray player with a 24 inch screen showing “Boogie Nights.” Here’s a table that comes DJ equipped.
As far as toasters go, surely China or Taiwan could pop a heat-resistant MP3 player into the thing. As your morning coffee is brewing, you could swing and sway with Sammy Kay–or whatever music turns you on–as flashing lights on the toaster sync with the tune’s rhythm. In fact, a bright person in 2002 demonstrated on the Web how to build a Linux-based MP3 toaster.
Apparel manufacturers have it easy with embedded electronic textiles where audio, video and even wireless connections to the Web are sewn into the fabric. Think of the possibilities. While sauntering down the street, you could simultaneously surf the Web or text you friend with a built-in QWERTY keypad. How about voice-to-text? Even more cool.
It’s clear to me that unless the clothing, furniture and appliance industries get off their behinds and converge electronic gadgets into their stuff, they’re doomed (not the game). With just a bit of ingenuity and marketing savvy, next year’s hottest household item could be a sofa with built-in virtual reality goggles and an audio woofer screwed to the base. Now, a sofa like that would sell better than an iPhone.