Software updates and a ‘Smart’ washing machine…

A visit to a nearby UK home appliances retailer to browse washing machines proved unexpectedly fun. The Badger’s 10-year-old washing machine still works well, but groans, knocks, and squeals are becoming more prominent, and so it seemed prudent to do some succession planning. Having searched what’s available online, it seemed sensible to survey appliances in person, especially as there’s an out-of-town home appliances superstore nearby.

After arriving at the store and browsing the computers, peripherals, phones, and digital gadgets close to the entrance, the Badger navigated to the washing machines at the back of the store. It was quickly apparent that there were more costly ‘Smart’ models with network/internet connectivity/apps on display than traditional ones. A salesperson sidled up and drew attention to a ‘Smart’ model on special offer, extolling the conveniences that its ‘Smart’ capabilities provided. The Badger listened politely and asked, ‘How long does the manufacturer support the software?’. This flummoxed the salesperson who said ‘Never had that question before. Give me a moment and I’ll find out’. They disappeared and soon returned with a colleague, who simply said ‘a few years’.  The Badger, who wants a new washing machine to last around 10 years, was rather amused that they obviously didn’t know the answer to his question.

The Badger thanked them for the information and moved on to the TV section where nearly all the models on display were ‘Smart TVs’.  While marvelling at the picture quality of a high-end model, another salesperson asked if he had any questions. The Badger asked, ‘How long does the manufacturer support the software?’ Guess what, the salesperson went to find out and came back with the answer ‘a few years’.  The Badger chuckled and mentioned that an Amazon Firestick was therefore probably much better value! The salesperson swiftly moved to a customer showing real interest in making a purchase.

Software updates have been part of the IT/tech industry since its inception. Over recent decades, however, mobile and internet connected technology has not only put enormous functionality at our fingertips, but also progressively increased the need to keep the security  of connected devices up to date.  The need for, and frequency of, software updates has thus generally risen. But here’s the rub. Manufacturers often stop supporting their software  years before an equipment you’ve purchased is truly end of life.  The recently enacted UK Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure (PSTI) Act, however, is thus welcome progress towards making brands be more upfront about their software support

Smart’ everything, at a premium price, is becoming the norm, and so if you’re buying devices and appliances in a physical store then always ask about software support and compliance with the PSTI Act. Consider the response you get carefully, and remember, buy something that meets your real need, with your head not your heart.

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