The days of owning devices are over.

A new announcement now allows HP customers to get charged based upon the number of pages they print and not based on cartridges or refills. Why is HP moving to an “As a service” business when its printer supplies business is doing extremely well garnering $12.9 billion in sales last year? Its subscription business has now grown to 6 million users, which is a very small portion of what they had aimed for. But what happens if you do not renew the subscription or you want to use a different ink cartridge? You can cancel it but will again need to purchase a new cartridge. HP printers can detect and reject 3rd party ink and now HP instant ink. You do not “own” the ink, it belongs to HP.

As connected devices become more mainstream, it is becoming easier for manufacturers to push out over the air updates to software, add new functionalities, and enable a much convenient experience. Like Tesla, owners keep receiving new and improved functionalities on their cars. But the flip side also brings you functionalities you did not ask for. Back in 2015, Philips locked third-party manufacturer’s light bulbs from its Hue platform through an update and suddenly you can’t switch on the lights. Coffee Maker Green Mountain Coffee pioneered the use pf single-serve coffee pods, but an update rolled recently means that only their (expensive) coffee pods work with the machine.

How did we reach here? Convenience (+Budget) over Control

Even if you do own the device, you are majorly dependent on cloud services to operate them smoothly. The widespread AWS outage on Nov 27, 2020, disabled Roombas, Ring doorbells and even Christmas lights for thousands of customers.

Many new hardware powered companies now put multiple barriers – hardware and software in place to ensure only their approved supplies, components and consumables can work with their product. Then you have a dependency on updates over the air and cellular connectivity as well. Consider cases of Ferrari and Tesla being bricked due to no mobile reception underground. Rental cars unable to start in a remote area due to no cellular reception.

Security trumps transparency

Repairing your devices is a different nightmare altogether now, with only authorized service centers or authorized parts being allowed to integrate with your device. Apple, historically has frowned upon third party services from repairing your phones. But the stand-off between John Deere and tractor owners continues over who has the right to repair the devices.

The devices you use daily – TV, Laptops, Phones and Watches now can be bricked, updated and tracked remotely doesn’t matter the OS or the manufacturer. Now, its the time for all smart devices.

Update 1: Yes, iFixit and the Right to Repair movement is working towards much more open hardware, but they are still playing catchup.

Sources

  • https://instantink.hpconnected.com/uk/en/l/
  • https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2020-02-27/xerox-and-hp-are-in-a-35-billion-fight-over-ink-cartridges
  • https://www.theneura.com/the-aws-outage-and-the-need-for-offline-iot/
  • https://old.reddit.com/r/Justrolledintotheshop/comments/j914fh/dude_comes_straight_from_the_dealership_for_a/
  • https://teslamotorsclub.com/tmc/threads/software-update-bricked-my-car.163623/
  • https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/23/climate/right-to-repair.html

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