Samsung Gives Thumbs Up to Sustainability, Thumbs Down to Planned Obsolescence, with new HDTV "Evolution Kit"

Photo used with permission. Some rights reserved, by JoeDuck
At last week's Consumer Electronics Show, companies made headlines with an electronically folding stroller (every parent's dream), ultrabooks, and gesture-controlled interfaces. But it was Samsung's "Evolution Kit" that might mark the start of something big: the end of planned obsolescence.

Defined by The Economist as "a business strategy in which the obsolescence ... of a product is planned and built into it from its conception," Planned Obsolescence has been standard operating procedure for most manufacturers since they realized there is a profit to be made by a consumer's "need" to replace an existing product. 

"It is a strategy that has worked across many industries for decades, but in a persistently down economy, the prospect of paying to replace a just-past warranty but now dead product is an anathema." says Lance Ulanoff, the Mashable correspondent at CES that first drew attention to Samsung's potentially ground-breaking innovation. 

Realizing that consumers dislike replacing expensive HDTVs every few years in order to keep up with changing technological capacity, Samsung will start including "upgrade slots" in some of their televisions, allowing consumers to upgrade the television's capacity. Here's how Samsung describes it:

Select 2012 Samsung Smart TV will be “future proof” for years to come. Thanks to its proprietary system-on-chip technology, Samsung is the only company that can deliver an evolving TV, which allows you to easily enjoy the benefits of the latest TV technology year after year without purchasing a brand new set. With a simple slot-in to the back of TV, Samsung’s Evolution Kit will bring the latest and greatest TV technology to life. 
In a tight economy, products that are built to last and be improved over time should be applauded. This is great news, as well, for sustainability activists. According to the EPA, American generate 2.5 million tons of electronic waste each year, and only 25 percent of that is recycled. When improperly disposed, electronic waste can pollute water supplies and clutter landfills.

Sony, Dell and Spring signed an agreement with the EPA in July of 2011 to improve their own electronic recycling programs. These efforts, along with Samsung's new upgradeable TV, are noteworthy examples of companies taking charge to extend the life of their products while also providing for their complete life-cycle.

Ulanoff's article highlights a few other examples of obsolescence-busting technology seen at CES this year. If he's right - that this is the early indicators of a coming collapse of planned obsolescence - then it will be true cause to celebrate, and another example of business innovations that care for profit, people and planet.

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