My wife Maryellen bought a computer today.
Long time computer junkie that I am, I would normally be very interested in the specs, but I wasn’t. I just told her to go to Sam’s Club (she likes shopping there) and buy whatever she wanted.
Because you know what? The “specs” really don’t matter anymore.
There was a time when it really mattered. Like I said, I’m a computer junkie – I’ve built and repaired more computers than I can count. I can remember setting up a new sound card in DOS, and the absolute magic that Windows 95 was (where plug n play sort of worked!) I was always concerned with processor speed, cache, megahertz, gigahertz, RAM, Video RAM, etc etc. (stay with me – I do have a point to make.)
But today, computer specs hardly matter anymore – almost any machine you buy off the shelf will suffice nicely. And they are now dirt-cheap – Maryellen bought a new Hewlett Packard with fairly high specs, with a beautiful 22″ LCD widescreen monitor, for about $700. Are you kidding me? At one time, I spent $500 on just a video card. And $200 for another 4 megs of RAM. And put em’ in myself…
My goodness, computers have been reduced to TV’s in terms of buying new – buy one, when it doesn’t suffice anymore, you buy another. No need to ever buy parts or fix them or such.
So how’d you like to own a computer repair shop today? (see, I told you I had a point)
Really – ten years ago, there were no less than 7 local computer repair shops in my area. Today, there might be one. And I’ll bet business isn’t so good.
Same with video rental stores – remember how many there were ten to twenty years ago? My goodness, they were everywhere… and now they’re almost all gone.
They say hindsight is 20/20, but in both of these businesses, I feel the end was clearly in sight. In fact, in one of my first business ventures back in 1991, one of the many things I did was sell local ads on the boxes you brought your videotape home in. I’d provide the video stores with my boxes (so they didn’t have to buy boxes), and also paid them a few dollars for using the boxes with the ads pasted to them (making this a no-brainer for video stores.)
So I got to know a lot of video store owners – and I remember asking a few “doesn’t this seem like a limited lifespan business?” Pay-per-view was just getting started, and if that wasn’t HUGE writing on the wall, I don’t know what is. Plus, I also knew that people would rather own many of the movies – if the price was right (and in 1991 it wasn’t, but that would soon change with DVD.)
But none of the video store owners thought their business would ever end. I know quite a few of them lost a LOT of money in the end. And really, with a little objectivity, they could have seen this coming.
And that’s my point – if you are starting a business, be truly objective in the viability of your business. Because I’m sure it sucks royally to spend 5 years building something up, and then seeing it go under a few years later.