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December 6, 2010 / pkdhodapkar

Repositioning old technologies

What happens to obsolete technologies? Do they simply fade away?

Not necessarily!! Obsolete technologies can be reinvented or presented in a new way to enhance their effectiveness or capture a niche market. 

As an example, we know that the ‘radio’ almost faded away due to the emergence of a richer media, the TV. However, the radio made a comeback in a new form, the satellite radio. The underlying technology has changed in several ways: (1) digital encryption is used to control access (2) the quality of received sound is much better (3) The new format provides mobility to cater to the “anywhere, anytime” attitude of the modern generation.

 The new technology possesses some characteristics that can be termed as the critical success factors: (1) Quality of sound- master copies must be available and good quality sound must be produced from existing recordings. (2) The new format has diversified offerings of news, eastern and western music; as well as channels that offer spiritual discourses and music. All this requires investment in the form of new hardware and software. Other expenses may be incurred in the form of operator license fees to be paid to the government. Private operators are predominantly the service providers of satellite radio. In contrast, the legacy radio service was government operated and an annual fee was charged to consumers (later discontinued).   

 In contrast to the value added and technology intensive service offered in the case of satellite radio, sometimes a service may be continued to be offered to clients, without appreciable technological input, simply for its ‘nostalgia’ value. The Darjeeling Railway is one such example that comes to mind.  

 (Note: “Worldspace”, the world leader in providing satellite radio services, recently filed for bankruptcy in respect of its India operations).

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