Are You Experiencing “Next Great” Whatever Fatigue?

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You just bought an HDTV, an iPhone, and a Kindle, but now there’s 3-D TV, Google’s Nexus One, and the Kindle 2 (or the Nook) that all want you to take them home too. Can’t the marketers and innovators at least wait until we’ve gotten used to all the gizmos and features of our current great “new” devices before they introduce the new-new ones?

The rapidly evolving tech scene is fun for geeks—and probably, very good for the economy. But more and more, the excitement surrounding all these new toys may be mixed with a feeling of buyer’s remorse for all the gear that you already own. The excitement is also increasingly viewed as hype, as marginal improvement rather than true groundbreaking innovation.

No one seemed awed by anything at yesterday’s Nexus One press conference. No one even seemed surprised. A quote from my colleague at Techland live blogging the event:

“Please tell us something we don’t know.”

Google’s long-awaited smartphone intro drew little more than “polite applause,” according to the NY Times. The reaction is partly because the device itself apparently represents not all that major an upgrade from other products on the market—”more evolutionary than revolutionary,” one observer is quoted as saying. I think the underwhelming reaction is also because people are already wondering what the next-next-next thing is going to be, and because we’ve grown tired of what seems like a nonstop rollout of new stuff we’re expected to buy.

The next-gen rollouts are reaching a peak right now, per the Washington Post:

What makes this month notable is the sheer number of pitches being shouted by tech and media giants ranging from Apple to Google to Sony to Discovery Communications, in the hope that recession-weary Americans are ready to start spending their discretionary income again.

Just about every new piece of tech is promoted as a game changer, but the devices that truly become essential tools of modern life are really rare.

DVD player? Yes. But Blu-ray? Not so much.

3-D TV may also be something of a yawn, at least until costs come down significantly and they figure out a way to watch it without having to hand out dorky glasses to everybody. ESPN is launching an entire 3-D channel, and I actually see that catching on. Sports fans are fanatics. They have lots of disposable income they’re readily willing to part with, driving cross-country in RVs to attend games and paying thousands of dollars for team merchandise.

But the average non-fanatical household? A lot of people I know haven’t gone flat-screen, let alone hi-def, and to them, 3-D TV is a joke. I’m well aware that in terms of technology I’m something of a caveman-Unabomber compared to a lot of people. But one thing I’m not (I hope) is a sucker taken in by the need to buy whatever new gear is plopped in front of my face. I’m not alone. 3-D TV has been filed under the “Department of Un-Asked-For Tech” by James Poniewozik. The NY Times Bits Blog asked “Do Consumers Really Want 3-D TVs?” and most of the comments are along these lines:

Unless 3D sets are all that’s available, consumers will not be spending extra money on the concept any time soon, despite the industry’s determination to ram the concept down people’s throats.

Here’s a message to all tech innovators and marketers: We’re on to you. It may have taken a few decades and trillions of wasted dollars for us to figure out how this next-great-whatever game is played, but we’re finally on to you.

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