Planned Obsolescence

Have you ever noticed that your gadgets don’t fail within the warranty period. And that a day (or thereabouts) after the warranty expires, problems start popping up? I’m pretty sure it’s not random. There’s just too many smart people in tech. ┬áIt’s definitely by design.

There’s this thing called Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF) and manufacturers definitely would want the MTBF to be after the warranty period. Or conversely, the warranty only as long as the MTBF safely permits.

The past few days, I’ve been noticing my Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) Slim booting, beeping three times, then shutting down. Leslie said it’s an overheating problem. I couldn’t believe it since I practically only use the PS3 for watching videos. It’s just a glorified media player so to speak. And I can usually start it up with a bit of trying.

But last week, I bought a copy of the brand-spankin’-new Assassin’s Creed III (AC3). As soon as I got home I excitedly popped the disk into the drive and started playing. I wasn’t playing for long when the PS3 suddenly shut down. This is serious: It’s affecting my gaming!

So I went and visited some computer shops and inquired how my PS3 can be fixed. I had two options: re-flow and re-ball. Re-flow is where they heat up the solder on the chips and reflow them. Apparently, the PS3 uses lead-free solder which has this tendency to crack after some thermal stress. The other option is to re-ball which is where they replace the lead-free solder with a lead solder.

Both options are rather expensive at a few thousands. And they’re not guaranteed to last long. The best warranty they can provide is three months. And you are supposed to play for only an hour or two per session. Then you have to cool down the PS3. How medieval is that?!?

Dismayed, I decided to just let the PS3 die with dignity. I just ignored the booting and rebooting problems and doggedly kept playing. Unfortunately, without even getting through 3% of AC3, the PS3 was bust. No lights, no beeps, no nothing. It’s dead, Jim.

Which bring me back to planned obsolescence. Just a month or so back, Sony released the PS3 Ultra Slim. Or PS3 Slimmer. Coincidence? I’m pretty sure it’s not. Will I be getting it? I’m pretty sure I won’t.