Josua SchmidBy Josua Schmid / 08.02.22

The afterimage stays, cannot be unseen


How dependent am I actually on niche products? That's what I ask myself sometimes.

Are there still spare parts for my kitchen appliance, my car? Are there more spare parts for old kitchen appliances than for new ones? Is there a survival bias because of the availability of spare parts for the old appliances? Is the cohort of the new appliance too young to tell? Can I buy a new one as soon as the old one breaks?

For my MacBook Pro 15inch, Mid 2015 these questions had the consequence that I decided to use the device until it fell apart or Apple produced a decent successor. Fortunately, with the MacBook M1 Pro, 16inch 2021, the second case came first. For me, my main work laptop became obsolete only 6 years after purchase, so great was this machine.

But products become obsolete at some point. They wear out or simply go out of fashion. This effect is called obsolescence. Even nastier than the natural process is when a product is planned to become obsolete. A prominent example of planned obsolescence is the Phoebus cartell. There, a cartel had deliberately limited the lifetime of light bulbs. However, it does not necessarily mean that there are bad intentions behind something like that. The example why I asked myself the question of niche products just today comes from the medical field.

At the moment there is a lot of media coverage about a company called Second Sight Medical Products. As IEEE Sprectrum writes, the company produces, or rather produced, vision implants: it almost went bankrupt twice and has now decided to discontinue its implant series "Argus". This is problematic for the 350 patients who have the systems installed in their eyes. They will now get no support for malfunctions (like the one mentioned in the IEEE Spectrum) or let alone any information at all. It would be pretty nasty to suddenly lose such an important dependency.

You may be wondering now if a Tesla is still niche, or how well your home automation system manufacturer's finances and spare parts inventory is doing. I don't know, but I can explain how your web application is doing at Renuo:

  • All parts of our software are developed with open source components (unless you had very specific video codec requirements). So you could always give the source code of your application to other developer hands for further continuing.
  • Unless you explicitly request otherwise, apps we develop run on the Amazon cloud (via Salesforce's Heroku). Having these companies involved is a conscious decision. Microsoft is relatively new to the cloud business with Azure, and Google has a reputation for simply shutting down services sometimes because it's "beta" anyway (e.g., Inbox) or radically changing the pricing model at short notice (e.g., Maps). Amazon and Salesforce simply have the more stable, unexciting (for some also more boring) company existence.
  • The dependence on cloud services is relatively low for Renuo web applications. We develop according to the 12factor principle. These principles allow us to run any of our web apps in any data center. Unfortunately, this does not apply to mobile apps. There, we are at the mercy of Google and Apple.
  • We are a Swiss company. Unlike a mailbox-incubator-3-day-shelflive-startup, you can just drop by in Wallisellen and see how things go (yes, you may take that as an invitation for coffee).
  • Finally, something about statistics: You know that Renuo has been around for 10 years now. If you had no further information than that, you may assume that we will be around for another 10 years (German tank problem).

Perhaps I have now answered many questions that you would not even have had without me. Sorry for that. But that's what Renuo is good for. That's how we techies are.

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