THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING

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The severity of and multiple factors that caused the recent economic crisis are a force of change. For a time fear has frozen activity economically among a lot of people at all levels, but that will thaw as people find they need to get along in their lives and the market for essentials remains substantial, even automobiles will pick up in sales as many will need to replace what they have out of necessity. And as most people get back to their lives, they will also return to the activities that are essential only to their enjoyment of life, including photography.

In the meantime the big dip in buying, especially non-essentials, has put great stress on all kinds of companies, and some will not survive if they relied too much on cutting the margins very close to attract buyers. But even the largest like Microsoft is being reactionary apparently running ads attacking Apple, which has felt it necessary to respond with their own ads. That irrationality pervades in times of stress is to be expected, but why is an 800 pound gorilla (Microsoft) afraid of a small monkey (sorry Mac users), in the jungle of modern commerce, it sure would not happen in nature. The monkey high up in the trees is no threat to the gorilla’s territory on the ground. And in reality the territory Apple has carved out in computing is quite distinct from the territory Microsoft dominates. To me it is just more evidence the real world is much more rational and sensible than the artificial turf of business, which seems to get even more insane than usual when times are difficult.

But out of this cauldron of nonsense some good things seem to be emerging. Hard times has forced inertia aside and survival means adapting to a changing world. Computer publications like CNET and Apple Insider have just reported that we can look forward to some lower priced Apple computer models in the near future. And in general it seems the demand for computers has not lessened so much as there is a consumer shift to less costly models. This of course has lowered gross sales figures which looks worse really than what buyer activity actually says about the future. People are still going to get new stuff, they are just not going to be quite so extravagant in their choices. Specifically as far as Apple is concerned the immediate focus seems to be on offering more affordable laptops and possibly an iMac at $899, which would reduce the high cost as a barrier for users who might switch to an Apple Mac.

I am sure many of you have noticed, if you allow e-mails from computer sellers, that sales inducements featuring much lowered prices are now more frequent. Personally I have my doubts that there is much value associated with these lo-balled products being pushed at us. But later in the summer as the appeal is directed at the back-to-school crowd, some entirely new products with better value for the computer user will be a part of the offerings.

In the meantime, there are other hints that inertia is not enough to keep old ways going. An announcement was made jointly by Photo District News and B&H Photo/Video that they are jointly sponsoring a virtual photo trade show in the later part of May (http://w.on24.com/r.htm?e=141788&s=1&k=FEC0D98EF9DD57D1EFCD16826A740772.). So will the change in economic conditions finally displace anachronisms like the photo trade show? For those who are thinking that such expensive ways of doing things traditionally can be shifted to the internet surely have to consider the fact how much of the American market has broadband or even internet capability, and how many who do not will they lose as customers. It would be interesting to know from the long established mail order businesses like Adorama, how much of their business is still old-fashioned mail order, how much is done by their 800 toll free phone access and how much is now done over their web site? America is well behind most of the first-world countries in broadband implementation, in large part because the US government has kept out of it and allowed the private communications companies a free market. But the result of that is that cable and telephone companies have only been interested in easy profits and are not concerned that people who could most benefit in low population density outlying areas of the country obtain efficient and affordable internet service. Maybe the Stimulus Bill recently passed by Congress will help to change that.

If you have a comment, they are welcome, so please post it. If you have a question you want me to answer please address an e-mail to David B. Brooks at: goofotografx@gmail.com

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