Navigating the Technology Graveyard: When Innovations Get Left Behind

With products having such a short lifecycle in the world of technology, a company might launch innovation-driven devices with big fanfare, only to announce an exit from market and leave users confused and disappointed. If this scenario plays out often enough, then the technological graveyard will amass with what-might-have-beens. It’s eerie when innovations are put aside as quickly as they are announced. Just when we’ve heard of exciting new products, they’re called off. In a recent turn of events, Denmark-based Jabra has decided to exit the earbud and headphone marketplace, despite the unveiling of Elite 8 Active Gen 2 and the Elite 10 earlier this year.

Jabra Waves Goodbye to Earbuds

The Surprising Exit After a Grand Entrance

Jabra, a Danish company with roots in audio-visual tech dating back to the 1980s, appeared to have solved the formula with its latest Elite earbud line: the Elite 8 Active Gen 2 (with active noise cancellation) and the Elite 10 offered LE audio charging cases, at a good price point. Then, in a move that is utterly mystifying, the parent company, GN North Store, announced it was getting out of the headphone and earbud business shortly after both of these products launched. Peter Karlstromer, the CEO, stated that the company didn’t see a future in consumer headphones, explaining the company needed to focus on ‘more profitable parts of our portfolio, such as hearing, all the way to enterprise and gaming divisions’.

Jabra Is Not Alone

The Phenomenon of Corporate Abandonware

Jabra’s story is not isolated. His tech brethren at LG also trod similar roads. Announcing the end of the company’s smartphone business in early 2021, the company left its loyal customers reeling. LG’s smartphones with audiophile-grade sound and user-friendly features such as headphone jacks and space for removable storage rivalled the Samsung and Apple offerings in whichever market they appeared. Bullitt Group, the manufacturers of the rugged Cat phones, and Nokia, with its now legendary (if perhaps impractical) Symbian OS, as well as its 41-megapixel PureView camera system, have made similarly unforeseen exits from markets that they created.

Why Do Companies Abandon Ship?

Peeling Back the Layers of Corporate Strategy

Financial considerations, shifting business strategies, external pressures and, sometimes, simple misjudgments are all factors in these dramatic departures. For Jabra and LG, the costs of competing in unprofitable markets became too significant to sustain; strategic shifts, often to tap into newer or more lucrative markets, also take their toll; and external factors, from supply chain issues to regulations and opportunities can drive industry shake-ups.

The Consumer’s Quandary

Dealing with the Fallout of Abandoned Tech

From the perspective of consumers, who might have spent years with a company’s product, and have come to depend on them, an abandonment can be dispiriting. It’s not just the loss of this or that gadget, but of trust, of ecosystems, and of what is really a very considerable investment. With product abandonments, users have to scramble to find and integrate new tools, often without the benefit of the continuity they had grown accustomed to.

Looking Ahead: A Future Filled with Abandoned Gadgets?

The truth is grim – Jabra’s exit from the earbud business is probably only the beginning. As the tech industry continues to churn, teeter between innovation and market pressure, and set aside existing products for new ventures, more dead-tech will accumulate. Foamed silicone earbuds are merely a small part of a big pile of failed tech products left behind in the name of innovation.

Understanding LG: A Case Study in Tech Evolution

But among the chaos of companies shifting and halting once-popular product lines, LG’s story is particularly noteworthy. A pioneer in the smartphone era, albeit one that was unable to gain market share against industry titans such as Samsung and Apple, LG’s move to exit the market is a stark testament to the cutthroat nature of the tech industry. While trying to stay afloat, LG has invested in other potential high-growth avenues, such as smart home gadgets and electric-vehicle components. What LG exemplifies is a larger trend in the tech industry: either adapt or die.

As such businesses as LG, Jabra and others pivot, technologies and products often get left behind in their wake. The lesson for both those companies and consumers is that while innovation is constant, some products will not survive.

Jun 16, 2024
<< Go Back