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Apple's iPhone 3.0 Adds Features, Rewards Developers

Information Week
InformationWeek Daily - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Editor's Note

Do We Care Where Technology Products Are Made?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration kicked off a new labeling program this week, requiring fresh and frozen fruits, veggies, and meats to specify country of origin. It got me thinking about the utility of similar IDs on branded tech products.

The reasoning behind the program is that consumers need the information in order to make better purchase decisions. What exactly constitutes better is up for grabs, but safety was mentioned in the announcement propaganda: if there's a problem with a foodstuff coming from someplace, buyers could avoid it.

Talk about a blunt tool, right? Short of acting on notification that all products of a certain type might be tainted from country so-and-so, there's not much else buyers could do with the new label info, unless consumers associated additional, positive qualities with the IDs (like only eating grapes from Chile, or, as the meat labels also include notation on where animals are born, raised, and slaughtered, chowing only hamburger from cows who started their lives in America, but spent their childhoods in Mexico).

And then I thought about technology. Most widgets are born in far-away lands, and the miracle of outsourcing means that they mature sometimes at multiple points around the globe. Do chips from one place matter differently than those from another? Are complicated devices assembled in Country A better (or, say, the factories more appealing to our sensibilities) than Country B's? Could a "finished on" date and location have some significance to a would-be buyer?

Maybe not. After all, any educated technology shopper knows that most of those details would be pretty much tangential to a gizmo's functional attributes. But general consumer preferences rely on much more than speeds-and-feeds, and tech products are struggling to find ways to 1) differentiate from one another, and 2) compel purchases.

I wonder if brands could find ways to make said lineage into selling points for their products, and whether or not anybody would care?

What do you think? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section.

Jonathan Salem Baskin
[email protected]

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