The debate above reminds me of the analysis of Quality as a concept in the book, " Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance." I think consumers do not lay much emphasis on what we understand as "quality" anymore. Resulting in the fact that, the manufacturers intentionally lower the quality to cut costs so they can sell it to a bigger market. For the few 1 or 2% who get really pissed off about the quality- the companies do not care about them, as they make poor repeat customers anyway.
Some random remarks.
I used to enjoy fixing things - it was what I wanted to do. Then as they became more complex I became fed up with trying to do so with poor or missing documentation. Which is why I then spent 25 years as a technical author. And for the last 10 I was a quality manager as well. A very successful one. I have to admit that nature's model is entirely 'Make lots, throw them away, and try to make a slightly better one each time'. But if it can't be fixed it should at least last a reasonable time. I am not amused by products that fail one day after the expiry of the one-year warranty and I will never, ever, buy enything from LG again.
Quality starts and ends as a mind set. You need documented processes and can't have quality without them but of themselves they can do nothing. The word we use is unfortunate; it gets confused with the best possible by any standard. Not so. You set standards and meet them. They should result in value for money - difficult to define but basically if buying a new one every year is no more expensive than paying 20 times as much for one that lasts 20 years they are of equal cost. Factor in innovation and improvements; discount for probale declining reliability and performance in an ageing model and cheap and cheerful begins to look like really good value.
I do find it stupid that a number of items that come from China - or Hong Kong - have ridiculous user documentation. It's usually possible to find out how to operate them by trial and error but it often seems that they might work a lot better if one knew exactly what the designer intended. But presumably the cost of properly translating and checking the instructions is not deemed worthwhile in terms of potential sales.
The harsh truth is 'If you can sell enough of them, they're good enough'.
You seem to imply that software releases are a sign, or proof, of bad quality. I reject that notion.
Software updates are often released to improve the stability of a product, or the compatibility of that product with other, newer software apps (that came after the original product was released), or to add new features that hadn't been conceived at the time of the original introduction.
Example: updates to MS Word very often add new words into the dictionary. Words that di not previously exist, e.g. technical jargon. Haven't you noticed this?
Imagine how great it would be if you could do the same thing with hardware. Imagine, for example, if auto companies could easily send online updates to the steering geometry of a car model, instead of the owner having to endure some suboptimal design for the life of the product. Like, for example, excessive torque steer in some front drive cars. If a car exhibits too much torque steer, guess what, you live with it. Or, if a car can't handle 15 percent ethanol, guess what, you might just have to buy a new car.
So, I have never correlated software updates with poor quality. On the contrary. It is a continuous quality improvement option that simply did not exist years ago. Another example of why the whole premise of this topic is off, IMO.
When PC gets too slow or doesn't want to connect to Internet my wife says to me "the computer is broken again!!!"...she doesn't care whether this is a hardware of software problems, in fact she would not be able to tell (sorry honey)...I believe she represents 90% of users...so yes modern day gadgets are complex but frequently unreliable and perceived as low quality...that is also why Apple's model is successful, it just works! Kris
Here we go with semantics again. A separate thread spent a long time on defining quality. Clearly it means many things to many people. Only applying it to hardware - "did it break" - is disingenuous, because products (as mentioned above) include software. How fast are releases nowadays? Look at development cycles - it drives releases. Assuming a "decent" (semantics again :-) development process, spending less time on software introduces bugs and/or other issues...which are perceived as lower quality. Many people do call that lower quality.
Not sure whether this is truly "ongoing," but I did run up agianst that one myself.
Two PCs ago, the Acer PC we had at home became slower and slower to boot up, and presented other odd symptoms, such as rebooting in mid stride. I opened it up, and just like the article describes, I found multiple electrolystic caps that had oozed out electrolyte onto the motherboard. It was maybe 4-5 years old.
The PCs since then have fortunately not had that problem.
So sure, these isolated problems will crop up. But on the other hand, it is mostly the ever more demanding software running on PCs, e.g. something as mundane as the virus shield, whose updates demand ever increasing CPU cycles, that renders the PC useless after a few years. PCs typically last for many, many years with no maintenance or repair of any kind.
Imagine any electronic component even fractionally as complex as a PC, 30, 40, 50 years ago, going anything like 10 years with no repairs. It never happened. Now, it's common.
People might come back and say that at least, those devices could be repaired. So can PCs. That's not the issue. The reason you don't do so is that most often, it's not hardware failures that render them uselss. It's instead the advancing roles they are expected to play. The hardware can't keep up.
Not remotely a problem having to do with "quality."
I think in modern world quality is just an extra burden...if the product breaks after x years it is better from revenue point of view, the customer has to buy a new one...you just need to design a warranty period accordingly! Kris
Quality and reliability IS better, whether or not OEMs build into their products, that's another thing. We can build cars with the quality and maintainability that use to be in old cars...but nobody will pay for that, and most people don't want to fix their own stuff anymore, ergo: build something cheaper, and charge extra for the service. It's not a "before it used to be better" it's a marketing thing.
NASA's Orion Flight Software Production Systems Manager Darrel G. Raines joins Planet Analog Editor Steve Taranovich and Embedded.com Editor Max Maxfield to talk about embedded flight software used on the Mars on EE Times Radio. Live radio show and live chat. Get your questions ready.