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Rent Or Buy?

Opinion seems divided as to whether rented software is a good idea, though if you are locked into a platform that charges for upgrades, then I guess you could argue that you’re effectively renting it anyway. However, in a society that’s increasingly concerned with cutting waste and promoting sustainability, perhaps there’s something to be said for renting hardware, whether it be a computer or a washing machine, especially if it could be rented directly from the manufacturer. After all, if your washing machine manufacturer had to maintain your machine as part of the rental agreement, perhaps they’d design it to last more than the typical five years and make sure it was designed for easy servicing?

Paul White, Editor In Chief, Sound On Sound magazine.The same might be said of computers, and while many Windows machines can be upgraded to some degree when needed, the purveyors of the ‘other’ popular platform seem determined to make their machines obsolete every two or three years so that they can sell you a new one. Getting inside their latest models, even to add a bit more RAM or to swap out a drive can be a challenge, and don’t even get me started on non-removable batteries. The ‘powers that be’ on the CE committee should have had the guts to outlaw those from the start, both on environmental and safety grounds. If you spill liquid into a laptop or phone where you can’t get the battery out in a matter of seconds, you’d better stand well back; I’ve seen what those Lithium batteries can do if they catch fire...

Recycling electronic devices to recover the metals is no trivial task, so if using legislation to nudge manufacturers into renting out kit that can be upgraded when necessary can cut down both on waste and user frustration, it could be a good thing for everybody. I’m sure most products could be designed to offer a much longer working life before they needed to be replaced completely, if the manufacturers wished it. And in the case of computers, the cost of renting probably wouldn’t work out at much more than the depreciation on a typical machine anyway. Maybe renting wouldn’t be the best way to go for all products, but for those with a short obsolescence cycle or those currently designed to have a limited lifetime purely for ‘commercial’ reasons, I think it could help take the pressure off the planet and also give the user more peace of mind.