IDC analyst: Too many choices slows consumer spending

The growth of the technology industry is largely driven by consumer spending, but too many choices can slow the adoption of new products and put entire markets on hold, according to an IDC analyst.

A consumer confronted with too many choices might simply walk away from buying or upgrading the product, a consumer market analyst with IDC, Danielle Levitas, said during the analyst firm's Directions conference.

"Imagine replacing your TV for example. Today it's digital or analog, 4:3 versus 16:9, direct view, rear projection or a flat? If you go for a flat: a plasma or a LCD? And the resolution: standard, enhanced or high definition?" Levitas said. "Choice is good -- to a certain point."

The solutions are simplification, packaging and buyer education, according to Levitas.

"Home theatre in a box is a good example," she said. "It was marketed with emphasis on the feature, not on the technologies enabling the experience."

Levitas agrees that limitation of choice might be seen as provocative. The user interface on Apple's new iPod Shuffle MP3 player has been criticised by some for being too simple, emphasising random playback and lacking a display that allows a user to see what song will appear next.

"I'm not sure any other company would get away with that," she said. "It's more driven by cost than usability, I think."

Levitas finds Apple's larger MP3-players a better example of a simplified user interface that still provides choice.

"The surface must be at its most simplified level, then you let people get deeper," she said. "Apple also gives the customer a chance to put a personal stamp on the product by choosing colour," she said.

Emerging technologies could also be hampered by competing standards, such as the dispute underway between vendors of next-generation DVD recording technology, Levitas said.

"The next generation of blue laser DVD players and recorders won't take off until the vendors and the entertainment companies have agreed on using Blu-ray or HD DVD," she said.

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