Last night I was reading about the financial woes of Samsung Electronics, the company that makes the highly rated Galaxy phone series and Note series. Sales have lagged and the company has had 3 losing quarters in a row and is expected to make it four pretty soon.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Creative Commons License Kārlis Dambrāns via Compfight

It seems incredible because, as much as people talk about Apple and their iPhone series, most tech magazines say the Galaxy is the better phone. Yet, it doesn’t seem to matter all that much. And if Galaxy takes a major tumble and the company starts having major difficulties (which it might, as its president had a heart attack in May and none of the creator’s 3 children are ready to assume leadership), it won’t be alone.

Barnes & Noble’s Nook tablet, aka e-reader, is also suffering lagging sales, even after drastically dropping the price on their top end model. Once again, it was rated as superior to the Amazon Kindle Fire by all the tech and computer magazines, yet Amazon’s on top. It’s not that people don’t want to read books electronically because they do; it’s that Amazon itself seems to have much more to offer than B&N, which is breaking off its technology group from the book group, leaving neither with all that firm of a grasp of survival, which will depress me to no end.

This isn’t even a new phenomenon as far as history goes. Who remembers Betamax vs. VHS? Betamax was much better as far as the picture went, and you didn’t have that hiss you often got with VHS tapes. But there was an appeal to the VHS and Betamax didn’t have a chance, one of Sony’s few losses at the time.

You also had the competition between video discs and DVDs, which DVDs won because they were easier to manage, even though video discs were better quality early on. Video discs were the size of record albums but thicker and heavier, thus hard to manage and store. Later on, Blu-Ray put HD DVD out of the marketplace even though HD DVD was better at the time by adding it to one of their gaming consoles and Sony, which learned lessons from years earlier, marketing like crazy.

Seth Schoen
@mjb via Compfight

Why doesn’t better always win? Because companies always perceive that people want better and, when all is said and done, most people really don’t want that. If they did, records would still be popular because the sound quality of a CD or digital file can’t come close to a record. But records are unwieldy when compared to digital files, which can be put on small MP3 players or even smartphones and carted around much easier.

The financial question is in trying to figure out where to put your money. As someone who used to be an early adopter of many things, I would offer the advice that it’s not always the best thing to try to be first. The only piece of technology I bought before others was what was called the Lifedrive Palm, which actually had a hard drive in it and thus greater capacity than any Palm ever created. However, it was buggy, crashed a lot, cost way too much and I had it replaced twice before I cut my losses, which wouldn’t have mattered anyway because the company was on its way out the door.

I didn’t buy the first Nook but did buy it when it came out in HD after seeing the reviews. It never occurred to me that Amazon would crush competition like it did. As a matter of fact, one of the strangest relationships is that Samsung, who I started talking about earlier, will be creating a special tablet series for B&N called the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook, deciding to try to compete with the iPad as a last gasp; good luck with that.

Wait a few months, read news stories to see how things are going, and then decide on what to purchase. These days, you could lose a lot of money by buying the wrong thing, although, if it makes you feel better, many of these items will still be good even if the companies go down because it’s more about the plan you have and access than the item itself.

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