Unlimited – for a limited time only

Know what a loss leader is? It’s something you give a way at or below cost in order to get feet in the door of your store or to get people clicking through to your website.

Enter the word, “unlimited”. Really now. Not many things are actually unlimited. Stars and planets exist for a long time, but unlimited? No. The universe goes on for quite a long distance – as a species, we’ll likely never know the answer to the question of, “is the universe finite or infinite” – so even our universe may not be “unlimited”.

I’ve been known to say, “if something advertises itself as being ‘green’, it probably isn’t”. Not always true, but a good rule of thumb to ensure you always question, “is it really?”

In the past two years, we’ve seen AT&T ┬ámove from selling tens of millions of iPhones with unlimited data to a new model with a capped 2GB a month, plus overages. You can’t even get unlimited unless you’re grandfathered in under an old unlimited plan. Bear in mind, 2GB is a LOT of data for most consumers to burn through in 30 days on a phone (even a really smart one), and I have to work really hard to try and bust through the 2GB cap in order to self-validate having the retained unlimited plan.

Verizon? Yeah – they have unlimited for the new iPhone – but that is just to lure people like me away, and will end in time.

I noticed Mozy, the popular online backup utility, ended their unlimited backup plan.

I’ve noticed a growing trend of seeing “unlimited” as a loss leader to get people hooked into a subscription product, only to see the model change at a later date. I’m not necessarily┬ácalling this a bait-and-switch, since many companies handle the transition well, grandfathering in the early subscribers who usually led to the services economics no longer making sense, as their demand on the service exceeded the supply that was within plan. But it is troubling to see so many companies throwing out the word “unlimited” as marketing bait only to lure you back in to a constrained model at a later date.

The reality is, unlimited isn’t unlimited – almost every service or product I can think of grows to the point where unlimited is actually available for a limited time only.

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