The law of unintended consequences

Came across an interesting blog post just now by Jonathan Schwartz, the recently installed CEO of Sun Microsystems, who says he was on an airplane with a senior executive from the hotel industry, who told him that flat-panel televisions had helped to drive down occupancy rates in the industry. Why? Here’s what he said, according to Jonathan:

“Apparently the space savings and lower power consumption of a flat panel TV (think about it, they’re quite a bit smaller and draw far less energy) allowed hotels to skip having to put giant media cabinets in their rooms.

And they could save on their total power (and air conditioning) envelope, as well. Which freed up space, power and budget for more rooms. Which led to a glut of new rooms.”

Is that really what happened? That’s hard to say. The industry may have just built too many rooms because it was expecting travel to continue to grow and it didn’t, and this particular executive decided to blame it on cost savings from flat panels. Still, it’s an interesting theory — and an illustration of how the “law of unintended consequences” can jump up and bite you when you least expect it.

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