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We Are Technology Consumers First January 6, 2012

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.

It used to be that innovation in computers and technology was driven by business needs. Ever-faster PCs, desktop publishing, databases, object-oriented programming, cloud computing, and just about every other innovation from around 1980 to 2005 came out of the need to make business better or more efficient. Innovations on business-oriented technologies eventually filtered down to the consumer, typically as prices fell.

Over the past few years, that dynamic has changed drastically. Increasingly, consumer technologies are driving innovation. After widespread consumer adoption, individuals are bringing them into the workplace, and they are becoming business tools.

To be fair, Apple had a lot to do with this dynamic. The iPod and later iPhone were clearly meant for consumers, yet both are a staple of business use today. I personally use an Android phone, but see just as many tech people with iPhones (regrettably, the Blackberry is almost extinct among tech professionals today).

It goes farther. If you scan the industry weekly on a regular basis, you’ll find that many of the stories are about consumer products and interests. Scanning the likes of Computerworld and eWeek, I see headlined news stories on Apple, Facebook, the Samsung Galaxy tablet, and Google TV, among others (of course, the Consumer Electronics Show is next week, which may be driving some of this).

It didn’t used to be this way. Today consumer technologies are getting the most attention by startups and entrepreneurs. There has been an explosion of social media over the last several years, but it’s not clear if that’s a cause or effect.

Why is business playing second fiddle today? I don’t know, and if anyone has any ideas (or wishes to call bullshit on this observation in general), let me know.

I wonder if this trend is cyclical in nature, and in the near future we’ll once again see innovation in business-oriented technologies. Or if this shift is more or less permanent. It’s fascinating to look at the behavior of businesses and individuals with the roles reversed.



1. Ed Dodds - January 6, 2012

Peter: If you recall from tech companies, it was always the developers who found the cool new thing and generally kicked the tires to see if the thing was just a fad. In the past the disconnect is was that these folks didn’t have any budgetary authority. They had to wade thru the bureaucracy of a sales force driven corporate structure — often with sales folks who could neither grok the current technology nor it’s likelihood to morph when combined with others. One reason start up fever has hit is that the develop can now go to the cloud relatively inexpensively, not only in terms measured by dollars but by time to market. In this sense, meritocracy truly has a chance to play itself out. Geo-lock then kills many ideas because venture requires relocation to expensive cities, all the 1960s corporate trappings to impress the non-tech-savvy press release driven media. Amazon, saleforce, azure, etc. are capitalizing on pull driven mareketing. Good Kindle investment http://www.amazon.com/Pull-Power-Semantic-Transform-Business/dp/1591842778

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