Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Technology is no longer technology

Inspired by a comment by my friend Greg to an old post (The Devil Wears Prada... is Technology Fashionable), I started thinking about a shift in the High-Tech industry. Historically, whenever we hear the "High-Tech" term, we think innovation, science at its best, universities and PHD students. We think of robots from the beyound and super-computers. We also used to think advanced gadgets... like a TiVo... or a DVD-R... or a Dual-Mode Cell-Phone... see where I'm going?
In the early 20th century, a cordless phone might have seen as pure high-tech. Today, it's just a product everyone has at home. How about Internet? Same thing, there's nothing high-tech about it anymore... but there is with Web 2.0.
So, an Apple iPhone cellphone might seem as pure high tech, but it's just a cellphone. Once a market or industry starts becoming mainstreams, it appears that it leaves the "High-Tech" category, and innovation needs to come from somewhere else, triggered by consumer needs. So a TiVo is not high-tech, a cell-phone is definitely not high-tech (no matter how advanced the device is or how many pattents it has). Once it leaves the category and becomes mainstream anything can happen: prices drop due to economies of scale and mass production, prices go up due to increased perceived value from manufacturers, and marketers start looking at consumers for what they want.
In the end... although it appears that the High-Tech industry is been growing, in fact it is not. It's becoming more refined and dynamic. We may think it is "High-Tech", but in reality it is "Electronics" or "Computers". Items enter and leave the category all the time, because they are pulled out by consumers, and injected by scientists. We better keep this balanced....

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