“Technology within the long-run is irrelevant”. That’s what a customer of mine told me once I made a presentation to him a few new products. I had been talking about the product’s features and benefits and listed “state-of-the-art technology” or something thereto effect, together of them. That’s when he made his statement. i noticed later that he was correct, a minimum of within the context of how I used “Technology” in my presentation. But i started brooding about whether he might be right in other contexts also.

Technology is an enabler

Many people mistakenly believe its technology which drives innovation. Yet from the definitions above, that’s clearly not the case. It’s opportunity which defines innovation and technology which enables innovation. Consider the classic “Build a far better mousetrap” example taught in most business schools. You would possibly have the technology to create a far better mousetrap, but if you’ve got no mice or the old mousetrap works well, there’s no opportunity then the technology to create a far better one becomes irrelevant. On the opposite hand, if you’re overrun with mice then the chance exists to innovate a product using your technology.

Another example, one with which I’m intimately familiar, are consumer electronics startup companies. i have been related to both people who succeeded and people that failed. Each possessed unique vanguard technologies. The difference was opportunity. people who failed couldn’t find the chance to develop a meaningful innovation using their technology. actually to survive, these companies had to morph oftentimes into something totally different and if they were lucky they might cash in of derivatives of their original technology. More often than not, the first technology aroused within the scrap heap. Technology, thus, is an enabler whose ultimate value proposition is to form improvements to our lives. so as to be relevant, it must be wont to create innovations that are driven by opportunity.

Technology as a competitive advantage?

Many companies list a technology together of their competitive advantages. Is that this valid? In some cases yes, but in most cases no.

Technology develops along two paths – an evolutionary path and a revolutionary path.

A revolutionary technology is one which enables new industries or enables solutions to problems that were previously impossible. Semiconductor technology may be a exemplar. Not only did it spawn new industries and products, but it spawned other revolutionary technologies – transistor technology, microcircuit technology, microprocessor technology. All which give many of the products and services we consume today. But is semiconductor technology a competitive advantage? Watching the amount of semiconductor companies that exist today (with new ones forming every day), I’d say not. How about microprocessor technology? Again, no. many microprocessor companies out there. How about quad core microprocessor technology? Not as many companies, but you’ve got Intel, AMD, ARM, and a number of companies building custom quad core processors (Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm, etc). So again, not much of a competitive advantage. Competition from competing technologies and straightforward access to IP mitigates the perceived competitive advantage of any particular technology. Android vs iOS may be an exemplar of how this works. Both operating systems are derivatives of UNIX. Apple used their technology to introduce iOS and gained an early market advantage. However, Google, utilizing their variant of UNIX (a competing technology), trapped relatively quickly. The explanations for this lie not within the underlying technology, but in how the products made possible by those technologies were delivered to market (free vs. walled garden, etc.) and therefore the differences within the strategic visions of every company.

Evolutionary technology is one which incrementally builds upon the bottom revolutionary technology. But by it’s extremely nature, the incremental change is simpler for a competitor to match or leapfrog. Deem example wireless cellphone technology. Company V introduced 4G products before Company A and while it’s going to have had a brief term advantage, as soon as Company A introduced their 4G products, the advantage thanks to technology disappeared. the buyer went back to picking Company A or Company V supported price, service, coverage, whatever, but not supported technology. Thus technology may need been relevant within the short term, but within the future , became irrelevant.

In today’s world, technologies tend to quickly become commoditized, and within any particular technology lies the seeds of its own death.

Technology’s Relevance

This article was written from the potential of an end customer. From a developer/designer standpoint things get murkier. The further one is far away from the technology, the less relevant it becomes. To a developer, the technology can appear as if a product. An enabling product, but a product nonetheless, and thus it’s highly relevant. Bose uses a proprietary signal processing technology to enable products that meet a group of market requirements and thus the technology and what it enables has relevancy to them. Their customers are more concerned with how it sounds, what is the price, what is the quality, etc., and not such a lot with how it’s achieved, thus the technology used is far less relevant to them.