What is Technology Relevance? : “Technology in the long run is irrelevant”. That’s what my customer says when I make a presentation to him about a new product. I’ve talked about product features and benefits and listed “advanced technology” or something like that, as one of them. That’s when he made his statement. I later realized he was right, at least in the context of how I used “Technology” in my presentation. But I’m starting to wonder if he could be right in other contexts too.
What is Technology?
Merriam-Webster defines it as:
1. a: practical application of knowledge especially in a particular field: engineering 2 <medical technology>
b: the capabilities provided by the practical application of the knowledge of <automotive fuel-saving technology>
2. how to complete a task primarily using technical processes, methods, or knowledge
3. special aspects of a certain line of business <educational technology>
Wikipedia defines it as:
Technology (from the Greek, techne, “art, skill, craftiness of the hand”; and -λογÎ¯α, -logia) is the manufacture, modification, use, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, and methods organization, to solve problems, improve pre-existing solutions to problems, achieve goals, handle applied input/output relationships or perform specific functions.
It can also refer to that collection of tools, including machines, modifications, settings, and procedures. Technology significantly affects the ability of humans and other animal species to control and adapt to their natural environment. The term can be applied generally or to a specific area: examples include construction technology, medical technology, and information technology.
Both definitions revolve around the same thing – application and usage.
Technology is an enabler
Many people mistakenly believe that technology drives innovation. However, from the above definition, it is clearly not the case. It is the opportunity that defines innovation and the technology that enables innovation. Think of the classic “Build a better mousetrap” example taught in most business schools.
You may have the technology to make a better mousetrap, but if you don’t have an old mouse or mousetrap that works well, there’s no opportunity and the technology to make a better mousetrap is irrelevant. On the other hand, if you are inundated with mice then there is an opportunity to innovate products using your technology.
Another example, which I am very familiar with, is a consumer electronics startup company. I have been linked to those who succeed and those who fail. Each has its own unique cutting-edge technology. The difference is opportunity. Those who fail cannot find opportunities to develop meaningful innovations using their technology.
Even to survive, these companies often have to turn into something completely different and if they’re lucky, they can take advantage of derivatives of the original technology. More often than not, the original technology ends up in the garbage heap. Technology, then, is an enabler whose main value proposition is to make improvements to our lives. To be relevant, it needs to be used to create opportunity-driven innovation.
Technology as a competitive advantage?
Many companies list technology as one of their competitive advantages. Is this valid? In some cases yes, but In most cases no.
Technology develops along two paths – an evolutionary path and a revolutionary path.
Revolutionary technologies are technologies that enable new industries or enable solutions to problems that were previously impossible. Semiconductor technology is a good example. Not only gave birth to new industries and products, but also gave birth to other revolutionary technologies – transistor technology, integrated circuit technology, microprocessor technology.
They provide many of the products and services we consume today. But is semiconductor technology a competitive advantage? Looking at the number of semiconductor companies that exist today (with new ones being formed every day), I would say no. What about microprocessor technology? Again, no. There are many microprocessor companies out there.
What about quad core microprocessor technology? Not as many companies, but you have Intel, AMD, ARM, and a number of companies that make custom quad core processors (Apple, Samsung, Qualcomm, etc). So again, not much of a competitive advantage. Competition from competing technologies and easy access to IP reduces the perceived competitive advantage of certain technologies. Android vs iOS is a great example of how this works.
Both operating systems are derivatives of UNIX. Apple used their technology to introduce iOS and gain early market advantage. However, Google, which took advantage of the Unix variant (a competitor technology), caught up relatively quickly.
The reason for this lies not in the underlying technology, but in how the products enabled by that technology are brought to market (free gardens vs. walled gardens, etc.) and differences in the strategic vision of each company.
Evolutionary technology is technology that is gradually built on the basis of revolutionary technology. But fundamentally, incremental change is easier for competitors to match or leapfrog. Take, for example, wireless cell phone technology. Company V introduced its 4G product before Company A and although it may have short-term advantages, as soon as Company A introduced their 4G product, the advantage due to the technology disappeared. Consumers again choose Company A or Company V based on price, service, coverage, whatever, but not based on technology. So technology may be relevant in the short term, but in the long term, irrelevant.
In today’s world, technology tends to quickly become a commodity, and within any given technology lies the seed of its own destruction.
This article is written from a potential end customer. From a developer/designer point of view, things get even murkier. The further it is removed from technology, the more irrelevant it becomes. To a developer, technology can look like a product. A possible product, but still a product, and therefore very relevant.
Bose uses proprietary signal processing technology to enable products that meet various market requirements and thus the technology and what it enables are relevant to them. Their customers are more concerned with how it sounds, how much it costs, what the quality is like, etc, and less concerned with how to achieve it, so the technology used is less relevant to them.
Recently, I got involved in a discussion on Google+ about the new Motorola X phone. A lot of people in the post slam the phone for a variety of reasons – price, locked boot loader, etc. There’s also a lot to knock on the fact that it doesn’t have a quad-core processor like the S4 or HTC which costs the same.
What they fail to understand is whether a manufacturer uses 1, 2, 4, or 8 cores ultimately makes no difference as long as the phone can deliver a competitive (or even best in class) feature set, functionality, price and features. user experience. The iPhone is one of the most successful phones ever produced, yet it runs on a dual-core processor.
It still provides one of the best user experiences on the market. Technology-enabled features are features that are relevant to consumers, not the technology itself.
Therefore, the relevance of technology is as an enabler, not as a product feature or competitive advantage, or many other things – an enabler. Looking at the Android operating system, it’s an impressive software technology, but Google delivers.
Why? Since it’s standalone, it doesn’t do anything for Google. Giving it away allows other companies to use their expertise to build products and services that then act as advocates for Google’s products and services. For Google, therein lies the real value.
Ownership or access to technology is only important for what it allows you to do – create innovations that solve problems. That’s the real relevance of technology.