The great, the bad and the ho hum from CES

The words innovation, efficiency and multitasking may not have been invented in Silicon Valley and the other technology enclaves, but they were refined, honed, perfected in these areas.

When the economy stagnated, financial analysts and economists were quick to say the PC/CE/communications industry centers of hyperactivity had lost their edge.

In the U.S., they were simply no longer capable of changing the way we live/work. They couldn’t be counted on to and move the economy forward.

In fact, other countries were becoming the technology hotspots, generating the ideas and the products.


When the Web was launched nearly 30 years ago, the Internet was still crawling.

Back then, there were pockets of technological superiority.

They developed products (hardware/software) and services and sold them to everyone else.

They didn’t share!

But as the Web became more versatile, more robust; city, state, national borders disappeared.

Today, the design/development/marketing team comes together based on talent, not location.

They communicate regularly and consistently with blogs, podcasts, vidcasts, video/photo sharing sites, social network sites, Wikis, message boards, forums, RSS feeds, you name it.

Protecting Your Shores

With companies drawing the best talent they can find from suppliers, customers and internally; it’s impossible to say one country is losing its technological leadership and its edge in the market.U.S. innovators aren’t being swamped by “others.”

They’re working with them…every day.

Sharing the best ideas and concepts in the virtual team.

Regional Investments

Where a company is headquartered is one way to measure research and development funding and its return on investment. Increasingly however, firms have been aggressively doing more with less, just listening harder. Source – Bloomberg, Booz & Co

Economists tracking innovative spending and growth “assume” that all of the design, development engineering and scientific work stays in the specific country.

That simply doesn’t happen any more.

People move in and out of the team, regardless of their nationality or locale.

Alternative Innovation

On another front, experts say that astute companies, with Twitter being a glowing example, have turned product innovation over to users, letting them develop the next generation of products and applications.


Historically, engineers and scientists designed, developed, tweaked a product based on their product/market vision.

Customers bought and used the product the way they felt it should be used…by them.

The difference between the envisioned use and the actual application was often 180 degrees apart…but both sides were happy.

What Twitter and other Web 2.0 entities did was give the consumer a voice on how the product could be modified and added (sometimes better) uses.

So the company productized it and said, “Darn we’re smart!”

Heck that’s been going on for years.

It’s been called beta software…v 1.1…v1.8.

They weren’t bug fixes.

They were undocumented features!

An innovative individual pushes the technology beyond its designed limits. He/she sees a totally different application. He/she solves the problem, develops a work-around.

It was the answer to hundreds, thousands, millions of other folks’ wants/needs.

Who looks brilliant? The company…they got out of the customers’ way.

Design cost? Zero. Sales Potential? Huge!!

Evolutionary, Not Revolutionary

But these solutions weren’t true innovations.

They were modifications, enhancements, product extensions…slow, painful, evolutionary changes.

Real innovation, revolutionary innovation shakes the status quo. That innovation usually comes from a single individual — DaVinci, Edison, Shockley, Metcalf, Berners-Lee, Bushnell or Gore.

Not customers.

Consumers didn’t know they wanted:

1. Stereo, instead of mono

2. CDs, instead of LPs or cassettes

3. Stereo TV or HDTV

4. DVD, instead of VHS

5. Digital or MP3 audio

6. Digital, instead of analog photos, film

7. Cell phones, rather than phone booths

They did want:

1. pictures on their radio

2. colour TV instead of B&W

3. true 3D movies, TV

4. computers to take with them

5. personal storage

When the technology was introduced, soothsayers said they it would change the industry.

The early adopters and innovators jumped on the bandwagon. They proved it was a run-away success.

Brinksmanship – Developing and launching a new idea isn’t all that difficult. All it takes is a good idea and strong relationships with innovative users and early adopters. The challenge then comes in having the patience to see the idea cross Geoffrey Moore’s Chasm where the big sales and bigger profits are made. Source – The Chasm Group

It was amazing.

The product was taking the world by storm.

“Everyone” had it, was using it.

The noise for the revolutionary product went from the sublime to the ridiculous.

When sales didn’t take off like the proverbial business plan hockey stick projection — zero to 120 – shift happens!

Great, Bad, Ho Hum

Inevitably, revolutionary and even evolutionary innovations struggle with wild enthusiasm and massive disappointment. If the company and product makes it through the disillusionment phase, sales and profits will grow. Source – Gartner Group

Bullish financial analysts lambasted the solution…VCs double checked their investment exposure…industry experts adjusted their forecasts downward (significantly)…the media turned on the product/solution or worse…ignored it.

The cheerleaders fell silent.

Everyone was on board…except the huge majority of the buying public who weren’t quite ready for a paradigm shift.

Ultimately, the marketplace understood the revolutionary innovation and the customer base grew – slowly and steadily.

Longer than You Thought – Products that you believe have been around forever, gained rather rapid acceptance with early stage adopters. But the majority took a very long time to achieve 50 per cent household penetration in the U.S. The success is mirrored in every country. Source — CEA

Unfortunately, the innovative developer usually doesn’t reap the financial rewards for his/her revolutionary idea.

The innovation in a free market is free to be borrowed, enhanced, improved, cost-reduced, popularized.

The Innovators

Take everyone’s poster child of innovation, Apple. They didn’t develop the:

– personal computer

– GUI (graphic user interface)

– MP3 player

– Smartphone

– mouse

– ebook reader

They simply developed an insanely popular set of evolutionary products/solutions that folks want to buy…others want a piece of the action.

The competitors can copy the design.

They can copy the look/feel.

They can copy the software.

They can sue for restraint of trade, unfair trade practices (guess it’s a crime to be good and smart).

They can do it all…even low-ball their price.

Man is that dumb!

Look beyond the product.

Apple has what every company wants to be insanely successful…a fanatically loyal customer base.

The company has rabid innovator and early adopter fans.

These are people who not only defend their turf but they actively promote the features, benefits, “superiority” of their company, their products.

Someone once told us that if Jobs got on stage, whipped off his shoes, rolled off his socks and held them up saying… “One more thing, I’m introducing iSocks for $50 a pair,” people would mob the stores.

Just don’t get in their way !!!!

Overwhelming Word-of-Mouth

These brand evangelists are the ones who jump, swim across Moore’s Chasm to take their word-of-mouth recommendations on a product/solution (any product, any solution) to the folks in the mainstream markets.

They convince folks they are making the right decision(s).

BIGresearch, Mintel and other consumer research organizations have found that word-of-mouth recommendations definitely move consumers to make a purchase.

Blogs, news reports bring buzz to the product.

Web sites, user groups, social networks expand the interest and excitement.

But innovators who leverage their word-of-mouth initiatives, efforts, relationships produce customer bonds that are difficult to break.

Whether the new product, new solution is revolutionary or evolutionary; word-of-mouth carries it across the Chasm to the mainstream consumer(s).

The challenge is that too many innovators rush the product to the market, sell right up to the chasm’s edge then run back to bring out the newer, better replacement. They make the same trip over and over.

The followers go across the chasm with the early adopters and realize the profits.

Innovators – regardless of where they are located — will turn the economy back on.

New stuff from every technological corner of the globe will entice businesses and consumers.

Like to see the innovators be a little more patient with us to understand what they are offering.

They might find they enjoy reaping the financial rewards.

Trust me!!!

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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