I was sitting at a bar last Saturday and a friend of mine asked me if I had ever seen a 3D TV. I haven’t, other than the ones on display in Sears. I saw those, but I was actually there to buy socks. Anyway, he started to explain that this client of his had one and he let my friend watch part of a movie to see what it was like. My friend described donning the special glasses, navigating to the 3D channel on the remote and flicking the 3D switch on the glasses.
“Boom, it was like you were in the movie” my friend exclaimed. So I asked him: “are you going to get one?” “No” he said, “who needs that?”
3D TV is in the novelty stage. That’s where people who have the latest and greatest gadgets scarf things up regardless of cost. These people are “Early adopters” according to the Technology adoption lifecycle. 3D TV may never make it to the stage of being an ‘early majority,’ lots of people may consider it too much work to own one. You have to wear glasses, keep the glasses charged, buy the 3D channels, etc. Others just aren’t that impressed with television. The guys who study this stuff would call those people Laggards, but I think ‘laggards’ can only be applied to technology that is generally considered to be a necessity. If I don’t want a 3D TV, I’m not a laggard.
Those of us who work in the world of high-tech computer stuff think of Geoffrey Moore when we hear the term early adopter. I heard Mr. Moore speak once, and he explained how it’s sometimes hard to “move the market” from the early adopters to an early majority. That problem is the basis for his book “Crossing the Chasm.” But, it turns out that the technology adoption work started way before computer technology was looking for adopters or majorities. This body of work started in the late 1950’s at Iowa State University and it was focused on the adoption of hybrid seed corn by farmers – who knew? OK, I’m sure my brother knew. He attended ISU, he taught history in Ames, IA and he generally knows stuff like this.
If I were to try and explain “Crossing the Chasm” to him, he would probably say “that sounds like some work they did here back in the 50’s” and then I would sigh and quietly admonish myself for not paying enough attention to history.
Depending on the technology, I move between the early and late majority groups. I was an early adopter of personal computer technology when my job required it and my employer was paying for it. By the mid 1990’s, we pulled back to the safer, cheaper, early majority because we no longer needed the latest and greatest thing. The thing we had was still good enough when those new things were hitting the shelves. As for TVs, I doubt we will ever have a 3D TV in our house. First off, my wife is blind in one eye so the whole 3D thing really doesn’t work for her. Second, I’m one of the laggards who isn’t all that impressed with TV programs today. Oddly enough, we probably won’t ever adopt hybrid corn either. My wife prefers to grow heirloom varieties in her vegetable garden.
My wife had a shot at being an early adopter of Cell Phones though. I bought her a bag-phone back in 1989. I wanted her to have it because there were no pay phones on the route she drove taking our daughter to school. Still, she wasn’t yacking up a storm at 15¢ a minute. The phone was a necessity, but only during emergencies. I didn’t buy a cell phone for many years after she had one, but when cell phones became Smart Phones, I zoomed passed her on the adoption curve.
I have a theory that all this talk about patterns of adoption, who leaps and who lags blurs a critical element related to technology. Technology adoption (as judged by sales) spikes artificially in some cases because you have to have more than one of a particular technology. Computers have reached that point (it’s virtually impossible to fix a PC without having a 2nd PC handy), and apparently, so has Internet access.
Last week, when I was trying to restore my Internet access, both service providers (COX and AT&T) assumed that I had Internet access. When I called COX for technical support with my Internet access, they suggested I try the support forum on their website. When I called AT&T for help with my Air Card, they directed me to their website to download new drivers. When I said: “my other Internet connection is also broken” both service reps suggested that I fix that one and then call them back. Actually, I guess that’s not too different than corn. I don’t think you can grow hybrid corn from hybrid corn; you need other corn to create hybrid seed corn.
Perhaps someday we’ll get to the point where, in order to fix your 3D TV you’ll need to put on the glasses and tune a 2nd 3D TV to a special station where an actor will demonstrate the required steps. If we reach that point 3D TV will have become a necessity, but seriously, who needs that?