June 28, 2003

Early Adopters

I remember the first time seeing the famous Crossing the Chasm curve, suddenly thinking back on my first startup, and having a Homer Simpson moment of "D'Oh!" Suffice to say, my first startup specialized in early adopters, technology enthusiasts, and visionary customers. Chasm? What chasm? Oh. That chasm.

Image from Don Norman's essay cited below.

We're all early adopters of some things, sometimes even extreme technology enthusiasts of some things. Think about it. We're also pragmatists, late majority conservatives, and even laggards or skeptics of other things.

One might say the entire Apple Macintosh market is confined to that small sector of the curve to the far, far left. But then, as a Mac OS X user, the main things that keep bringing me back to Mac are the solutions and convenience. Stuff just works. No blue screens of death. No loss of data. No hardware incompatibilities. It is ironic indeed, how the Mac is better suited to the market majority to right of the chasm, while Windows is better suited to damn-the-blue-screens-of-death, full-speed-ahead crowd to the left of the chasm.

What am I a laggard on? Well, I don't own a cell phone with a camera built in. I see no value in and am not a customer of digital cable TV. I've been aware of and have tracked the Sirius and XM satellite-radio ventures for years, but I'm not now and have no plans to be a customer. I've yet to purchase an iPod (I would love to own and use one, but I won't pay what Apple wants me to pay for it). I haven't rushed out to buy a new iSight to use with iChat AV, but the iSights sure are cool and I'm sure I'd love to use one, but it's gonna have to wait. I've yet to buy a flat-panel plasma television. I probably never will buy one. It doesn't give me the solution I want, which is a super-high resolution wall display. I'll rush out and buy that technology that the moment it's available. I'm a laggard, indeed, a skeptic, on Harry Potter. Went to the movies, didn't like them much at all. Have yet to read any of the books, and have no plans to.

I was a laggard on address-book software until 2003. Had always kept contact info in a text file thank you very much. Now I use MacOS X's built-in address book because it's so well integrated into other apps. (Solutions and convenience, once again.) I lagged on instant messaging mainly because I'd been there and done that with TERM-talk a generation ago and IRC a decade or more ago as well. I've always avoided PIMs for some reason. Until recently. I'm using Apple's iCal and find it a poor piece of software (functionality-wise, design-wise) that I grudgingly continue to use because, well, it's there.

I was an early adopter of laser printers. Been using them since 1984. I early adopted SUVs: I drove an Izusu Trooper back in the early 90s, because I had so much equipment to haul around (multiple 21" CRTs, boxes of computers) to trade shows, I couldn't fit it all in the Taurus anymore. Which reminds me, I was a super-early adopter of the Ford Taurus. Bought one of the first ones off the assembly line back in 1985. People used to stop me in the parking lot to ask questions and marvel at the car ("that is a Ford? really?"). As for ever getting another SUV? Doubtful: the gas mileage is simply too poor.

I was a super-early adopter of bandwidth. Paid UUNET a fortune for a dedicated 56k frame-relay line to the house back in 1995. It was a pain, but it was worth it. Owned multiple class C address blocks back in early-to-mid 90s. (Where'd they ever go, anyway?) Registered my first domain in 1989, so I guess I was early there.

Signed up with eBay in 1998 to sell stuff, found no buyers, remained skeptical for another 3 years before I sold stuff again and made over $5k and was very happy with it. Been relatively active in eBay ever since, because it works, and there are buyers and it's worth the hassle.

See Don Norman's essay called The Life Cycle of a Technology: Why it is so difficult for large companies to innovate that goes into these areas in more detail.

By the way, Amazon.com runs an interesting section (reminds me of the "Fetish" section of WIRED magazine) of their site called, what else, Early Adopter with new products from all kinds of areas --- weird-looking vacuum cleaners, cell phones, you name it.

So be an early adopter: click on the Comments link below and tell me what you've early and late adopted. Posted by brian at June 28, 2003 08:28 AM


Excellent recap of a classic! Interesting take on the whole discussion. Thanks for the post!

Posted by: John Porcaro at July 2, 2003 10:32 PM

I early adopted AirPort / WiFi, and I'm so glad I did. It's opened me up the the notion of computing anywhere, at first just where I live, but now down at the local coffeeshop if I want to.

And note that some Mac folks are not early adopters - I know several people on OSX, ancient Macs that simply do what their owners need. As for OSX, if you know what iChatAV (still beta) you're still a power user and early adopter.

Great thoughts.

Posted by: Joe Crawford at July 6, 2003 08:38 AM

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