Why technology stays the same.

Of late, and by that I mean the last few years, I have found myself overwhelmed with the amount of new technologies in both the hardware and software realms that have been released.

I am not referring to being overwhelmed in the sense that I do not understand or comprehend what is being offered. Rather that there is so much being developed that finding a good piece of technology is harder when you have to sift through the daily dump of news about stuff that is garbage.

For example, in the smartphone world when dealing with the various app stores or providers, when one particular innovative and unique app is developed, there are suddenly a slew of developers offering the same or similar design in order to capture some of the income potential the original product triggered. Instagram is a perfect example of a relatively simple and small app that allowed picture linking for facebook, texting etc and earned its creators 1 billion dollars when they sold to Facebook. If you look around the app stores now there are all kinds of variations of this technology available touting why they are better and why you should pay them.

This type of technology saturation is clearly evident and easy to spot in the smartphone sector. In other sectors, its a little more subtle because generally as the cost of the product goes up, the smaller the market and the more scrutiny a buyer will go through to make a decision. In the app world, 99 cents or 2 dollars is not a big financial risk so there is more chance for a purchase to take place.

If you look at the laptop and tablet market, there is also a slew of options. Each manufacturer wants to differentiate itself from the others by providing a unique design, or custom style that would attract buyers to their lines. However, once you take a broad look you begin to realize that the more that is different the more it is really just the same.

What it comes down to is this:

Very few innovative technologies make the mass market. However the mass market is split into the consumer world and the commercial world.

In the consumer world, the technology has advanced so far and has become so cheap that everybody today has a cell phone, at least 1 computer whether it be a desktop or laptop and most likely a tablet of some sort which is arguably still a basic computer. Though the specific features of each device has changed, the overall usage and purpose is the same. The big variable in the consumer market comes with the features changing frequently and the adjustment to pricing that coincides with the change. For example, internet bandwidth vs. price over the last 10 years has had a significant change but realistically is still the same offering, only faster.

In the commercial world, the technologies do not change as fast but the driving factor behind the change is not the technology features but more what the market will bear. A good example is Windows xp vs. 7. In the business world, Windows XP dominated the market for 15 years. It didn’t matter what technology advancements were offered, business users did not want to “break” what was working and stable. This is not only from a financial aspect of getting the best ROI for their software investment but also minimizing the downtime and learning curve needed to transition to a new platform. Is it any wonder that Apple shifted from being a computer company to phone provider during the same period of time that Windows didn’t change their operating system? Once Windows 7 appeared on the horizon with aspirations to replace XP, they essentially forced business around the world to finally move a step forward. Even so, there are still millions of XP users that are still not convinced that change is necessary. The same is happening with cloud services. Many advantages and clever marketing appeal to the business users who are “technology tired” of constant upgrades, patches, reinstalls etc but then there are all kinds of other issues legally, financially and access wise. Yet again, it is a trade off when all a business user wants is to have their email and be able to do their work.

What makes me laugh at the whole situation is that regardless of commercial or consumer, regardless of marketing or competition, regardless of legit vs. piracy, all the technology has brought a standard of living to the world that is unparalleled in history giving us access to information quickly and on the go.

Everybody has a mobile phone. Everybody has email. Everybody can “google” everything.

The level of tech we have now does usher in a sense of Star Trek with their communicators and tri-quarters and video screen displays and talking computer AIs. And though as the geek part of me wants to reserve technology to those of us who understand it rather than to those who can afford it, I still find it amazing that practical application can do so much for us. From digital xrays for medical purposes, to planet wide video and audio calling, to providing just about all of human history in one searchable query.

I’m not one that jumps onto technology bandwagons very often but that is only because i’m hip deep usually in the correcting, fixing or replacing of failed devices or systems and get to see both sides and the reality of the gear we use.

That is why no matter how advanced the offerings become, they all have the same common denominator and that is the human user. No matter how perfect something seems, after 500 million people play with it, it is bound to have a bug, or incompatibility. Ultimately, technology providers come and go in cycles and though the tech changes quickly and frequently, the market only bears a small percentage of that change.

What that means is human nature will still control the technology regardless of what the technology does and understanding that relationship is what I signed up for almost 3 decades ago.

I still remember my first computer and making it spew out a series of answers to my BASIC programming questions. I was able to make it look like I was having a conversation with my PC and when my parents observed the result, they thought the computer was actually speaking to them intuitively. Just like many users today who do not actually understand the power and the capabilities of what they are using, my parents back then only knew that the end result was cool.

The end result was what was important. They couldn’t care less if it was made out of wood and rocks or if it was a space age material, as long as they could get the result they were looking for and so 30 years later and we have the same conclusion.

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