Saturday, March 28, 2009


Journalists and technology writers are enamored with communications technology and tend to portray successful technologies as representing large scale trends. We are regularly presented with news stories and promotional materials about the rise of new technologies and about how their uses create social trend that are significantly altering society.

The release of the new iPhone was recently featured on network evening news, Blackberry has been heavily discussed because its use by Pres. Obama, and Twitter has been featured in numerous television and newspaper stories. The impression given by coverage is that anyone who doesn’t have an iPhone or Blackberry and anyone who doesn’t Twitter is out of touch with the mainstream and being left out of modern society.

These new means of communications offer interesting possibilities, but their consumption needs to be seen realistically. Blackberry, for example, has 14 million subscribers-- about 5 percent of all mobile phone users in the US. iPhones represents about 1 percent of mobile phone users. The number of Twitter users is currently around 1 million, representing only about 3 tenths of 1 percent of the US population.

Certainly those kinds of numbers can create businesses successes for their firms, but we have to be realistic in interpreting their overall impact on technology markets, social interaction, and diffusion of technologies. Not everyone wants to or will be equally wired, communicating, or sharing mundane details of their lives with their friends and the world. Some persons will find communications enabling technologies more rewarding in business and personal terms than other persons.

It is easy to forget the size of market when discussing the impact of diffusion of technologies. Without doing so, however, one gets a warped sense of their role in contemporary life.