Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Death of the "Early Adopters"

Today's big Apple iPad release has made big headlines. Somewhere around 95% of the stories picked up by my Google Reader were either related to or directly covered the release event. Searches in Google News revealed countless articles, some from mainstream media, that described the hype that Apple has used to garner support and attention for their newest creation. The event wasn't unlike releases for the iPhone or updates to the iPod Touch or Nano. But something struck me: There I was, staring at my computer screen in the middle of the work day, feasting on the wealth of information that was hitting the social media web about the iPad, and I wasn't even close to being a lone wolf out there.

Just a few years ago, Apple released products much in the same way it does today. They built the hype, and the press and early adopters showed up en-mass to lay eyes on the newest baby of the secretive company. Today, as I watched live streams of video and blog feeds reveal each detail as the words came from the mouth of Steve Jobs, I heard the announcer on TWiT say that they had over 100,000 viewers tuned in. One hundred thousand. And I couldn't help but wonder: Am I no longer alone as a self-proclaimed "early adopter"?

If Apple and their army of engineers and marketeers were able to captivate more than a stadium's-worth of global tech nerds (in the middle of the East Coast workday, nonetheless), then they've really done something remarkable. They've grown a population of curious, tech-minded people out of what once was a small, rather niche group of people. They've succeeded in the number one job of marketers: They've fundamentally changed the culture of an entire global population.

Fanboys still exist. We're those who went to sleep last night with visions of dual-camera-equipped, sub-pound-weight, 10" HD-capable tablets dancing in our heads. We're those who go to the Apple Store for no other reason than to check in with our fellow Apple fans. We're those who will buy anything that Steve tells us is "amazing". But I'm not talking about fanboys. I'm talking about your average Joe.

Fanboys and tech nerds alone can't generate 100,000 hits on a website or $50.6B in revenue. We can't carry that kind of momentum because we lack the mass. This tells me that ordinary people are interested in the next big thing. Microsoft hasn't accomplished this. In fact, no one else has. Dare I say, even Google hasn't accomplished this.

Apple has re-defined the term "early adopter". They've transformed us into people with high expectations and nearly empty wallets. And we line up by the thousands to get a peek at Jonathan Ive's latest and greatest. It's no longer special to know (or to care) about what's coming next. My hat's off to them. They've done it again. They're creating massive markets where one didn't exist just months (or arguably days) before.

So they killed the early adopter by transforming all of us. And they've created a generation of early adopters. All at the expense of those of us who remember what life was like before 100,000 people cared about the next big thing in consumer technology.

1 comment:

  1. hello. i found you're comments thought provoking and easily accessible to the commoner who buys a piece of technology with a friend who knows better. i love the fact that apple has business-onified the movie field of dreams... "if you build it, they will come." i just hope that apple doesnt follow in kevin costner's footsteps with business-onified water world or the postman. in water world, he drank his own urine... im not sure how that translates just yet but... yikes.