The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Technology lifecycle

Most new technologies follow a similar technology lifecycle. This is similar to a product life cycle, but applies to an entire technology, or a generation of a technology.

There is usually technology hype at the introduction of any new technology, but only after some time has passed can it be judged as mere hype or justified true acclaim. Because of the logistic curve nature of technology adoption, it is difficult to see at in the early stages whether the hype is excessive.

The two errors commonly committed in the early stages of a technology's development are:

  • fitting an exponential curve to the first part of the growth curve, and assuming eternal exponential growth
  • fitting a linear curve to the first part of the growth curve, and assuming that takeup of the new technology is disappointing

Similarly, in the later stages, the opposite mistakes can be made relating to the possibilities of technology maturity and market saturation.

Technology adoption typically occurs in an S curve, as modelled in diffusion of innovations theory. This is because customers respond to new products in different ways. Diffusion of innovations theory, pioneered by Everett Rogers, posits that people have different levels of readiness for adopting new innovations and that the characteristics of a product affect overall adoption.

From a layman's perspective, the technology life cycle can be broken down into five distinct stages.

  1. Bleeding edge - any technology that shows high potential but hasn't demonstrated its value or settled down into any kind of consensus. Early adopters may win big, or may be stuck with a white elephant.
  2. Leading edge - a technology that has proven itself in the marketplace but is still new enough that it may be difficult to find knowledgeable personnel to implement or support it.
  3. State of the Art - when everyone agrees that a particular technology is the right solution.
  4. Dated - still useful, still sometimes implemented, but a replacement leading edge technology is readily available.
  5. Obsolete - has been superseded by state-of-the-art technology, rarely implemented anymore.

See also

Diffusion, Disruptive technology, Network effects, Tipping point, Product life cycle management, New product development, Product management, diffusion of innovations, Everett Rogers

Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13