Many healthy companies fall into the trap of their success. They tend to be more
‘technology’ driven mode rather than being ‘market’ driven. Many companies developed
the product first then start out looking for the market. Successful companies look at the
market first then start developing the products.
Exxon Chemicals was the first largest faxed machine supplier in the world. But Exxon
Chemicals was ahead of its time and after making horrendous financial losses, decided to
give up. Instead the late entrants, Japanese companies such as Canon, made a success of
the fax technology. In the 1980s, many videotext services such as the Singapore
Telecoms Teletext made losses. The technology of videotext appeared very promising,
with each household been able to access electronic data and information from the
television screens. The only problem was that the market application and services were
not widespread enough to create a critical mass. It took time for the wide acceptance of
videotext services to kick in. The Internet technology took over the top spot of online
services instead although the Internet is a much less sophisticated technology and an
earlier head-start than videotext. Also, notwithstanding the more powerful colour picture
quality and technology of the videotext as compared to the Internet, the Internet has the
advantage of wider market acceptance. As a result, videotext applications were dwarfed
by the Internet ones.
The following shows that the other gestation period between a technological invention
and commercial production is shortening.
Invention, Invention date, Production date, Waiting time
Fluorescent lighting 1851,1934, 82 years
Radar 1887,1933, 46 years
Ballpoint pen 1888,1938, 50 years
Zipper 1891,1923, 32 years
Diesel locomotive 1895,1934, 39 years
Power steering 1900,1930, 30 years
Helicopter 1904,1936, 32 years
Television 1907,1936, 29 years
It takes a long time for the technology to pick up. However, the lapse of timing between
invention and production is speeding up and narrowing.
In technology, there is a trigger point when the price gets low enough, the application
gets widened and people think that they want to have it. The technology can stay latent
for a long time before hitting the trigger point as the market is not quite ready to embrace
the applications of the technology. The key is to prepare for the trigger point and ride
with the wave and revolution when it arrives.
When the technology is triggered off and embraced it will permanently change the way
we do business. Just as fax technology phases out the telex, e:mail technology may one
day phase out faxes. CD is phasing out videotape technology and one day CD itself may
be phased out by DVD.
A few years ago, people would buy computers and not ask for a DVD drive, now they
expect to have it. Not so long ago, wireless phones were not common, today even
students must have it as part of their school kits. In the 1980s, Internet was not popular.