Will Your Business Sink in a Technology Ocean?

Geology is fascinating. If only we could speed up time, we could see mountains rising and being eroded into peaks and valleys, oceans ebbing and flowing, continents breaking up and moving around. Earthquakes. Volcanoes. Glaciers. Landscape in action. Great spectacle. Or it would be, if we could speed up time.

How about continental drift? Speed up time. If you click the image here to the right you’ll go through 650 million years in 1 minute 20 seconds.  Watch the continents pull apart. It’s a fun animation.

And technology is just like continental drift, but roughly 25, 50, 100, maybe a million times faster. And accelerating.

For example, mobile technologies. And what if the big blob there on the right were labeled “iPhone,” and other blobs labeled “Android,” “Windows Mobile,” and so on?  That’s a changing technology landscape. And in that case, the splitting of the continents represents maybe a year or two. Right? Call it two years, and that would make it 325 million times faster than continental drift.

The pace of technology’s changing landscapes is speeding up. The technological continental drift in personal computer operating systems common for business use took maybe 10 or 12 years to go through the cycle from CP/M in 1980-1982 or so, followed by the MS-DOS world (we called it PC Compatible), with Mac and then Windows, lately Linux and friends. Or maybe that was 25 years?

We all have to choose platforms. I’ve seen it from a software developer standpoint since 1984, so 26 years now. Then there’s hardware manufacturing, consulting and expertise, and also just plain using the technology. Do you use Windows or Mac or Linus? iPhone or Android or Treo or Blackberry? You’re making choices.

Make the wrong choice and you end up like my polar bear friend here to the left (with apologies for changing the simile abruptly from continental drift to ice sheets breaking up, but it does sort of show it, doesn’t it?) You’re on a shrinking platform. Of course the polar bear can swim long distances. Users can jump platforms, but it costs time and money. Developers and manufacturers can jump platforms too, but it costs more time, and more money.

I’ve seen a lot of businesses rise and fall to the ebb and flow of these technology platforms.

This is tough, but important, strategy management. Businesses get stranded on shrinking platforms all the time. Businesses went down with the ship of CP/M, Apple II, MS-DOS, SONY Betamax, HD vs Blue-Ray… it’s happening all the time. Yahoo Instant Messenger vs. Microsoft Messenger vs. whatever-they-called-it-on-AOL and so on.

Where are you in social media? Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Buzz, somewhere else?

Ideally you want to jump to the next continent in time to ride with it as it grows. But damn, it’s hard to guess right all the time. You’ve seen what happens. You’ve seen some businesses try to mitigate the risk by developing into multiple platforms, then lose focus and fall apart. You’ve seen businesses stick to dwindling platforms and eventually fade away.

What are you doing about this?

(Image credit: Jan Martin Will/Shutterstock)


  • Stephanie O'Neill says:

    I go into technological freeze. For instance, I desperately need a new phone. I’m past my 24-months and my phone has missing pieces and is falling apart. The thought of spending time in the Sprint store then learning a new technology…ugh! So I’m still using the broken-down phone. And Facebook is time-consuming. But if I want to maximize my soon-to-launch blog, I also need to Twitter and build out my LinkedIn profile. Google Buzz? Fuggetaboutit. I can’t handle that right now!

    • Tim Berry says:

      Stephanie, first of all I’m so happy to see you in this space. Second, give yourself a break, you deserve it, get either an iPhone or a google droid and don’t look back. Megan and Sabrina and I love the iPhone, but Paul is in love with his new droid, particularly an innovative new way they let you enter text for emails and things that is impossible to explain here, but a real kick to use. My take is the droid does text entry quicker and easier than anything, and the iPhone is just fun. And fun is really good. Tim.

  • Charles Robinson says:

    Technology isn’t interesting to me anymore so I’m changing careers. I haven’t seen anything interesting come out for the last 10 to 15 years, but there has been a ton of hype and media hysteria. I’m just tired of chasing the new new thing and everyone fixated on shiny baubles that solve non-problems.

    • Tim Berry says:

      Hi Charles, I know how you feel, but I can’t resist adding that the problem with avoiding all the shiny new things is that some of them aren’t just that, they are really helpful. Twitter, for example, seemed like another of these essential useless new things, but I find I use it every day, enjoy it immensely, and get a lot of real business use from it. It did take a while to get used to. And what my phone does for me, just amazing.

      And then there’s how much time I waste looking at new things instead of using existing things.

      Thanks for the comment. Tim.

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