Innovation, saturation and tech plateaus

William Meisel/The Software Society
26 Jul 2013

Recent financial reports by consumer technology companies have disappointed analysts. The general consensus seems to be that the cause is a lack of new products and innovation. The underlying cause may be more fundamental.

We may have reached a plateau in consumers' ability to absorb the increasingly rapid change in technology. Consumers are becoming saturated. They are finding that new products and features don’t add much to their experience with technology, and sometimes simply constitute a challenge in adapting to a modified user interface. The core cause of saturation is limitations on our human abilities. Those aren’t likely to be upgraded soon.

For example, most PC users find their PCs are fast enough; the real limitations on efficiency of use are the user’s typing and thinking speed. Features such as better screen resolution are limited by what our eye can actually see.

Today’s smartphones and tablets have most of the features we need and can handle. The limits of usage are often the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day, another unchangeable fact.

New features and products must contribute substantially to efficiency and ease of use to make a real impact. They won’t succeed if they do the opposite, slowing use of the devices because of non-intuitive behavior or a steep learning curve.

There is room for growth in some technology areas not fully developed, e.g., making it easier to manage TV viewing as it evolves to “watch what you want when you want to watch it.” But humans aren’t changing as fast as technology (a major theme in The Software Society), and a day will remain at 24 hours. There is a saturation point, and we may be approaching it.

William Meisel is an industry analyst and executive director of the Applied Voice Input Output Society (AVIOS). This article originally appeared on The Software Society blog.

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