Ever wondered why some technologies fail and some become mainstream? It is all down to how they fare on something called the Technology Adoption Curve (TAC). The TAC is a bell-shaped graph detailing the stages a technology must proceed through to succeed.
It describes each stage of the journey that technology must take to become mainstream. This includes the “chasm,” the leap where technologies fail or prosper.
Here, we take an in-depth look at the TAC, the stages it represents, and why some tech fails.
What Is the Technology Adoption Curve?
Surprisingly, the TAC has been around since 1962. It is a model developed by Professor Everett Rogers to explain and predict how innovative technologies are adopted by society. Although it is most commonly called the TAC, it is often referred to by other names, including:
- Diffusion of Innovations
- Rogers Innovation Adoption Curve
- Rogers Bell Curve
- Product Adoption Curve
The TAC describes five categories of adopters, these start from the innovators who are quick to jump on the bandwagon of emerging technology. It ends with the laggards, the last to adopt recent technologies.
The Five Phases of the Technology Adoption Curve
Each category on the TAC describes a phase that technology must pass through to become a mainstream success. Each of these stages is described below.
- Innovators (2.5%): The innovators are the first to adopt new technology. These are the people that will queue outside an Apple store to be first to get their hands on a new product. They are also prepared to pay premium prices.
- Early Adopters (13.5%): Next on the scene are the early adopters. This phase consists of people willing to take risks but remain more pragmatic than the innovators. They adopt technologies before the vast majority but only after the innovators have proven the technology’s viability.
- Early Majority: (34%): This phase is the people who adopt technologies just before they become the norm for the average person. They could be described as “glass half full” types of people willing to embrace technology but with an element of caution.
- Late Majority (34%): These are the “glass half empty” crowd. They are skeptical of new technologies and prefer to stick with familiar technology. They only adopt technologies after most of the population has already done so.
- Laggards (16%): These are the last to adopt new technologies, often continuing to use outdated technologies long after the rest of the population has moved on.
These five phases make up the TAC. However, one thing that is not covered in the phases is the chasm. This is the point that emerging technologies tend to fail.
What Is the Technology Adoption Curve Chasm?
The TAC chasm falls between the early adopter phase and the early majority phase. The early majority need to embrace technology for it to become a success. However, if there are concerns about certain aspects of a product or technology, this may not happen. In 2022 alone, there were plenty of tech failures.
Common reasons for technology failing to cross the chasm include:
- Cost concerns
- Compatibility with existing systems
- Lack of perceived value
- Lack of trust
Companies that want to cross the chasm must identify the needs and concerns of the early majority. This allows them to create targeted marketing strategies and product development cycles that will help achieve mainstream product uptake.
3 Examples of Products That Failed to Cross the TAC Chasm
The history of technology is littered with products that failed to make it across the chasm. Here is just a handful of some of the more notable products:
- Google Glass: This wearable technology promised much but ultimately failed to persuade the early majority that it was a viable product.
- Microsoft Zune: Launched as a competitor to Apple’s iPod, Microsoft’s offering fell by the wayside, burdened by an expensive price tag and a reputation for not being user-friendly
- 3D TV: This promised to bring a more immersive viewing experience into our homes. Ultimately it failed to appeal to the early majority thanks to a lack of decent content and the need to wear special glasses.
These are just a few prominent examples. There are plenty more that people have never heard of. Mainly because—you guessed it—they failed to cross the chasm!
Succeed or Fail It’s All Down to the TAC
The success of new technology is never guaranteed. The TAC gives manufacturers and developers a benchmark against which to measure success and adjust strategies to ensure products cross the chasm successfully.