/ Technology

Early technology adopters get ahead in life

Product blueprint on paper

Ofcom says that, as a nation, we’re early adopters. Not only do we rush out to buy the latest smartphone, we’re also prolific mobile social networkers. And I think that means we’re ahead of the curve in life.

What makes a nation prosperous? Free health care, free press, open democracy? All of these things help, and we’re lucky to have them, but it’s increasingly about technology.

Our ability to use and develop new tech ensures that this little island remains relevant in the wider world. That’s why being an early adopter is a very good thing.

Benefits outweigh the risks

As Sarah Kidner points out in her Conversation, being an early adopter isn’t without its risks. Initial costs can be high and some products might not work perfectly from the get go. But the benefits of new, innovative and useful tech definitely outweigh their risks.

My day is infinitely more enriched thanks to my smartphone. Instead of reading the heavily advertised gossip columns of the Metro, my hour long commute is spent browsing the web, catching up with friends on Facebook and getting small trivial tasks out the way.

It means that, when the trains are up the spout and there’s lots of time to kill, it’s not wasted complaining and bemoaning my luck – it’s spent catching up on the day’s events, or even reading a book.

The success of the iPad, which has been remarkably untroubled thus far, goes to prove what a powerful and useful ability ‘being connected’ really is. And it’s great to hear that the UK is ahead of the rest of Europe in adopting and embracing new tech – it shows we’re brave, adventurous, and prepared for change.

It’s more than just ‘new and shiny’

It’s also important to remember that early adoption isn’t just a fetish or another way to say “look at me”. Early adoption is really about identifying what’s useful in new tech and how it can make our lives easier – it needn’t mean jumping on the 3D TV or Blu-ray bandwagon.

Our appetite for on-demand video, such as BBC iPlayer, is a great example. We love these services because they’re useful, not because they make us feel clever or special. If YouView, the on-demand TV service due to launch next year, delivers on its promise, I fully expect the UK to embrace it with open arms.

Ultimately, though, our appetite for new technology gives us the upper hand in many walks of life. It helps get the jobs other people don’t, offers new perspectives on difficult problems, and ensures we’re ready for a future dominated by technology. It might get bumpy from time to time, but at least being an early adopter is never boring.

Read Sarah Kidner’s opposing argument in ‘Early adopters pay high price for new technology‘.

Gavin Mitchell says:
3 December 2010

For me, there are two flavours of early adoption: the risky punt on cutting edge, unproven technology, where you don’t really know if you’re jumping on the right bandwagon but hoping that you do (e.g. Blu-ray vs. HD DVD) and the ‘sure-thing’ where you pay a premium to be first but with little fear of things going wrong.

I’m hardly ever an early adopter – can’t afford it for a start – but there are some occasions where early adoption isn’t so risky. I’ll be pre-ordering a Nintendo 3DS, because even though it contains innovation in the form of a *********** 3D display, the handheld medium is already well proven in the previous incarnations of the DS and the Gameboy before that.

Also, Nintendo are exceptionally reliable when coming out with new hardware because they need to be 100% confident in a system before they go with it, sometimes meaning they use cheaper, proven chipsets in an innovative way and essentially play it safe. Nintendo are that rarity among tech firms – a company with a good track record who you can trust (even when their consoles haven’t been the most successful in a particular generation, their 1st party support has always been superlative).

The success of the 3DS is practically assured already – even though it’s not out in Europe until March 2011 there are a mass of people desperate to pre-order. Sure, the price will likely go down a little several months after launch, and there will be the inevitable new iterations – 3DSi, 3DSi XL etc etc, but if you’re going to do it at all you’ve got to take the plunge sometime, and getting one first (or at all if demand outstrips supply) is probably worth paying a bit of a premium.

Sophie Gilbert says:
5 December 2010

All that glitters is not gold.

I prefer to wait a while, let those who absolutely need the latest gadgets get them at the hugely inflated prices to test them out and help boost the retailers’ profits. And then, if I think I need it, go out and buy it when its loads cheaper and all the faults have been ironed out. The savings I’ve made usually help me get ahead in other ways.

I agree with Sam.

Though I didn’t wait for personal computer technology – because I knew what computers were likely to herald. First I bought one – then I built them – This allowed me to keep ahead of the race as building was cheaper than buying one complete (until the price of computers fell.

Now I wait until I’m sure I really need the technology – Like sat – navs I have one – used once in a test run only – it would have been cheaper to hire a taxi.

I’ve also found that I can buy superb computer kit on Ebay (providing you know exactly what you are buying) at 10% of retail price – My superb server cost me £200 – retail £2000. Equally superb commercial printers at £175 instead of £1500. Are they the very latest? No – but so much better than the standard retail latest kit – they act as though they are!!!