Companies Provide, Consumers Decide
Consumers drive and shape markets, more than many experts realize. Consider the birth of mountain biking. Eager cyclists took heavy old bike frames with balloon tires, then bolted on heavy-duty brakes to protect riders careering down mountain trails. Eventually the industry spotted the trend, and mountain bike sales now account for more than half of the bike market in the United States. Short-text messaging on cell phones is another example of consumers driving innovation by putting existing technology to unforeseen uses. In the early ‘90s, telecommunications carriers tried to convince businesses to throw away their pagers and use text messaging instead. Businesses yawned. But later the SMS market exploded when teenagers in Europe and East Asia got cell phones. Now, as one analyst observed, “If you’re a teenager in Europe, you can’t have a social life without cell phone text messaging.” The latest cell phone messaging technique is called blue-jacking, which requires cell phones equipped with Bluetooth, the short-range wireless technology that enables a wireless mouse and keyboard to communicate with your computer. Cell phone makers assumed customers would use Bluetooth to share data between their phones and computers. Instead, teenagers started “blue-jacking”, sending brief text messages to other people—even strangers—up to 20 feet away, in restaurants, stores or classrooms.
New York Times 1 Dec 2003