You Can't Ignore Technology Laggards

Dennis Faas's picture

Are you a 'laggard'?  Do you typically wait years before being forced to upgrade to the newest hardware, software, or heck, soda pop?

Everett M. Rogers, a communications scholar and pioneer, developed the theory of 'innovation diffusion'. Simply put, it described how new innovations become assimilated by the general populace. His theory was that adoption of new innovations followed a bell curve where 2.5% of the population were so-called "Innovators", 13.5% were labeled as "early adopters", and categories were followed by the "early majority, the late majority, and the 'laggards'. Ever since Rogers advanced this theory in 1962, the high-tech industry has fastened onto the importance of early (and influential) adopters as being the key to successful market penetration of products.

But now, it would seem, the high-tech industry is going to need to give some serious thought to the 'laggards'. The retirement of Netscape, the use of dial-up Internet access, and Yahoo's web email service offer three examples. In February of this year, Netscape had a market share of only 0.14 per cent. Hardly worth mentioning until you realize that 0.14 percent of the Internet users means more than 1 million users! Even though AOL has made it clear that support for Netscape stopped on March 1, there is little incentive for existing Netscape users to migrate; apparently, most are already using older unsupported versions. (Source:

The same is true for AOL's dial-up service. Broadband is now available to most users anywhere in the country, and is offered at prices less than or equal to that of dial-up, but the laggards using dial-up still account for more than $5.2 billion of AOL's revenue last year. $5.2 billion!

And then there's the Yahoo! email service. Although the company introduced its new system in 2006, there are still tens of millions of users of the old system, Yahoo Mail Classic. (Source:

Laggards represent big problems for manufacturers. Just ask Coca Cola; they introduced 'New Coke' in the Spring of 1985. Tests demonstrated that it had a superior flavor to both the existing Coke and Pepsi. By that summer, Coca Cola rebranded the traditional flavor as 'Coca Cola Classic' because of 'laggard' demand. In 2007, Coca Cola killed New Coke and relabeled the classic version back to plain 'Coca Cola'. (Source:

Consumer history is filled with such examples and the laggards are now becoming a significant factor in high-technology. A few more examples include: Vista vs. XP, WordPerfect vs. Word, Corel Draw, and FoxPro to name a few. Seemingly irrational consumer behavior can reshape the best-laid plans of high-tech manufacturers. Even in private IT settings, laggards require respect. If the implementation of a new system does not provide the same 'comfort' of previous systems, there will be difficulties.

If you are a laggard, keep in mind that while new technology may represent an unwelcome and uncomfortable change for you, sticking with the old technology may represent a bigger problem. In a world of viruses and other malware, using old technology may provide a convenient and unprotected portal for new threats.

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