Differentiating Between Technologically Possible and Commercially Viable

Unless you were somehow seemingly off the grid earlier this month, you know the 2014 International CES was held in Las Vegas where some 20,000 new products were launched. The 2014 edition marks the 47th annual CES and at a little over two million net square feet, the 2014 show was also the largest CES in history. After taking a few days off to regain a breath and recover from the inevitable CES Bug, we begin to take stock of these 20,000 product announcements. When examining these 20,000+ new products it is important to examine each of them within their own context. You should examine each product or announcement individually and independently. Here’s why:

I often hear two complaints about product launches at CES – either the product launch represents nothing “new” or the product launch is “too futurist” and not ready for primetime. These outwardly contradicting statements highlight exactly why CES still works so effectively and successfully as a stage for innovation for so many companies. CES is the platform from which companies launch new products and make announcements for both products that are years away as well as for products that are coming to market in that very moment. When examining product launches at CES it is important to differentiate between these two decidedly different types of launches.

The first type of announcements highlight something that is technologically feasible for the first time while the second type of announcements highlight something now commercially viable for the first time. Innovation is a continuum from technically feasible at one end to something that becomes a commercial blockbuster on the other end of the spectrum. CES exhibits the entire spectrum along this continuum. Understanding what a product represents and where it fits in becomes markedly easier once one differentiates between these two distinct and separate classes.

Innovation moves along this continuum with time, but products and services will not typically occupy two places along this continuum at the same time. So a product announcement should be viewed as either something that has expanded our view of what is technically feasible or as shown to us something that is ready for commercialization. We laud and celebrate both types because they are equally important to the health of the tech industry.