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Innovation

Watch for those software epiphanies

My daughter is in London for the month studying British theater. This morning, we had our first Skype chat since she arrived. Watching the reaction my family had to a technology they have known about for a while drove home an important point about the point at which new technology really starts to matter to people.
Written by Marc Orchant, Contributor on
My daughter is in London for the month studying British theater. This morning, we had our first Skype chat since she arrived. Watching the reaction my family had to a technology they have known about for a while drove home an important point about the point at which new technology really starts to matter to people. Although my family has become quite accustomed to seeing me sitting at the computer in a headset chatting away with people around the globe, the true impact of free Internet telephony really mattered for the first time today.
Both my wife and my daughter uttered the kind of exclamations a marketer lives for. My daughter:
"This is so cool! I feel like I'm cheating or something - being able to talk with you for free like this."
My wife:
"I can't believe I'm sitting here talking to you halfway around the world on a computer!"
This morning, Skype earned two new fans. And. knowing how many people both of them interact with, Skype just added two more evangelists to their corps.
Not because my wife and daughter didn't know about the technology before today. It's because until this morning, they didn't have a reason to care.
My son, who's definitely a geek like his dad, just rolled his eyes at all of this, as if to say, "What took them so long to figure this out?"
It got me thinking. Here's what I think happened. Two cell phone users, accustomed to unlimited free minutes between themselves, were suddenly disconnected by technological hurdles. Our daughter's cell phone doesn't work in the UK and we were at the mercy of her 7 hours-later schedule and prepaid phone card to have brief snatches of conversation. Skype reestablished the connectivity they have both become accustomed to and removed the economic and technological, if not the time zone, barriers to conversation.
If the many new shiny objects we're all so fascinated with in the tech world of early adopters want to break out and succeed with the mass market, this is the secret sauce: Give "regular" people a reason to care. Not about your technology or how it's cool or different or better. Give them a reason to care that is all about how you will make their life better.
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