This may seem strange coming from an Engineer, but it turns out that definitions are important after all. Who would have thunk? One set of definitions that I think are particularly important to understand is that of technology and product. We sometimes blur the two, perhaps, because technology is so pervasive in modern products. But they are very different beasts and it is worth understanding the difference.
Products are things that we use for some function or another. I use my computer to create documents and I use my car to travel. Computers and cars are products that we use to solve some specific need (real or imagined) that we have. Technology is the more generic underlying intellectual property (idea, concept, model, etc.) that enables one ore more products to function. Internal combustion technology enables the engine in my car and Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) technology enables the CPU in my computer. Typically, one technology can enable multiple products. For example, the VLSI technology that enables my computer’s CPU also enables my mobile phone, the graphic processor in my PS3, and my stopwatch. And internal combustion technology enables a diverse set of products from lawn mowers to compressors, cars, and boats.
The key here is that technology enables products, whereas products use technology to solve specific and practical problems. More importantly from a business perspective, customers buy products, not technologies. When is that last time you bought a VLSI chip or a combustion engine? I’m going to guess that unless you are a “techie” building a product yourself, the answer is never.
Ty J. Shattuck,
Follow on Twitter: @tyshattuck