Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"You can google it"

At the store the other day I overheard a sales pitch for some wondrous kitchen product. "Our product's motors last twenty to thirty years," said the lady. "You can google it."

Meanwhile, in the run-up to the XXI Winter Olympic games, Quincy Jones, Lionel Richie and company have pulled together a (mostly) new crop of celebrities to record a 25th anniversary version of We Are The World to benefit Haiti. You can download it to contribute.

A while ago, I noticed that "Call or click today" has replaced "Operators are standing by" as the tagline for legion upon legion of infomercials.

Some combination of these and other cases like them has finally crystallized something that's been floating in my head throughout the not-so-disruptive-technology thread on this blog: There's a crucial difference between pervasive and disruptive. If you're going into business, pervasiveness is a much better goal.  People don't want their lives disrupted. They want them improved.

New technology certainly can and does disrupt particular sectors. If you're a recording artist, particularly an established artist used to selling music on physical media, the shift to downloading must be worrisome. If you're a major record label it's terrifying. But if you're a consumer, it's just another way to get music. Mind, I'm going on anecdotal evidence here -- if you're actually a recording artist I'd love to hear your story (I'm pretty sure I've already heard what the labels have to say).

Stepping back a bit, I claim new technologies are much more likely to become pervasive than disruptive, if indeed they do either (videophones, anyone? [Well ... five years down the line videophones, in at least some sense, are pretty pervasive -- D.H. May 2015]).

Postscript: While I've tried to consistently capitalize Google as a proper name, I can't bring myself to capitalize it as a verb, however much that might displease Google's trademark department. Googling has become as pervasive as, say, xeroxing.

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