In a recent news article about Apple and its “groupies” the reporter used the phrase “technology enthusiasts” to describe people who are so interested in the company’s products that they insisted on buying the latest model even when it was not yet available. This kind of behavior is quite common in all consumer technology markets. There were similar fads back when digital cameras and camcorders were new, as well as for PDAs and PCs and HDTVs. In fact, there were even popular crazes for stereo systems when that was new.
The problem is that the use of the term technology enthusiast does not really convey what it means to be an early adopter, as defined by Geoffrey Moore in his book Crossing the Chasm. In Moore’s model, early adopters are those who buy a new technology in the first stage of its life because they believe it will give them a competitive advantage. Technology enthusiasts, on the other hand, purchase a product because they just like it. They might not need to use it for some grand vision, and they may or might not be able to get the most out of it.
I don’t mean to be a pedantic curmudgeon about this, but it would help to have some clear definitions in place before the sort of mushy terminology that appeared in this recent news story becomes widely used.