Inter-generational Transitions In Technological Ecosystems: The Case Of Mobile Telephony
Many technology studies have conceptualized transitions between technological generations as a series of S-curve performance improvements over time. Surprisingly, the interregnum between successive technological generations has received little attention. To understand what happens in the interregnum, we build upon a framework of technological change as happening within an ecosystem that is characterized by both momentum and inertia. Applying this framework to study the mobile communications ecosystem, we found that the transition between 2G to 3G wireless was far from sequential. Different parts of the ecosystem evolved at different rates exerting both inertia and momentum with “collateral technologies” playing an important role in shaping the transition path that unfolded. Based on this study we suggest that, rather than a distinct or unitary shift from an old to a new technology, transitions proceed in a zigzag manner resulting in the emergence of hybrid technologies. These processes hold implications for both theory and practice that we explore in this paper.
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