Design for “Crossing the Chasm” — Strategy & Examples

Shah Mohammed
26 min readApr 27, 2017

In the 1990s, a new product category called PDA gained traction among corporate executives. Seeing the demand, several brands like Apple Computer, Motorola, Compaq, Microsoft, and IBM launched their PDAs. However, they struggled to crack the market and vanished after some time. When devices from bigger companies faltered so badly, experts began to wonder whether handheld PDAs could ever be a viable mass-market product. However, one brand came and showed how to succeed in the PDA market. It was Palm Pilot. By 1999, within three years of its launch, Palm controlled 70% of the PDA market, with an over 5 million user base. The brand became a cult phenomenon.

How did Palm succeed when other brands failed in the PDA category? Why did Amazon, Netflix, iPod, Facebook, Airbnb succeed when other brands failed?

How did only a few brands/products could taste massive success? How could they attract people on such a scale?

Before moving ahead to find answers, let’s rehash some key terms.

TECHNOLOGY(Disruptive Product) ADOPTION LIFECYCLE

The research shows that a new technology product(or a disruptive product) can penetrate the population by dividing the available market into five customer segments and design the product according to each segment’s needs.

The five customer segments are — Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards. The product has to evolve to meet the needs of every target segment as they all differ from each other. In that scenario, the research shows that the product adoption rate will follow a “Bell” distribution curve.

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