Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Hype Cycle

Gartner Research's Hype Cycle diagram

Although an awesome marketing name for a chrome and flame-painted chopper, the hype cycle is not a creation of Orange County Choppers, but rather a term of the Gartner Group research firm and refers to their interpretation of the development, maturity, and adoption of technology.

You know, the path between 'slideware' (unproven ideas that only exist in PowerPoint slides) and 'general availability' (store shelves).

Speech recognition is one of these technologies. In 2000, they were admittedly my slides suggesting that a speech platform was 'around the corner'. In 2003, when they were Microsoft's slides (with the introduction of their speech server) and again now, these slides are re-issued with a Google logo.

I know a lot of earnest people in the field of speech recognition and I know they spend a great deal of time refining and improving speech recognition capabilities in myriad applications.
In this article, you'd think that a decade of inprovements, trial and error, and frankly, millions of VC dollars hadn't already been expended when Larry Page and Sergey Brin decended from the heavens, touched the complicated technology, and made speech 'finally viable' with Google Voice.

Speech technology is already a viable (and functioning) technology.
But I also understand that there is a required ecosystem of hardware, software and services in speech technology to make it 'work' as a fully-functional platform of the future, in spite of the hype that accompanies a Google launch of anything from a phone OS to breadsticks. ("Peak of inflated expectations" in graph.)

It is a gentle reminder as product marketers, we understand that it is as important to build expectation and excitement at a launch as it is to control those expectations. The marketplace doesn't allow marketers to underperform to their promises, a lesson we knew but were (supposedly) reminded of with the Internet bubble. As this article points out, and Microsoft discovered, speech is a human construct that requires a great deal more than money and technologists - even Google money and Google technologists - to make it meet the long-held expectations we have held for speech as an interface in the near term, and to overcome the long-held cynicism that a future feature-rich, reliable 'speech-driven platform of the future' will now have to overcome to establish a marketplace. Speech has sat at the peak of inflated expectations long enough. It desrves to grow, but only if allowed to drop into Gartner's "trough of disillusionment" first (graph).

To be certain, speech will drive a viable comprehensive OS platform one day. Just not this Thursday. Or next.
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