As a technology enthusiast, I spend more time than the average American watching keynote speeches, product unveilings, and technical presentations online. When Steve Jobs passed away, one of the small but deeply symbolic roles he left behind was chief technology cheerleader. His keynote speeches at MacWorld unveiling the promises of the future – exemplified best by his introduction of the iPhone in a world that had never seen a truly “smart” Smartphone – were pure magic. Although I, like most everyone, was deeply impressed by the new technology in the iPhone and its knockoffs, I resisted purchasing a true Smartphone for years. I am an enthusiast of new technology, but I am not willing to pay the premium to be first adopter. Once the technology becomes more common, bugs have been worked out, competition exists, and economies of scale have been realized to decrease the price and increase the value, then I’ll jump in. I’ll buy a product when it has broad adoption, with the synergies of a common product ecosystem. That’s when technology has gone mainstream and that’s what impresses me most.
That’s why the Tesla Model 3 keynote was such a powerful demonstration. For most Americans, the electric car market is still an expensive, niche product. The third wave of electric cars from Tesla is their attempt to move the needle towards mainstream global adoption. For those of you who watched the 20 minute keynote, Tesla CEO Elon Musk spent comparatively little time talking about the car itself (which looks like a smaller Tesla Model S), but he spend a significant amount of time talking about the ecosystem around the vehicles such as additional charging stations, rollouts to other countries, global battery manufacturing capacity, and additional dealerships.
Steve Jobs looked like he was having incredible fun during his keynotes, as a Santa Claus giving you glimpses of the future to get excited about. The iPhone was released in June 2007, less than 10 years ago. In that short amount of time, Smartphone adoption went from less than 10% to about 80% in the US. In comparison, Elon Musk is more shy, but the substance of his presentation was more than enough to get attention and presales (about $10 billion of Model 3 cars are already on pre-order). People replace phones more quickly than cars, so I wouldn’t expect adoption of the electric car at that rate, but industry competitors have been given a warning shot of what’s coming.