How I use s-curves

A definition of technology s-curves drawn from Clayton Christensen (in this paper):

"The technology S-curve has become a centerpiece in thinking about technology strategy. It represents an inductively derived theory of the potential for technological improvement, which suggests that the magnitude of improvement in the performance of a product or process occurring in a given period of time or resulting from a given amount of engineering effort differs as technologies become more mature. (...) It states that in a technology’s early stages, the rate of progress in performance is relatively slow. As the technology becomes better understood, controlled, and diffused, the rate of technological improvement increases . But the theory posits that in its mature stages, the technology will asymptotically approach a natural or physical limit, which requires that ever greater periods of time or inputs of engineering effort be expended to achieve increments of performance improvement. "

Why do I blog this? Given that I use this tool more and more often in talks, workshops and work, it's good to get back to the literature and understand it more thoroughly. In some work recently I mostly used it to describe evolution of certain technologies such as location-aware systems, 3D virtual worlds or mobile gaming. Generally, the point of is to describe a succession of waves starting from an idea as shown on the picture below. For instance, with the "location-awareness" idea, the first wave of mature products was navigation systems (quite often found in cars with garmin and tomtom devices), a second wave concerns place-based annotations systems or people finder (in that case, nothing's really mature in the same sense as the first wave). Besides, I am well aware of the limits of such curves but they offer a relevant way to discussion diffusion of innovation.