A recent article by a Cointelegraph Markets contributor proclaimed that “Bitcoin is the ‘new’ Apple,” explaining just how Bitcoin’s (BTC) price could reach $60,000 by 2023: “Bitcoin hangs near the chasm of the adoption curve, and its price looks similar to Apple’s stock in 2008 before it broke out with a 520% rally.”
The technology adoption curve referenced was Everett Rogers’ famous “diffusion of innovations” model, published in 1962, which described the five stages through which technology becomes “diffused” — i.e., goes mainstream: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards.
In 2008, manufacturer Apple’s United States smartphone penetration was stalled at about 11% and still waiting to cross the “chasm,” the gap between the “early adopter” stage and the “early majority” stages in the Rogers lexicon. Any technical innovation worth its salt needs to cross that threshold. Apple’s smartphone surmounted that chasm, of course: Usage exploded, and Apple’s share price soared into the ionosphere. Bitcoin may well be in a similar place today.
But this comparison, satisfying as it may be, raises some questions. Is BTC even a technology — like radios, PCs, and smartphones — or is it something different: unique, sui generis — i.e., in a class by itself? Is BTC’s global penetration really anywhere close to 11% — its putative U.S. penetration rate? Also, while smartphone usage indubitably crossed the chasm more than a decade ago, how does one extrapolate BTC’s future price from AAPL’s share price? Shouldn’t it be compared with smartphones’ price?
The resemblance between Bitcoin and Apple in terms of growth and adoption is indeed there, but in short, is it fair to compare Bitcoin to younger versions of tech giants like Apple?
Not so simple
Arvind Singhal, a professor of communication at the University of Texas at El Paso, whose academic research has focused on the diffusion of innovation, told Cointelegraph that Bitcoin did indeed seem singular: “It has tremendous barriers to adoption for most individuals and operates in a space of multiple familiar currencies — and that peculiarity would greatly influence its adoption.”
Michel Rauchs, the head of Paradigma — a consulting firm focusing on the digital assets sector — and a former research affiliate for the cryptocurrency and blockchain research program at the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance at the University of Cambridge, told Cointelegraph: “Bitcoin is not a technology in itself, and any comparison [with traditional technologies] is misguided.” He added: “It is a social/economic system,” a new monetary order that uses technology to represent its unit of accounts. “Technology is just a secondary component, a means to an end.”
Additionally, it may be important here to separate Bitcoin from the more generalized blockchain technology in which it partakes — or risk misapplying Rogers’s…