Further thoughts on innovation ...

Big companies struggle with innovation (ask me how I know).

I wouldn't score either Apple or Microsoft that high on innovation, but for big companies they do alright.

As noted above, much of what Apple does is derivative. Msft too. Sometimes by glomming on to good ideas, licensing technology, acquiring companies, keeping their finger to the wind.

Both have built massive edifices. It's a survival technique for big companies. They can almost never (with some brilliant exeptions) be the best at anything ... so they have to be good at everything (at least within their own defined sphere of influence). And they must be truly brilliant at tying everything together. Both Apple and Msft are, in different ways.

The 70's were largely about tinkering (and NFW is that a pejorative). The early eighties was all about brilliant point products -- important niches that caused companies to rise from nowhere. While some niches still exist, and tinkering will always exist, the wave (standing wave) over the last 15 to 25 years has been about the systemizers. Apple, Cisco, Msft, Dell, etc.

Just an aside, I went through the old workstation -- PC war that was peaking in the early nineties.

PC -- You paid how much for that that computer? Is it a Cray? Because if I don't get a fluorinert cooling tower, I ain't paying that much.

Work Station -- I laugh at your little toy calculater. Go print some spreadsheets with your little Epson while I engage in sophisticated design activites you can only dream of. Oh, and I have a little thing called an "Operating System", you should look it up.

PC -- I don't suck that bad. Besides, I'm really, really cheap. And here's a demo of an OS that will be reliable in about 12 years.

Mac -- Hey, I run Microsoft Word!

Chorus of forgotten platforms -- We're not dead yet!

... et cetera

PC won that round. Apple got the consolation prize: they didn't die.

I don't know what's going to happen next. But it's clear that there no longer has to be one winner. Somehow the systemizer consolidation trend is plateauing. And the next wave (which is?) will be coming.

There's nothing of significance I can do on a Mac that I can't do on a PC, and vice versa. Are we seeing the beginning of the commoditization of operating systems? The wave of OS development on handheld devices is further muddying the waters.

If they can all share the same files, who cares what the OS is anymore than one cares about the brand of memory chip inside the gizmo? I'm exaggerating the current degree of commoditization -- to make a point.

Laugh at the hand held -- the little toy computer running an OS cobbled together by a bunch of geeks with too much time on their hands. It's happened many times.

This is just a guess, but the narrowing of options is at an end.
- mark 10-09-2009 4:50 am

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