THIS ISSUE: 05 - Aug - 2019



State of "Innovation"

Has innovation peaked?

This one is going to be a little controversial. It's about credit where credit is due, and it won't necessarily line up with the common perception of where the credit should be.

There's an ad currently running on television here in New Zealand that encourages the idea that all genius needs to thrive is opportunity. Not a bad concept, or inherently evil in any way, but they go on to suggest that everyone can be just like Steve Jobs!

I don't have a dislike for the man but crediting him with the term "genius" is a little extreme. He constantly performed acts of unfettered douche nozzlery. Consider the fact that he openly admitted to deliberately parking in disabled spots, and the various staff reports of the rampant megalomania, yet he is still idolized like the next messiah (fun fact: having large swathes of money, doesn't free you from the responsibility of being a good person). Anyone that aspires to emulate the man is simply saying they'd rather have the money - without the faintest idea of what constitutes true market leadership, actual innovation, or betterment of mankind. This isn't going to be an anti-Jobs rant, and I'd be the first to admit that he did know how to make money exceptionally well. Visionary wizard of the future world? Not so much (Woz maybe, but not Steve).

Now on to the meat of this exploration: ask around and people would generally agree that on the scale of innovative companies, Apple is ahead of the curve – everyone wants to copy Apple's products. For one reason or another, Microsoft usually ends up lumped into the least innovative bracket, with detractors usually saying things along the lines of "Microsoft just wants to make money, they don't care about making their products better as long as they sell" usually along with some edgy variation of the brand - such as Micro$oft to somehow hammer home the fact that they [don't!] know what they're talking about.

First to make [insert product here]
One of the oft-cited examples that keeps getting dredged up is the "fact" that Bill Gates stole Windows from Apple after a meeting where Steve Jobs demonstrated the new Graphical User Interface that was to be rolled out on certain Apple products.

What gets left behind in that example is the small, tiny, detail that Apple stole the idea themselves. Granted, it was unlikely to ever receive mainstream success, a little research project at Xerox happened to be at the forefront of the innovation wave in this case – not only introducing the idea of windowed workspaces, but they also had a fully realized, working prototype of a WYSIWYG editor and the concept of Hyperlinks. Not to mention the common idea of graphical ways of interacting with 'high-tech' computers was already commonplace in pop-culture at the time (even if the "technicians" tapped away at their keyboards to manipulate the on-screen events – a gripe for another time perhaps). There were also ways of interacting with graphics in niche products at the time too – like touch-screen directories (ala Die Hard, for the fine dining film connoisseurs).

Basically, what we're left with, is a case of Iteration, not Innovation.

The same occurs with the "smart" phone. Countless news stories, documentaries and articles herald the dawn of a new age of humanity as the time Steve Jobs trotted out on stage and dropped the noun 'iPhone' for the first time. It's as if the writers believe (for whatever reason), that some sort of cosmic shift into a new epoch occurred at that instant. Suddenly smartphones were everywhere! Even kids have them now! What a time to be alive!

Except that they were already around. Blackberry existed well before then, designed to make the lives of countless professional easier and more efficient.

Next up, dare I utter the words that will send shivers down the spine of some young millennial who doesn't remember what a cassette tape is, but will happily claim vinyl has magical properties?


Quaid J. Leckey