Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Changing the paradigm...

Innovation is about changing the goalposts. Shifting the paradigm. It's about changing the rules and about creating needs that weren't before or they were but hidden underneath, away from anybody's sight.

It takes a special talent to be innovative. One good example is Philips, in Eindhoven. Most of us know their invention of the CD and the compact audio cassette but there are so many other examples before these two as well as after, not to forget their recent Senseo coffee machine...

The most known example is of course Mr. Jobs and his mighty Apple Inc. He first 'stole' Xerox PARC's ideas (in fairness, he actually turned their research into something useful, which makes him the innovative Master) and changed overnight the way PCs looked, away from the ugly Big Blue IBM character based dump 3270 terminals. He introduced technologies into his PCs (pardon me... his Macs) that others only dreamed of (FireWire, build-in CD readers/writers, ...) and then they had to copy him. He brought style and color into an everyday life object that most others painted gray (how stupid can someone be... we lived thirty years with ugly gray boxes... when will they ever learn).

He brought hefty miniature hard disks into the MP3 players and where others were struggling with Megabytes he offered as many Gigabytes. He put again style into a product that was simply all about listening to music. He even legalized the songs download market to profit those pitiful and ungrateful Music Labels, made of sharks chewing for breakfast both consumers and artists, may they burn in hell.

Ever since the iPhone and the iPod Touch Jobs is on the way to change the paradigm again. This time is about the way we interact with display monitors. Microsoft pushed for stylus driven tablet PCs a few years back, with loads of marketing buzz and few years later they haven't sold no sh*t! Other than to their own employees that is... Because, among other, they are using too many 'verbs', as Jobs puts it. Works this way... just like in pre-historic Sun Microsystems CAD workstations. You point at an object with your stylus and you go find a button with an action (verb) written on it. You need two steps to make this work. First the object... then the action. Looks stupid and it's much less efficient to most of us who have used mice for more than 25 years.

No 'verbs' in Apple interfaces though. The new Jobs interface is something different, designed from the ground up to look natural to humanoids. I am using a Touch iPod for a month now and I wouldn't change the interface for the world. Can you believe this? I used to carry a laptop to surf the Web, for years, while watching TV, sitting on the sofa during evening hours after dinner, by the spouse. The thing needed power and got warm and was heavy to move around and the fan was noisy and the wife was annoyed from all this and would curse me and call herself a PC-widow... and... and... All gone now, I got all my favorite URLs stored in the iPod and can catch up with the latest news by simply touching the screen. Letters too small to read? Pinch them apart and they grow to your heart's desire for a blind to read them. No Power needed, and plenty of apps to go around. And if the TV programming over the 500 available channels still looks lousy, no problem... YouTube is there to bring you viewing experiences never thought of before... a magic window to the world of common people enjoying themselves with video clips in low budget productions. Real stuff, with real people.

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