The Evolution Of The Netbook/Cloud Computing, Again, Shows The Difference Between Invention And Innovation

from the and-which-is-more-important dept

Rik alerts us to a recent Wired Magazine article that goes through Larry Ellison's failed attempts at building a cheap computer (the network computer -- or NC) that would mainly be used for internet access. That history is pretty well known. Ellison -- in large part inspired by jealousy of Bill Gates -- declared that the PC was dead, and in its place people would prefer to use a stripped down computer with everything on the internet instead. It got a ton of buzz, and lots of people expressed interest. But the product was a flop. A massive flop. And yet... here we are today, and more and more applications are online only, and the success of cheap netbooks have more than matched some of the original vision of the network computer. As the article explains:
We tend to think of technology as a steady march, a progression of increasingly better mousetraps that succeed based on their merits. But in the end, evolution may provide a better model for how technological battles are won. One mutation does not, by itself, define progress. Instead, it creates another potential path for development, sparking additional changes and improvements until one finally breaks through and establishes a new organism.
That is the process of innovation. And yet, we tend to only celebrate the invention -- the first idea -- rather than all the evolutionary process that it takes to make something successful. Things like patents tend to block that evolutionary process by limiting the pace at which those mutations and developments can occur. They slow down innovation, rather than letting it flow, by putting an arbitrary wall around each new step, rather than letting the evolution proceed uninhibited. We may get the innovation eventually, but at a much slower pace than we might otherwise.

Filed Under: cloud computing, innovation, invention, larry ellison, netbooks
Companies: oracle


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  1. icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), 28 Dec 2009 @ 6:19pm

    Grouping

    This is something I've been thinking about in the copyright arena. There seems to be a biological impetus towards categorization. (Taxonomy is a great example.) We don't tend to value things that are only incrementally different, even though that may be the tipping point to whether or not something is actually useful.

    It's a good thing that patents don't work like (modern) copyright, otherwise Star Trek, Clarke, Stephenson, et al. would all be able to collect rents for products that resemble the ones they described in theory.

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