Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Is there any newness left?

An interesting thought occurred to me during an ad-hoc debate about the last truly new idea we could remember. Having covered several examples and their impact on a given industry. I thought it would be a good idea to pass this along.

These seemed to stand out as good examples
We all agreed that the PC was a game changing idea and product. We also agreed that both the Apple’s and Microsoft’s OS’s simply leveraged the innovative thinking of the corresponding hardware platforms.

The Segway was another interesting discussion where I couldn't agree whether it was a success or not. I didn't really see it as a transforming idea. This could be partly due to an inability to create, captivate and execute on its market space.

CDP (Continuous Data Protection) gets mixed marks as a new innovation. It managed to change drastically the way we think about data protection.

This seemed like a simple task at first, but quickly proved that King Solomon was right “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Simply put, we tend to reinvent and mix the same set of technologies and come up with different results.

I may have a jaded view of the act of invention, but what really makes an idea new? If you look at my industry for example, we tend to focus on small incremental changes with no real explosions of newness. This leads me to have to say that new invention is all about the creation of new market collections. The PC wasn't really new, but rather opened up a market space that to this day continues to deepen its access to the masses. The Segway has yet to be proven as to its impact into the new green markets. It is clear they’ve had some level of impact, but is it really the market creator here? CDP--as short-lived as it might have been, helped create new markets and changed the thinking within existing markets, but failed to produce a market of its own.

Interestingly, the discussion tends to change when you step out of your comfort zone--whatever that may be. For example, I think Biotech and Nanotech are full of newness, but I wonder if someone with equal understanding of those industries would have the same opinion. This medium of new social networks and tools has created a whole new market space waiting to be fully activated and proven. Yet, what new concepts and technologies are really present? Still, you can’t deny its impact and change to all of us however. 
Perhaps at the end of all of this Plato was correct and that it’s all a matter of perception.


  1. Actually I know VMware very well and they are a great example of capturing a market space. The base technology in VMware stems from LPARS in the old Main Frames and the ability to run guest os's and chip simulations from the area of Mini's. Again nothing truly new a great packaging of things we have seen before put together in a great manner.