TECH TALK: Innovation: Fostering Innovation (Part 2)
By no means is innovation in the world (or even on the Internet) done. This is a continuing process. Even now, there are many challenges in the world of computing which are there to be solved. Consider the User Interface, for example. The WIMP (Windows-Icons-Menus-Pulldowns) has been around for a long time. Not to say that its not effective: 150 million PCs are still sold every year! Will there be alternatives? You bet! Take a look at Scopeware (http://www.scopeware.com), a very different way of organizing information. Think of the people who may not be able to read or write, but can see pictures and talk. How can they interact with computers, just like the rest of us?
Instant Messaging is another area which is only now beginning to get a lot of attention from the enterprise viewpoint. There are tens of millions of users, with non-interoperable systems. Almost exactly how email was a decade or so ago. While AOL and ICQ have focused on enhancing the user experience for text-based messaging, Microsoft with its new Windows Messenger (integrated into Windows XP) is adding multimedia and document sharing capabilities. The notion of presence is another angle which can add value to newer IM systems.
The best ideas emerge out of problems that people face. Even as most will accept the status quo, someone among them refuses to accept that there is no alternative and thinks about a better way of doing it. Thus is an innovator born. Look at Google. There is little to distinguish the front-end (user interface) from any other search engine. But what went in at the back-end is an incredible amount of maths and computer science theory to create a very different experience for the user when a word or phrase is typed into the text box.
Two sources of inspiration for innovation are Games and Children. Video games have always tended to push the envelope in terms of creating fantasy worlds with graphics, intelligence and realism. Children and Teenagers tend to adapt to new technology faster as they have few pre-conceived notions. This young generation is now at the vanguard of the “Always-on” world. As ubiquitous computing take shape, new infrastructure, new software and new business models will be needed.
One also needs to think of the world outside US, Western Europe and Japan. This is a world which has only a limited exposure to the latest in computing and communications. It is hungry to make up for lost time. It may not be able to buy but it can rent. What it lacks in margin is more than made up in volume. It wants solutions – not the ones imported from the developed world, but solutions developed for the needs of its people and enterprises.
As companies today focus more on short-term survival, the need for Innovation is the greatest. It is perhaps the single most important factor to differentiate successes from failures. Innovation is just another name for Inspiration, Imagination, Opportunity and Entrepreneurship. Innovation is about Redefining Tomorrow.
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