Five Tech Firms’ Tales writes about 5 tech companies at the crossroads – Netflix, PalmSource, Research In Motion, TiVo and Vonage.

Each sells a product or service considered brilliant. Each has drawn raves from consumers. “The test of an elegant and innovative idea is when you hear it and it makes you want to dope-slap yourself on the side of the head and say, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?'” said Paul Saffo, a director of the Institute for the Future.

But that’s not always enough. For example, TiVo faces rising competition from cable providers undercutting TiVo with similar services. So it was hardly surprising when reports emerged this week that the company is considering a partnership with Netflix to download movies onto TiVo set-top video recorders.

“Competition has a tendency to drive out innovation,” said Roger Kay, an analyst with research firm IDC. “Others will try to commoditize an idea, while innovators need to charge a premium, so good ideas tend to have a short half-life.”

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.