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March 10, 2005

Innovation Stays Home

Posted in: Technology

Commodore Media HubIn a recent Fortune article on Apple, you’ll find a great quote:

Your typical corporate CIO must be wondering, “Why aren’t there some nice new exciting applications for me?” Nothing has really changed in his world, while on the consumer side there’s all this cool new stuff like iTunes and the iPod and iPhoto and iMovie. That’s where the real innovation is now, and Apple is driving it.
— Bill Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems (full text)

For a while, I’ve found my research interests skewing increasingly towards ideas that were first seen in the home and other non-business domains (blogs, instant messaging, open source, online games, etc.). What Joy seems to be saying, though, is that something bigger than personal interest is at work: innovation in computing has fundamentally shifted focus from business to the home. (Fast-follower that he is, Bill Gates picked up the thread today and, as usual, talks like he originated it.)

This has at least two implications for business-facing research (BFR). First, it can no longer be assumed that such research is leading the way. The innovation going on in the home must be taken seriously and tracked closely. In general, BFR pays some lip service to these developments but is quite dismissive when the mics are off. Secondly, corporate labs need to be on the lookout for thoughtful ways to apply the innovation seen in the home to business. This is more than just looking for opportunities to make a buck with home technologies but fundamentally rethinking how innovation happens. The degree to which this somewhat humbling perspective shift takes hold will have significant impact on the bottom lines of tomorrow.

image from the future found at commodore.ca

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