On walkabout in life and technology

Can't Innovate Anymore, My Ass

Over the past few days I have seen so many references to the Quartz post 2013 was a lost year for tech that it has become a meme. “Innovation is dead”, “2013 proves it”, “RIP Innovation”, it screams.


2013 was a great year for innovation in the tech space.

in·no·vate /ˈinəˌvāt/ verb
1. make changes in something established, esp. by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.

Remember, innovation is not about creating something completely new (that’s invention), it is about making changes to established products that significantly improve their abilities or experience. And we got that in spades in 2013.

Innovative Hardware

Apple continued it’s well known strategy of continuous innovation across its product line. The new iPad Air is the iPad they have been trying to make since they released the original one: thin, light, fast, with mind bending battery life. The design and concept of the new Mac Pro is insane, a small portable powerhouse, the first true computer built around Open CL. And the iPhone went 64-bit, so we now have a portable computer in our hands more powerful than all the computers on all the Space Shuttles combined.

Intel leaped forward with its Haswell line of CPUs. This innovative design provided us for the first time in 2013 with the ability to run for more than 10 hours on our laptops without recharging, and without penalizing speed or core count.

Even Microsoft innovated, it took the seriously limited Surface tablet concept of 2012 and made one that may look the same on the outside, but actually works this time, the Surface Pro 2. And their new Xbox One platform wipes the floor with their previous platform as evidenced by first day sales.

Even beleaguered RIM, er Blackberry Ltd, innovated by finally releasing the QNX based Blackberry 10, the next generation Blackberry. And it really is a good one.

Google let its innovation leak out of the labs with Google Glass on the developer program. No innovation, my ass, even SNL had a sketch on it.

And lets not forget the sensational Pebble Watch or the magnificent innovative Leap Motion.

Innovative Software

Since I use Macs and iOS all day at work and at home, I am really only exposed to innovations in Apple ecosystem software, so I’ll point some out here. Would love to know what innovations happened in other platform software too.

Apple release not one but two innovative Operating Systems this year, Mavericks and iOS 7. Mavericks may be the best release of OS X yet, with its innovative power saving techniques, interactive notifications, ability to send maps to your iPhone and they finally figured out how to handle multiple monitors on Macs. iOS 7 is also a remarkably innovative release, not because of the new look or its innovative ability to make folks queasy, but because it is the first 64-bit mobile operating system, and it uses the antennae in such a way as to maximize connection and minimize battery.

And in apps, just to name the first few that come to mind:

  • Marked 2 came out. It used to be a visualizer for Markdown documents, now it’s a publishing ecosystem.
  • Acorn 4 turned the old Acorn on its head and is the best Photoshop alternative out there.
  • Kaleidoscope 2 was released with innovative image diffing. Who did that before?
  • Napkin changed the way we annotate screenshots with its innovative zoom bubbles.
  • Omnigraffle 6 proved that you can innovate on perfection.
  • Ulysses III’s innovations turned the text editor on its head.

And lets not forget all those developers who took the opportunity when updating their applications for Mavericks or iOS 7 to add innovative features instead of just re-skinning.

“Can’t innovate anymore, my ass”.

When Apple’s Phil Schiller said that on stage at WWDC, he was taking a poke at the tech press and the memes that scream innovation is dead. The only place innovation is truly dead is where they have published its obituary.

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