Where’s the innovation?

So, over the last couple of months, many large consumer electronics companies have introduced new variations on existing products.  They have made a big deal out of the announcements and even managed to scare up some press in the process.  Nintendo, Apple, HTC, Google, Sony, Microsoft and others have all made a huge deal over rather small evolutionary upgrades to existing products or introduced rather mediocre versions of existing products that’s new to that particular company.  Take Google.  They showed off Chrome.  A rather unexciting and unnecessary browser.  It garnered alot of press and some favorable reviews-though I’m not sure why.  It grabbed 3% of the browser ‘share’ right away.  Today, though, it’s down to under a percent. I guess people figured out it was shiny but it’s beauty was only skin deep.

Apple showed off new Macbooks this week.  Instead of announcing something revolutionary, they showed off something evolutionary.  In fact, the notebooks were so exciting that they had to show how the CASES were made.  Seriously.  They were proud of the aluminum extrusion and the fact they are just damn thin. Oh, there was that nVidia thing.  They left out the fact that they REMOVED things like the Firewire port on all but the most expensive model.  But, hey, those things are really thin.

Then there’s Nintendo.  Now, I’m a big fan of Nintendo, but, seriously, what the hell?  They announced the DSi, a new version of the DS Lite. The DS Lite is probably the best handheld console ever conceived.  It’s nice looking, does not look like a toy, does pretty much anything you want from playing games to Skype to playing back videos.  The DSi is a DS Lite with slightly bigger screens, slightly thinner case (what’s up with this thin thing anyway?) and not one, but two, cameras.  Yep, cameras.  Wow.  Talk about innovation.  The good things they did was give the device some internal memory, built in web browser and improved wifi.  They did away with the GBA port, though.  Innovative?  No.  The software, however, may prove differently.

Sony announces small incremental updates to PSP and still talks about ‘HOME’ for PS3 but’s that’s it. Microsoft revamps the user interface experience for XBOX 360 and talks alot about ‘cloud’ computing, but have yet to show anything truly innovative.  Then there’s HTC.  The G1 smartphone was shown off.  It’s rather unspectacular yet got alot of attention. Why? It’s operating system is ‘Android’.  Android is a Google product-something they bought and are now giving away.  There’s nothing really unique about it.  It’s an operating system that’s been deployed in a rather vanilla phone.  IF the infrastructure that they are talking about actually comes to fruition, it MIGHT give Apple a run for the money.  Still, it’s a big yawn.

So far, this year’s tech releases and announcements have been rather unexciting.  For me, the most exciting thing to hit the market has been the Zune 3 software updates.  While good, it is not saying much overall.  I’m sure there are some out there would point to iPhone 3g.  Again, that was only an incremental update to an existing product.  Nothing innovative about it.  In fact, the only piece of hardware that I can honestly say that I would go buy is not even on the market.  What would that be?  Well, I want a Surface computer.  It’s the most innovative thing I’ve not seen.  Yes, one could argue that it’s nothing more than a collection of things that have already been out.  True enough.  What makes it unique and innovative is how it is all tied together.  The underlying software is the real magic.  It, more than anything else, could put the keyboard-mouse-menu system that we take for granted today in the dead technology graveyard.  It is the most serious threat to Windows yet.  And it’s from Microsoft.  Linux is not going to kill Windows and neither is Apple’s Mac OS.  Things like Surface will. 

So, have I missed something?  What product announcement was more than just an update to an existing product?  I can’t think of anything.  Is innovation dead? Where’s my briefcase car and Rosey the Robot? Those would be cool.  Those would be innovative.  I’m George Jetson and I approved this post.

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