Last week in Hamburg, Germany, I had the pleasure of lunching with a SPIEGEL editor in the iconic news magazine's iconic canteen, or "Spiegelkantine," as the Germans call it. The extravagance of the interior design (created by Danish designer Verner Panton, who worked with Arne Jacobson, in the 70s) -- a lavish, ultra-red cave with highly disruptive stalactites hanging from the ceiling -- is reminiscent of "Clockwork Orange" and so ostentatiously out of line with the earnest, purist, social democratic SPIEGEL culture that it appears to be almost deliberately cynical -- and that again is … Read more
A cable-car-like ropeway that transports goods uphill. A charcoal-crushing machine made from carbonized corn cobs. A low-cost incubator that could be used to nurture premature babies in remote villages.
These are just a few of the gadgets that emerged from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology summer design workshop aimed at finding cheap, simple solutions to problems in the developing world. More than 50 innovators from some 20 countries on 5 continents gathered on MIT's campus for the monthlong International Development Design Summit, which wrapped up Friday.
Oswin Chibinga, a professor of agriculture at the University of Zambia, was part of a team designing a method for charging batteries while pumping water with a treadle pump, a simple irrigation device widely used in many developing countries.
When you think of browser innovation, admit it: You don't think of Internet Explorer. Netscape originally took the wheel of browser innovation, and its descendant, Mozilla's Firefox, is at the innovation wheel again, this time with two very different (and exciting) products:
Snowl, a unified messaging/browsing experience, and the second is Aurora, the next-generation Firefox browser that we, the people, will define and build at Mozilla's request.
Indeed, it's this latter innovation - true community feedback on what can and should be in the browser, and then the development process to deliver it - that … Read more
Samsung held a holiday showcase Wednesday at a San Francisco studio. Typically, these things are reserved for our lucky New York City colleagues, so we were very happy to see Samsung grace us with such an event. The holiday decorations were also welcome, considering they matched the frigid San Francisco summer weather outside.
For the most part the cell phone news was nil, but we did spy a couple of previously announced handsets that we had yet to see in the flesh. One was the Samsung Innov8, aka the SGH-i8510, which the company announced almost two weeks ago. The loaded … Read more
Microsoft's research-and-development spending hit a record high in 2008, according to its most recent annual report. At the same time, the company's R&D spending relative to employee head count has gone down.
Not that it matters. For all Microsoft's spending on the future, it continues to focus its business on guarding the past. Yes, it builds cool (but useful?) things like the Sphere, but when was the last time you saw Office or Windows significantly improved by that R&D spending?
In Microsoft's defense, perhaps we've tapped out the desktop software metaphor, … Read more
In reading through Microsoft's annual report, I am struck by how far the company has come in appreciating the threat that open source brings to Redmond.
I'm also shocked by just how ill-informed the company continues to be with regard to open source as a business strategy. CEO Steve Ballmer has revealed this before in his quips, such as open source "doesn't pay the bills in this company." But here Microsoft has managed to enshrine its ignorance in a public document:
Our business model has been based upon customers paying a fee to license software … Read more
John F. Duffy, a professor of Law at The George Washington University Law School, recently wrote that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has increasingly taken stands on patents that "will invalidate many and perhaps most software patents." If only.
Duffy worries that "the PTO's new interpretation of patentable subject matter provides a clear avenue to reject patent applications and to invalid issued patents on all such innovations without regard to how meritorious or creative the innovation is," but he both overstates his case and understates just how important it would be for the … Read more
With a 10-megapixel cell phone in its handset lineup, Samsung is no stranger to high-end camera phones. But as if to prove that it really means business, today the company announced a new 8-megapixel shooter.
Called the Innov8 (the what?), it promises a full set of camera features to keep shutterbugs happy. Inside you'll find an auto-panorama mode; a bright flash; smile, blink, and face detection; wide dynamic range capturing abilities; and a video recorder that captures clips at 30 frames per second.
Beyond snapping shots, it also has an FM radio, Wi-Fi, a large display with an accelerometer, … Read more
Chris Blizzard of Mozilla gives a great interview to der Standard in which he highlights how Firefox is increasingly pushing the envelope on browser innovation. If you've taken a look at Mozilla Labs lately, you'll understand what he means.
While Mozilla may not have innovated everything in the browser wars (e.g., tabbed browsing, which arguably came from Opera), it is responsible for driving these innovations onto more than 150 million desktops worldwide.
The most salient point for me is that Firefox is gaining market share because it is better, not because it's open source. Firefox, then, … Read more
I think there's a lot of truth in Linus Torvald's derisive comment about innovation, and the software industry's fetish with it.
I think that "innovation" is a four-letter word in the industry. It should never be used in polite company. It's become a PR thing to sell new versions with.
It was Edison who said "1% inspiration, 99% perspiration". That may have been true a hundred years ago. These days it's "0.01% inspiration, 99.99% perspiration", and the inspiration is the easy part. As a project manager, I have never had trouble finding people with crazy ideas. I have trouble finding people who can execute. IOW, "innovation" is way oversold. And it sure as hell shouldn't be applied to products like MS Word or Open office.
Amen. Looking around the industry, there's very little "innovation" going on. The iPhone's interface? Sure. Vista (or, for that matter, Apple's Leopard)? Nah.
These are incremental technology advances backed by good execution. Microsoft isn't Microsoft because it makes "innovative" technology. It's Microsoft because it tends to keep the trains running on time.… Read more