The term ‘innovation’ has become somewhat tainted as of late. While it used to mean coming out with something revolutionary and eye opening, it’s now used in irony by cynical industry watchdogs.
It wasn’t always like this; the technology industry used to be constantly changing. We saw monitors and TVs shrink exponentially in width in a matter of years. The unveiling of the original iPhone drove consumers crazy.
However, these consumers are not the ones lining up at midnight to pick up the latest iteration in Apple’s long list of products. This is a controlled craziness, a craziness orchestrated by Apple’s meticulous marketing techniques and cult-like appeal to tech-savvy geeks.
The problem with the technology industry today is that consumers aren’t seeing or feeling change. The introduction of the DVD for example, represented a tactile and visual change, a change the average consumer could appreciate. A change that mattered. The average consumer doesn’t care if X piece of technology has an i3, i5, i7 processor or if a processor has Hyper-Threading; I mean, what does that even mean?
Making your device slightly slimmer and snappier doesn’t matter any more. It’s a case of diminishing marginal returns and is not change that consumers can rally behind or get excited for. Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo and all the familiar suspects need to understand that if their RnD department is focusing on making a product thinner, lighter and more powerful, it’s barking up completely the wrong tree. Only the heavy hitters like Apple and Microsoft can get away with that and even they are receiving scathing criticism as of late.
Innovation in the technology industry stems from two core concepts; providing a product that consumers need and providing a product consumers don’t know they need. However, innovation in capitalism is a two-way street. It doesn’t just stem from consumer need, it also stems from the need of corporations to remain competitive and survive.
It hasn’t suddenly become more difficult to innovate; consumer needs will always exist, they just haven’t been revealed yet. Rather, the industry has become so entrenched with familiar corporations that there is no longer the need to innovate to be competitive.
The solution? We need an upstart company to come out of nowhere to rattle their cages, to provide goods or services that consumers need but haven’t realised until now. That, or industry underdogs will attempt to seize more market share and cause a tussle.
Until then, all we can do is vote with our wallet.