Thursday, May 28, 2009

Do not Confuse Innovation with Technology Harvesting

Innovation is an interesting process. However care should be taken to not confuse true product innovation with vendor strategies designed to harvest more return out of already sunken investment dollars and increase the productive life of an aging technology. Don’t get me wrong, product mid life kickers are legitimate but they tend to be band-aids that attempt to cover the unwelcome baggage associated with the shortcomings and limitations of the older, underlying technology.

Having been involved in product development for many years I have also witnessed the myopic thought processes that guide solution development. Short term perspectives that focus on today's near term problems without giving appropriate consideration to enabling the flexibility necessary to meet the yet unrecognized challenges of tomorrow may reflect a marketing failure but in many cases it reflects a corporate driven design compromise to enable the use of existing technologies.

These rear view mirror perspectives are how I describe the notion of “Running backwards into the future”

Established vendors have a legacy, they have revenue generating product lines that they protect by a continual upgrade process and this creates a business challenge when looking to introduce new technologies. This desire to protect existing investments and revenue streams drives the propensity of the market place incumbents to compromise and adapt solution development to fit existing technology.

An interesting evolution obvious in some recent product introductions has been the use of standard commodity components. The motivation being the belief that technological evolution can be exploited more rapidly and that solutions based on these components can evolve at a pace that tends to be significantly faster than systems based on custom silicon. Exploiting the use of high volume commodity components that enjoy the benefits of the cost containing commodity curve, not only helps to keep cost lower but avoids the heavy investment commitment associated with custom silicon.

Developing dedicated silicon has advantages and no doubt will continue in many high-end solutions but the inertia and cost associated with the development of custom silicon found in proprietary solutions mean that they do not adapt or evolve as quickly as those based on standard and commodity components

The arguement is compelling in favor of exploiting commodity components in terms of cost and speed of implementing technology refresh and I predict will become more the rule than the exception.