A year of innovation

I’m actually breaking my 3 day cycle here! It’s been a year since I started to write about innovation, and I thought I’d take a few minutes to look over all the things that have happened in the last year.

I’m not going to do a round-up of all the big changes, but really to concentrate on the overall tone and feeling that I’ve seen over the last year.

Sadly, the feeling I’ve been having is one of frustration where innovation’s concerned. Put simply, I haven’t seen that many things that are that innovative inside the last year.

Sure, I’ve seen some minor things that have been interesting and food for thought, but nothing really to set the world alight.

In my specialist field of computing and technology in general, though, I’m seeing two distinct things that are interesting, if not innovative, and the consequences of these things are sure to play out over the next few months and possibly even years.

Firstly, the patent wars. Patents, as I’ve described before, are abused regularly by firms that produce a lot of goods, especially premium goods, simply because it’s there to shore up their bottom line by discouraging cheap copies.

Naturally, Apple is one of the leaders in this field, and is in the midst of several patent-related lawsuits, not all of which it actually started. They’re certainly not alone, as Samsung, HTC and plenty of other electronics firms (especially if they make mobile phones) are involved in their own disputes.

Patent rows have been with us for a while but the last couple of years – and the last year, heavily – it’s escalating, where our society is increasingly becoming litigious, meaning that the winner is the one with the deepest pockets, rather than the best ideas. For an independent person like me, this does not bode well.

The second thing of interest is a return to the late 1990s, with the rise of alternative browsers. Users from that time on the Internet will no doubt remember notices on sites like “Best viewed in Internet Explorer”, where the code had specific changes in it for the benefit of IE or Netscape Navigator, which were the two principle choices back then.

For the most part, there’s not often a great deal between the current versions of the major browsers; support for standards is much greater than back then (even though the standards are much more developed, especially with HTML5 looming), and JavaScript has become much more standardised, as opposed to its original unreliable position.

What’s particularly interesting to me is that the same development that IE received back then, to fend off Netscape, is the kind of development it’s getting now: trying to keep it relevant, and occasionally add in new ideas.

It’s also the same thing that we’re seeing from the other browsers, each of them trying to deliver the best web experience, though different browsers do have different priorities – but each is causing the others to shift and adapt to the ever changing needs, and uses, of the Internet, and as a consequence we’re getting innovation!

What the next 12 months will bring is anyone’s guess, but more of the same is a safe enough bet, I think. Maybe, though, just maybe, we’ll be surprised.

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