The Ain’t Broke Test

The ‘Ain’t Broke’ Test

More and more news in tech seems to be lacking in innovation, or even reasoning. As more and more headlines fail the ‘ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ test, does this signal the end of our tech bubble?

Earlier this evening (afternoon in the U.S. I imagine), it was announced that Apple are releasing a new device, the iPad Mini, just in time for Christmas. This is a device which will rival the Nexus, from Google, and the Kindle Fire (I’m still unsure about that name) from Amazon. It enters into a semi crowded field, in that if you have an iPhone, iPad and main apple computing device of some sort (desktop or laptop), why on earth you are going to need or want one of these is beyond me. It seems to be an exercise in conspicuous superfluousness, which is an idea that is occurring to me more and more frequently reading tech news these days. The ultimate question is, with technology seemingly tilting towards proliferation and away from innovation, is the tech bubble about to burst?

Austin Carr at Fast Company wrote a great article about the floundering of Hipstamatic, an app that initially tapped in to the ‘photo-oldify-share’ spiel that has made Instagram such a success, but lost out to the aforementioned app because, well, they seemed to have gotten lost with where to take the app further to distinguish it from it’s competitors. Similarly, there was news this week that Color, an app that does the same thing with video (which hasn’t been released yet) has been snapped up by Apple for a ludicrous amount. It seems to be a cutthroat time to be an app developer now; if you’ve got a good idea, prepare for a hostile takeover. Rumour has it Color was bought not because of the potential of the app as a sharing tool, to be bolted on to the next iPhone to emulate the success of Instagram, but for some patents that Color possessed. It seems a bit much to me to buy a hair salon because you intensely covet the shampoo (forgive the metaphor) but there’s something about this rumour which is leading me down the path of thinking this end is nigh.

We’ve had Le Credit Crunch in the financial markets and it looks like we are now heading towards Le IP Crunch in technology.

Mark Piesing in the Guardian reports on some electronics metamaterial business coming out the Oxford University’s ISIS unit, which, if implemented successfully, could radically improve the recyclability of electronic components. If you didn’t know, much of the worst waste produced around the world comes from the production and crappy disposal of electronic devices, so as well as being made by children without pay (yeah we have ‘internships’ over here too, Foxconn!) or in sweatshop conditions, you’re scumming up the Earth too – I’ll let your conscience sit on that for a mo. So, why don’t we have this innovation already?

Mark Stevens, one of the senior scientists connected to the project, mentions two companies in the report – Microsoft and Samsung. The former were directly approached regarding this technology to put it in their new tablet and didn’t bite. Samsung are mentioned indirectly as a company with the power to push this science experiment through the barriers and into consumer electronics. Unless Samsung have called Dr Stevens since, they don’t seem to be biting either. Innovations that are worth developing are being left out to dry by companies who don’t want to take a chance on them, while incremental developments (or stuff that’s fine as it is, like Instagram) or items with their IP already sorted (like Color) are having money thrown at them. Thus we return to the mini iPad, a good example of duplication, not innovation, on the part of technology. In Le Financial Crunch, business who need the money aren’t receiving it (in the UK anyway) while the banks are sitting on generally safe bets (themselves) and not taking a chance lending.

Is this an unfounded comparison or do you think there’s something to it?

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