Skip to main content
Sliding Around the Curve

Has the downturn fatally affected the IT industry's ability to innovate? Have we seen the last disruptive technology?

It might not be your normal choice of polite dinner conversation but this wasn’t a normal dinner. This was a small private dining room at Mossiman’s in Belgravia and Sun Microsystems’s Charles Andrews, Director of Product and Technology Solutions and Greg Stroud, Vice President of the UK Global Sales Operation had invited a handful of guests and Richard Holway of Ovum to think out-loud around the dinner table.

If we think the IT industry is in recession now, then wait until next year, because Ovum’s Holway believes it will become worse in 2003. There was a kind of inevitability about this he said, after all, IT has been growing at 4*GDP and by 2050, it would equal the domestic product and so we need to prepare ourselves for modest annual sector growth of around 2 ½ % in future.

This is not good news for those of us working in the industry. Business failures are up by 26% and average salaries are dropping by as much as 15%. In fact, said Holway and with a large pool of people now looking for jobs, many companies might actually reduce their workforce at considerable discount.

But the subject under discussion wasn’t so much the impact of recession but the apparent slowdown in innovation. My own view is that the IT industry made a series of large and rapid evolutionary steps with in a relatively short timeframe and these represent the foundations of an infrastructure that we can’t easily move away from, the Windows Operating System being one example of the ‘cabling’ that like GSM holds our society together. The future, I believe, is a series of small conceptual changes which have large evolutionary results and an example of this could be the development of both Grid and Peer to Peer (P2P) computing, which builds upon, rather than replaces the environment that surrounds us today through the introduction of processor sharing and Web Services.

Sun’s Greg Stroud agreed that technology has to be more invisible and the company is still committed to the idea of Network Computing, moving the complexity away from the client in sharp contrast with the Microsoft view of the world.

I don’t think Stroud is wrong but I don’t think he’s entirely right either. My own argument is that innovation may be driven or in fact demanded by the consumer. As device types, like the Blackberry or the iPaq, become increasingly functional and connected, then the fatness or thinness of the client will be a functional compromise between, say a mobile phone with an on-board camera and a PDA with an on-board digital camera, Bluetooth, a GPRS phone, and pocket Word and so on.

Companies such as Sun or indeed, Microsoft, can only innovate within a space of their own making and inside a building which grow constantly upwards and outwards over time. When it comes to “Staying ahead of the curve”, any technology company has know where it sits on that curve and with the industry under a dark cloud of recession, innovation may seem an expensive luxury and the best Christmas gift has to be a crystal ball.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Christmas Tale

It’s pitch blackness in places along the sea wall this evening and I'm momentarily startled by a small dog with orange flashing yuletide antlers along the way. I’m the only person crazy enough to be running and I know the route well enough to negotiate it in the dark, part of my Christmas exercise regime and a good way of relieving stress.

Why stress you might ask. After all, it is Christmas Day.

True but I’ve just spent over two hours assembling the giant Playmobil ‘Pony Farm’ set when most other fathers should be asleep in front of the television.



I was warned that the Playmobil ‘Pirate Ship’ had driven some fathers to drink or suicide and now I understand why. If your eyesight isn’t perfect or if you’ve had a few drinks with your Christmas lunch then it’s a challenge best left until Boxing day but not an option if you happen to have a nine year old daughter who wants it ready to take horses by tea time.

Perhaps I should stick to technology but then, the instruc…

A Matter of Drones - Simon Moores for The Guardian

I have a drone on my airfield” – a statement that welcomes passengers to the latest dimension in air-travel disruption. Words of despair from the chief operating officer of Gatwick airport in the busiest travel week of the year. Elsewhere, many thousands of stranded and inconvenienced passengers turned in frustration to social media in an expression of crowd-sourced outrage.

How could this happen? Why is it still happening over 12 hours after Gatwick’s runways were closed to aircraft, why is an intruder drone – or even two of them – suspended in the bright blue sky above the airport, apparently visible to security staff and police who remain quite unable to locate its source of radio control?

Meanwhile, the UK Civil Aviation Authority, overtaken by both the technology and events, is reduced to sending out desperate tweets warning that an airport incursion is a criminal offence and that drone users should follow their new code of conduct. Yet this is not an unforeseen event. It was i…

An Ockham of Gatwick

The 13th century theologian and philosopher, William of Ockham, who once lived in his small Surrey village, not so very far from what is today, the wide concrete expanse of Gatwick airport is a frequently referenced source of intellectual reason. His contribution to modern culture was Ockham’s Razor, which cautions us when problem solving, that “The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct;” sound advice which constantly proves to be true.

A week further-on since Britain’s second busiest airport was bought to a complete standstill by two or perhaps two hundred different drone sightings, it is perhaps time to revisit William of Ockham’s maxim, rather than be led astray by an increasingly bizarre narrative, one which has led Surrey police up several blind alleys with little or nothing in the way of measurable results.

 Exploring the possibilities with a little help in reasoning from our medieval friar, we appear to have a choice of two different account…