I’ve been enamored with technology for as long as I can remember. But not just any technology, technology that makes things better. Technology that identifies a problem — maybe a problem you didn’t even know you had — and solves it in a way that completely changes the game. Revolutionary technology.
Let’s take a look at three such technology products and where they came from. You’ll find the pattern very interesting.
First: the iPhone. It changed our idea of what a smartphone could be and set the new standard that every other smartphone will be measured against from now on. You can make phone calls, send text messages, check your email, surf the Web and get turn-by-turn GPS navigation all from one device – and on top of that, it’s easy to use.
Where did this revolutionary product come from? A company that had been making smartphones for years, like RIM or Palm? No. It came from Apple, a computer company that had never made a phone before.
Second: Netflix, a fantastic service where you can watch as many movies as you want for a flat rate per month with no late fees. But this idea didn’t come from Blockbuster, the movie rental giant. Instead it came from someone who paid a $40 late fee for returning Apollo 13 to the video store way past its due date.
Last but not least, TiVo. This groundbreaking product didn’t come from a television network or a cable company. It came from two guys who thought you should be able to record TV shows and watch them later and rewind live TV.
So why does this pattern exist? If you’ve been working on something for a long time, it’s easy to get stuck in your old, familiar way of thinking. Something radically different and dramatically better can only come from someone who has an outsider’s perspective. The best kind of innovation is driven by ignorance. Ignorance of what is or isn’t “possible.” In each of these examples, an outsider took a fresh look at something, figured out how to make it better and took an entirely new approach. They weren’t tied down by the way things were done before.
What industry will be shaken up next? We create as much information every two days as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003, according to Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google. Seems like the data protection industry would be ripe for the picking. Is it going to get transformed by a dinosaur like Symantec that’s been selling backup software for years? Not if history is any guide.
Charlie Tibshirani is a product manager at Axcient. His love of technology began at the age of 12 when he won a computer in a contest on the back of a Golden Grahams box.