Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Crawling Only on One Branch

By Chandra Challagonda

We proudly say that we are living in a world of high mobility. However, during one of my intercontinental flights I started to wonder why don't we have WiFi and mobile connections generally available on flights? Then it didn't take much time for me to realize we don't even have power sources for passengers on most the flights… It’s been 130 years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone but the concept has since remained the same, although technology behind it has changed and new features have been added. The telephone became wireless and now it even includes much of the computing power too. We have seen a lot of open hardware and software concepts in this area developing faster than any other industry. But the whole communication world is revolving around the wireless phones.

All said and done, it is all great and we have done good progress, but are we directing the innovations in a limited way? The communication world of innovation power and energy is focused on the telephone. No one, so far, has really focused efforts to bring the kind of the innovations which were done in the 19th and 20th century. Such as the major leaps like inventing electricity, combustion engines or the telephone. All we are doing is making existing innovations more efficient, trying to squeeze more from existing technology, increase profitability and push down the costs for development, production, licenses and components. But I think that this telephone's innovation branch is so exhausted that it cannot take many more features, although improvements and efficiencies are still possible. Is this the reason why mobile connectivity is not pervasive on flights?

Could it be the reason of cost? Are we caught in a classic Innovators Dilemma? These days we value technology and innovation that can be afforded by the masses. So are new technologies only thought of if we can see large imminent volumes?

I think that we have been proceeding long enough on this branch and we need something new, like some inventions which came to life during the 19th or 20th century. If Alexander Graham Bell had thought about only money then I am sure he wouldn't have invented the telephone, he would have invented sugar syrups. Let's think really hard, not focusing on volumes or cost, and we may come up with a real discontinuous innovation that will give a new branch to the tree! That is what we need. And I am thinking hard about it already, are you ?

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