What is it about “Innovation”

Microsoft constantly claims that any attempt to restrict (whatever it wants to do) will somehow “reduce innovation”. I’m hard pressed to remember any actual innovation that Microsoft have actually released. (The excellent Photosynthesis tech demo is indeed innovative but it’s not yet ready for market.)

Likewise I hear the big four record companies talking about “innovative ways to distribute digital media” when they mean Digital Rights Management destroying the features we already enjoy with their product – like being able to move it from device to device, computer to computer without having to remember to de-authorize one computer before starting on the next.)

Disney are “innovating” on MySpace by making a cosy little non-space that’s designed to please parents but has nothing going for it compared to the real Internet. If parents are worried about what their kids are doing on the Internet they should be parents and manage it, not rely on some walled garden that tries to isolate itself from the rest of the Internet: isolates itself from what makes the Internet actually useful.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that “innovation” a really a code word for “we haven’t got a clue”. Another example is the Telecommunications companies who are “innovating” with IPTV by creating a poor copy (less choice, more lag time between channels, expensive infrastructure) of a cable system.

I’ve got news for them all: innovation means doing something new, different, unexpected, evolutionary, revolutionary. Triple-play telco bundling is not innovative. Doing a limited version of cable TV on IP protocols is imitation not innovation. What would be innovative is something that gave more choice, was easier to find programming you were interested in, wasn’t limited to a “broadcaster’s” schedule and wasn’t controlled by some channel or network gatekeeper.

That would be innovation. If it fails, better to fail at trying something new than the inevitable failure of poor quality imitation on an infrastructure totally unsuited for the purpose… I’m looking at you ATT Uverse and Verizon. High speed, high bandwidth symmetrical broadband is useful and will power the real innovation that’s coming in television delivery. But that’s not what the telcos are about.

They’re about imitation and convince themselves it’s innovation. How deluded do you have to be to work there?