Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses Microsoft Apple Technology

Startups a Safer Bet Than Behemoths 378

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the bahamut-better-still dept.
Former Slashdot editor ScuttleMonkey raises his voice from the great beyond to say that "TechCrunch's Vivek Wadhwa has a great article that takes a look at difference between startups and 'established' tech companies and what they each mean to the economy and innovation in general. Wadhwa examines statistics surrounding job creation and innovation and while big companies may acquire startups and prove out the business model, the risk and true innovations seems to be living at the startup level almost exclusively. 'Now let's talk about innovation. Apple is the poster child for tech innovation; it releases one groundbreaking product after another. But let's get beyond Apple. I challenge you to name another tech company that innovates like Apple—with game-changing technologies like the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad. Google certainly doesn't fit the bill—after its original search engine and ad platform, it hasn't invented anything earth shattering. Yes, Google did develop a nice email system and some mapping software, but these were incremental innovations. For that matter, what earth-shattering products have IBM, HP, Microsoft, Oracle, or Cisco produced in recent times? These companies constantly acquire startups and take advantage of their own size and distribution channels to scale up the innovations they have purchased.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Startups a Safer Bet Than Behemoths

Comments Filter:
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @11:19AM (#33251114)

    They don't innovate. They scrape the internet looking for ideas, making products that are "just different enough" to avoid existing patents, and they buy up startup companies just as you describe. Just because Apple has better press management skills doesn't mean they don't have similar business practices. Apple is not an exception -- stop dodging this just to please the fanboys.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @11:31AM (#33251218)

      I think Apple are paying for this never ending hype BS. That have a massive cult like following. I've seen Apple product since the IIe and they have not come up with anything I hadn't been able to buy before they released their version. These examples are dumb: iPod, late to the game mp3 player, didn't take off until they stopped their fixation for proprietary codecs. iTunes - appalling front end for a web-store and cruddy media management. iPhone, very late to smartphones, front end copied from N710 free media player. App store a blatent ripoff of what linux users had a decade before and pay-apps in the infamous Lindows. iPad? Eh, slates have been around for a very long time. They're all still shit at consumer level, but will likely hit the spot within the next two years, for all platforms (well, maybe not windows).

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday August 14, 2010 @11:46AM (#33251306)

      Real innovation means that their existing products no longer sell because everyone buys the innovative product.

      So why would an established company scrap their existing investment?

      What they want is something new enough to be interesting ... but not different enough to threaten their cash cows ... that supplements their existing product line.

      Apple is great at that. Look at the iPhone. New iterations of their existing product that never threatens their laptop / desktop computer segment. But can supplement it and works well with it.

      It is only the startups that don't have an existing investment to threaten that will take the real risks.

      Which is why software patents are bad. They allow the existing companies to sue the startups and limit the innovation.

      • by bondsbw (888959)

        Software patents aren't bad. Software patents in the hands of mega-corporations and patent trolls are bad.

        I'm fully convinced that the following patent rules would fix the process:

        • The enforceability of a patent should be correlated to the relative size of the infringer to the patent holder. E.g., Microsoft might get about $100 million from infringement by Apple, but only $100 from MomNPop Software.
        • Patents should be nullified unless evidence of a good faith attempted entry into the market is presented wit
    • by goombah99 (560566) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @11:48AM (#33251324)

      Explorers discover or invent things. Pioneers are early adopter to integrate and make useful these inventions. Settlers reap and create a bussiness ecosystem around the places proven by pioneers. Apple has mainly been a pioneer, and microsoft a settler. Apple did not invent the GUI or Dynamic Memory, or Switching power supplies, or Post script or the Mouse. But they did pioneer the use of those technologies. Microsoft and dell/compaq settled those. They did not invent or truly pioneer MP3 players but they did advance that sufficiently to call it their own and then they settled it. Apple did not invent unix, but they did pioneer moving it from the etherial workstation market to the consumer market and now they have settled unix in the consumer market.
      Other than their pioneering in search, Google is purely a settler in every market they occupy. Unix on devices, e-mail, documnet process, thin clients (aka "the cloud"). If you want to call google a pioneer then you have to think of it as a meta-pioneer: integration is really what they are about. But That is almost the definition of settling.

      Microsoft did pioneering work in a few areas such as windows GUI on embedded devices. You might say that was apple or palm however.

      Apple to it's credit actually does a lot of exploration you don't ever hear about. ARM processors? Power-PC processors? Firewire? Conformal Batteries? But they don't really play that angle up a lot. Lately I've been really impressed with microsoft's investment in the visualization field so maybe they are starting to innovate again.

      I also suspect that Microsoft has a shot at becoming a settler in the "cloud" field. THeir new Azure technology seems to be just what bussinesses of many different sizes are going to need to go to managed IT.

      • by Xtravar (725372)

        My work gave everyone a free copy of that book. I guess someone out there read it.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday August 14, 2010 @01:18PM (#33251874) Homepage Journal

        Apple has mainly been a pioneer

        Apple's approach seems more gentrification than pioneering.

        There were smart phones before iPhones. There were laptops before macbooks. There were all-in-one computers before iMacs. There were personal computers before the Macintosh or even the Apple II.

        It seems like they are best at moving into a neighborhood that is already occupied by the cool people (experimenters, hobbyists, tech geeks, etc) and dressing the place up in aluminum and glass and then driving the rents through the roof. Then, all the cool people have to move out because it's too expensive and the stylish yuppies moves in. That's gentrification and I think it's a pretty good metaphor for Apple's approach to the consumer tech business.

        "Pioneer"? No.

    • by strayant (789108) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @11:57AM (#33251384)
      I don't see how an iPod is "game changing" and Google Maps is an "incremental innovation." They BOTH are "incremental innovations". Music players, nay, MP3 players most certainly existed before Apple came into the game.

      Is it me, or is the Apple/Google comparison a touch off topic? Sure, they are both popular, but get to the point about the STARTUPS! Hell, I'd even request a comparison to a large company that isn't those two giants.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858)

        The iPod was game changing at the time. Apple got an exclusive agreement to use the 1.8" drives for about a year - no other players at the time could store a sizeable fraction of your music collection (5GB!) in something small enough to fit into a pocket. You had Flash players that had space for one or two albums, or players that used the bigger 2.5" drives and didn't fit into a pocket.

        Google Maps didn't do much that mapquest and others weren't already doing. And their mapping data is so full of error

        • by Ironhandx (1762146) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @01:17PM (#33251870)

          Thats not innovative or game changing, thanks dirty dealing. Locking up a tech so no one else can use it.

        • by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy@gmailSLACKWARE.com minus distro> on Saturday August 14, 2010 @03:26PM (#33252458)

          The iPod was game changing at the time. Apple got an exclusive agreement to use the 1.8" drives for about a year - no other players at the time could store a sizeable fraction of your music collection (5GB!) in something small enough to fit into a pocket. You had Flash players that had space for one or two albums, or players that used the bigger 2.5" drives and didn't fit into a pocket.

          "Holds more stuff" isn't game-changing. Unless you think that every subsequent iPod was also "game changing" because it held more stuff ?

          Heck, even the very first mp3 player (whatever it might have been) wasn't "game changing" in any meaningful sense of the word - it was just doing the same thing Sony (and others) had been doing beforehand with their Walkman products, ONLY WITH MP3s. [tvtropes.org]

    • They scrape the internet looking for ideas, making products that are "just different enough" to avoid existing patents, and they buy up startup companies just as you describe.

      So?

      Startups may have great ideas, but they typically lack any experience in industrial design, design for manufacturing, project management, manufacturing, distribution, law (especially customs and import law), marketing, retail distribution management, and customer support.

      A brilliant idea is a wonderful thing, but that's only one tin

    • No kidding (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @11:57AM (#33251390)

      You know it is BS when they trot out the iPhone. Please explain to me how the iPhone is at all innovative. It is a touchscreen smartphone. Not only had I seen those before, I'd seen lots of them. The smartphone market was well established when Apple came in. They may have done theirs better than some others, they may have presented it in a package more attractive to consumers but those are not innovations, those are good design and marketing.

      An innovative product is something that is new and different. It is something that people didn't think about before but now go "Oooo, I see a use for that." For example the microwave was an innovative product. It cooked food in a completely different way, using a different technology.

      Apple hasn't been in to innovation much at all these days, but the iPhone is the worst example of all. It is their least innovative product, and an example of them going in to a well established market. None of that means it isn't a good product, or a popular one, but you need to separate those from innovative. After all, LCD TVs are an incredibly popular product these days, but certainly aren't innovative, we've had LCDs around for decades.

      Unfortunately I think too many Apple fans drink the marketing kool-aid and think that everything Apple does is "innovative". They feel like that matters, for some reason, that somehow it isn't ok to but a product just because it is good and you like it.

      • Oh puh-leeze. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jamrock (863246)

        You know it is BS when they trot out the iPhone. Please explain to me how the iPhone is at all innovative. It is a touchscreen smartphone. Not only had I seen those before, I'd seen lots of them. The smartphone market was well established when Apple came in.

        "Well established"? Smartphones were a niche market before the iPhone, and only exploded in popularity (and continue to grow dramatically) after the iPhone was introduced in 2007. Windows Mobile was far and away the largest smartphone platform; where i

    • by Jesus_666 (702802)
      Apple is like 4chan: Neither innovates much on their own but both are where ideas go to become famous. 4chan does it through its massive userbase and Apple through polish and an excellent marketing department.
    • "They don't innovate. They scrape the internet looking for ideas, making products that are "just different enough" to avoid existing patents, and they buy up startup companies just as you describe. Just because Apple has better press management skills doesn't mean they don't have similar business practices. Apple is not an exception -- stop dodging this just to please the fanboys."

      Windows Mobile was on the market for how long? Why the fuck did it take so long to get a decent phone interface? You can bitc
      • It really depresses me that Apple user interfaces are perceived as good. I've given up filing user interface bugs with Apple now - they've only fixed half of the ones that I filed on the third generation iPod back in 2004/5. Any new Apple product has so many user interface defects that anyone with the slightest clue about HCI can easily draw up a long list of things that are wrong with it.

        Apple's only redeeming feature is that the competition is a lot worse. Somehow though, 'Apple: We suck less than eve

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Isn't that what innovation is? You take an existing idea, see how it falls short with regards to demand and functionality, and improve upon it. Voila! Innovation! Often, this innovation is simply taking a smattering of smaller, disassociated innovations and turning it into a Finished Product.

      Seriously, though. This article is a bunch of nonsense. Not only was I able to think of innovation within several large tech corporations, but I was able to think of some within their "do not innovate" list:

      * Intel and

    • by eulernet (1132389)

      Also, the article has a wrong premise: Apple is not a software company !!!

      How can you compare Apple and Google ?
      Apple is entirely about hardware and PR (and they don't care about the software).
      Google is entirely about software and bandwidth.

      I have the feeling that Steve Jobs doesn't respect developers, but instead hardware designers.

  • Wait... Apple is a "tech innovator"? BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Wrong. Apple uses last gen (or barely current gen) tech in their devices, and trots them out in shiny packages with pretty UIs. Sorry, epic fail.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      "...and trots them out in shiny packages with pretty UIs."

      I think you meant well-built packages and user-friendly UIs.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @11:36AM (#33251254)

      Agreed.

      If you think that the iPad is a groundbreaking innovation and (for example) Google Docs is not, you're seriously biased. Both are "incremental innovations". Tablets have been around for a long time, and so have office suites. While Google did improve some things, like collaborative editing, Apple did just improve the UI without adding any remarkable technical features.

      The term "technical" is far to often used for things that are clearly not technical (like UIs), just because they are used on electronic devices like phones and computers.

      PS: I'm not a Google fanboi (i don't use it at all), I just used it as a comparison.

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)

      Wait, so to be an innovator, you can't focus on design aesthetics, battery life, and other practical concerns? If its not bleeding edge, its not innovative?

      Maybe you need to get your head out of your ass and realize that "innovation" != Ghz.

      • The article was specifically talking about "tech" innovations, which doesn't include things like aesthetics, battery life (unless it's a new kind of battery altogether), or other practical concerns.

        Since Apple doesn't actually make any hardware, I'm at loss as to how anyone could call them a tech innovator.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Except they completely change the paradigm of how people actually consume products. Apple brought MP3 players to the masses, multitouch to the masses, modern smartphones + mobile apps to the masses, etc. There are clear before and after effects. If you think innovation is purely in an algorithm, you're a moron that clearly has never tried to actually productionize anything.

  • VMWare (Score:5, Informative)

    by ta bu shi da yu (687699) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @11:21AM (#33251132) Homepage

    "I challenge you to name another tech company that innovates like Apple--with game-changing technologies like the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad."

    VMWare. It's owned 80% by EMC, which is a behomoth and totally innovation free. Yet VMWare puts out a lot of very innovative products.

  • by TheSunborn (68004) <tiller AT daimi DOT au DOT dk> on Saturday August 14, 2010 @11:23AM (#33251144)

    Google made Wave* and GWT which are both quite innovative solutions.

    *And then dropped it again.

  • Dismissing Google? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rotide (1015173) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @11:24AM (#33251158)
    Google has quite a few features I use a lot that noone else offers. Google Docs for things I like to keep location neutral while still having full create and edit abilities while not downloading anything. Google Voice to keep my phone number portable along with all its other features. Android running on my as well as millions of other smartphones. etc. Google doesn't innovate? Sounds like selective memory with a bias towards Apple to me. About par for a Slashdot submission as of late.
    • by Z8 (1602647)

      Yep, there's also Google desktop, and Chrome. (And if you count dropped products, Wave. Although that was probably "too innovative" to be successful.)

      Also, it's not like Google search was finished 5-10 years ago. Improving search (or even keeping it from deteriorating) requires tons of innovations (e.g. MapReduce). Doing anything at Google's scale makes innovation a necessity behind the scenes. They've also added new search features like Google scholar which I use a lot.

    • by jalfrock (982820) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @01:40PM (#33251962)

      You're just reinforcing his point.

      Google Docs was born as Writely and then bought by Google.
      Google Voice was born as Grandcentral and then bought by Google.
      Android was born as Android and then bought by Google in 2005 (and never mind that Intel and Nokia were experimenting with Linux-based phones too).

    • The one that got me was "some mapping software" (Mashups are game-changing for anyone dealing with physical tracking of anything....you know, like all the commerce in the real world?

      Not to mention the multiple innovations in dealing with and indexing obscene amounts of data in the back end. mSQL just isn't going to cut it, you know? That's impressed me beyond words: The back end has radically changed and it just keeps working.

      The redundancy and failover are stunning and I don't think you get tha

  • Double standard (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ICLKennyG (899257) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @11:24AM (#33251162)
    Oh you mean how apple buys up startups to produce their products or how the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad were really just incremental innovations of other services and products that people were already offering?! Yea, I agree. Apple is the greatest tech company, but lets be honest; they are more polisher than innovator.

    For those of you who are new to the tubes, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creative_Nomad [wikipedia.org], http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PressPlay [wikipedia.org], http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smartphone [wikipedia.org], http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tablet_pc [wikipedia.org]
    Yes, Apple's products did improve upon all these ideas, but they weren't earth shattering. They just used Apple's "size and distribution channels to scale up the innovations" and bring it to the masses.
    • the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad were really just incremental innovations of other services and products that people were already offering?!

      I'm no Apple Fanboi, but I think it's fair to track the iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad paritally back to the Newton. Of all the really old tech, I think they resemble that more than anything else from the early 90's. Was there any other predecessor to the Newton that made it to general-consumer mass production?

      • by Dahamma (304068)

        It definitely tracks back to the Newton. But it wasn't Apple innovating on it - it was ex-Apple employees at Pixo (which Apple bought, resulting in the iPod and iPhone).

    • Apple never claimed to have invented digital music players and in fact the purpose of the iPod was the create a usable nice looking digital music player which is what they did. The iPod wasn't great but compared to the butt ugly Nomad it was awsome.

      Apple innovates in design and interfaces and those things are just as important as anything else.
    • by Jesus_666 (702802)
      The Nomad wasn't the great innovation, the Rio PMP300 was. Well, actually some obscure device form Korea was but the Rio 300 was the first MP3 player people actually heard about.
    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SoundJam_MP [wikipedia.org] iTunes was not an apple innovation either...
  • Apple is over 30 now. Of the four examples given in the OP only one might qualify as real innovation.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @11:32AM (#33251222)

    I'm an angel investor, so I can talk fairly competently on this subject.

    Let's compare a well known behemoth (IBM) with a well known start-up (Twitter).

    If I invest in IBM, I'm guaranteed a healthy return. Barring any major disaster, IBM will consistently return a profit on what I invest.

    If I invest in Twitter, I'm not guaranteed a healthy return. My returns may be enormously higher than investing in IBM if the company is successful, and I might lose my entire investment if the company goes bankrupt.

    This actually has some real world ramifications for me. The majority of my money is stored away in Corporate Bonds for major companies, because I know that I have a very low probability of losing the money and a very high probability of seeing at least a two to three percent return on my money every year. That's what makes behemoths a safer bet than start-ups. I only give about 15% of my assets towards start-ups at any time, because for the most part, I will break even in what I invest or lose about five to six percent of my investments.

    I angel invest in companies for the fun and excitement of creating something, not because I want to make money.

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @01:13PM (#33251842) Journal
      Exactly. If you look at companies that were startups a few years ago, then you will see a lot of innovation. You will not see the large number that went bankrupt in the intervening period. Survivor bias.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcrbids (148650)

      I angel invest in companies for the fun and excitement of creating something, not because I want to make money.

      And this, perhaps, is why you aren't making any money at it. See, when your neck is on the line, you'll do more to perform!

      I am CTO of a small, rapidly growing company experiencing at least 100% growth this year. While we did have some private cash up front, it was a fairly small amount (less than $100k), otherwise our growth has been organic. And because we all eat from whatever our company makes,

  • Their main innovation is in the marketing department. Really. That and "prettifying" existing tecnologies so that your average consumer won't think it's a nasty technical thing that they won't understand. Now, while that does have some value - especially to their stock price, it's not exactly pushing the boundaries of technology.

    It's not even valid to compare the number of patents a company takes out, as a measure of it's innovative measure, since everyone is patenting everything as a marketing ploy to st

  • IBM??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ken Hall (40554) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @11:36AM (#33251246)

    IBM innovates more than just about anyone, but most of it is behind the scenes. How about GMR disk technology, for one? Before that, a terrabyte took up a whole room. Now it sits in your hand. Never mind a lot of memory and CPU tech. Problem with IBM is, since it's the biggest of the behemoths, it can be hard to look below the layers of marketing and management to see the cool stuff going on. The startups get a lot of press because they're trying to be seen. That raises capital. The bigger companies with established capital keep their innovations close to the vest till they're ready to exploit. That way, even if they have to share them with others, they still have a bit of a head start.

    • This. IBM has felt the wrath of the government before. It's in their best interests to lay low and keep pumping out cool technology without a lot of fanfare. Speak softly and carry a big stick.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ScrewMaster (602015)

        Speak softly and carry a big stick.

        That stick having a massive patent portfolio on one end, and the Nazgul on the other.

    • Another problem (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @12:04PM (#33251434)

      Is that innovation is often something that you can't see, because it applies to early tech. It happens behind the scenes, and you don't see the results for many years. For example is a scientist invents a process for using carbon nanotubes to produce sub 11nm processors right now, engineers won't be able to develop that in to a workable fab solution for probably a half a decade or more. Then once it is workable, it will take time to design a CPU using it, and build fabs to produce it. By the time yo have the 11nm CPU in your home, the technology is 10 years old.

      Also it doesn't seem innovative on the surface. "Oh look, someone made a faster CPU, because that hasn't happened for the past 40 years." You don't see the massive innovation behind that faster CPU.

      Consumer products are not on the cutting edge usually because you don't want cutting edge. The cutting edge is expensive, and riddled with problems because it is new. You want tech that has been developed and tested, that is easy and stable to use and can be purchased cheaply. Nothing at all wrong with that, it just means that you rarely see an innovative consumer device.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      I'd say the output from T J Watson includes more innovation than Apple and Google combined, and that's just one of IBM's research centres. Microsoft Research also does a lot of innovative work, but the company seems to be very bad at turning it into shipping products. Some of the software transactional memory stuff coming out of MSR in Cambridge is amazing - almost enough to persuade me that I don't hate Haskell...
  • Really, this is not news. Higher risk means higher expected returns, if there weren't higher expected returns, noone would invest their money into higher risk ventures. Large Cap companies widthstand widespread financial turmoil better, but Small Cap companies tend to climb out of a recession faster and have much higher growth potential. This is simple logic

    • by mjwalshe (1680392)
      if they dont go bust that is!
    • by SETIGuy (33768)

      Higher risk means higher potential

      returns.

      FTFY. Most tech startups never make it to IPO. The assumption is that those that do make it to IPO or get sold to a large company more than make up for those that don't. That's because your downside is limited to 100% of your investment (if you are investing properly). So if 2/3rd go bust, you need 1/3 to return more than 200%. If you can only afford to invest in one pre-IPO startup, you shouldn't be investing in pre-IPO startups.

      But I think this article, by concentrating on the successful startups

  • Google *is* innovating. It does so in a similar way as Philip Glass music. You listen to it and you barely notice how it evolves and keep adding to the whole, but should make the effort of listening to the beginning and then the end, there is a *huge* difference between them. Google is slowly but surely changing our lives. Apple is more about blowing our mind, which honestly besides the iPhone, there is not much else that did it. Small incremental innovation is still innovation.

  • by dwguenther (1100987) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @11:47AM (#33251314)
    The author seems to be taking an awfully narrow view of innovation, as if it only matters what occurs in front-page consumer electronics. All of the big companies he names are quite innovative in commercial software and hardware in systems like industrial control, telecommunications and finance that are too complex and specialized to make the splashy tech news. Occasionally news of some big company innovation like IBM's new mainframe makes it to the front page, and reading about the history and technical details of an achievement like that gives some realization of the magnitude of technical progress and innovation going on behind the scenes.
    • What is Innovation? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zmaragdus (1686342)

      All this discussion and debate over innovation begs a question (perhaps in true Socratic style): what is innovation?

      There are products being released every year that one-up their predecessors in terms of features, appeal, and usability. Is this innovation? To some extent, I would admit that it is a form of innovation; ideas are being created and (re)combined to produce new and (sometimes) wonderful things.

      At the same time, it is my opinion that none of this "Apple vs Microsoft vs Google vs {fill in the blan

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by GeckoAddict (1154537)

        What technology has been invented/produced recently (say, a decade or so) that has made such a fundamental shift as these? (Honestly, if you can think of one, please post a reply. I'd love to hear your opinion)

        I think the problem with this statement is that we genuinely don't know if certain things are just a fad or if they are truly world-shifting. For example, the internet was up and running in what, the early 60's? But it wasn't really until the 90's that it grew with such wide adoption and with world-changing implications. So it would have been difficult to say in 1970 if it would revolutionary because we didn't really understand the potential and impact it would have. Same goes for the telephone, LCD pane

  • Anybody who's worked at both ends knows this. Big companies don't do much organic growth because the small markets don't generate enough income and it's too hard to know what the big markets will be 3-5 years down the road. It's cheaper and safer just to let the market place itself out and then buy a promising company rather than invest in developing something and then probably end up buying a promising company because they have better technology or started from a somewhat different premise.

  • Safer in what way? There are very good arguments for investing in the big companies like IBM, Coca Cola this is how Warren Buffet works and how he got so rich - read the Intelligent Investor by Graham (Buffets mentor)

    Working for or investing in a VC company has a greater reward but also a greater risk. -I did not lose money on my BT share save scheme in one particularly good year people made $80,000k – unfortunately not me.

    But I lost $1,000,000 on paper when the vc backed company I worked for in
  • The advantage of being big is being big.If you instead spent it on 100 small new innovations with no real interdependence, you're no better off than 100 small companies. The whole value is in being able to deliver integrated total solutions the smaller competition can't, it's the only thing justifying the bureaucracy and overhead of being a big company. Mostly they compete not head-to-head but almost like a game or RISK - plenty effort being made to support the borders and juicy cash cows in the center that

  • Ok, first of all, how are you going to talk about 'startups' doing all the 'innovation' then go on and on about Apple, a company that's been around since 1977? Oh, wait, I forgot. Everything before OS X 10.0 was just a dark phantasmal nightmare of beige plastic and doesn't count.

    Second of all, the likes of Apple don't create core routers capable of moving 322 terabits per second [cisco.com]. They're also not creating electronic chess grand masters [ibm.com], are they? Nope. But at least they're shiny!

    Disclaimer, I'm writing

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      Even more so, how is iTunes innovative? How is the iPod innovative? How is the iPhone anything more than an iPod with a phone in it? The worst example of all is the iPad. It is about as innovative as super sizing a meal at McDonalds.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jo_ham (604554)

        Take a look at the way the markets that those products occupy changed after their introduction - the iPod was not the first or the most feature-rich mp3 player, but it took a small, gradually growing market and bust it wide open. The iPhone did the same thing: not the first smartphone by long, long chalk, but the first one that was genuinely great to use and similarly turned the smartphone market from a niche into a huge open field that everyone wants to participate in.

        They drive trends, and create markets.

  • Startups exist to either (a) do something wonderful or (b) begin a process of concentrating vast wealth and material resources.

    Corporations AKA "behemoths", OTOH, exist to cement and maintain a successful concentration of wealth (for the execs and shareholders, not so much the rank and file).

  • by drumcat (1659893) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @12:02PM (#33251422)
    The references are all to hardware products. What about Gmail's innovation to get 8gigs in a free account? It used to be hard to get 50mb in your attached account. Innovation is not limited to physical products. I love most of apple's stuff, but this is awfully dismissive. It's an assessment of goals based on a narrow definition.
  • I challenge you to name another tech company that innovates like Apple—with game-changing technologies like the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad.

    GE, DuPont, Lockheed Martin, Dow Chemical, Intel, ARM Holdings...and most other large companies with big R&D budgets. All "tech" companies like Apple do is repackage technology developed and sold to them by companies like those I just listed and market them. Apple is an advertising and UI innovator. Good for them. The iPod isn't a game changing technology. It's a UI made possible by the R&D of true scientific innovators.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 14, 2010 @12:10PM (#33251474)

    If you want pound for pound revolutionary change to society, Google Maps has done way more to change our lives than the iPod, which is really just the next step on the evolutionary chain started by the Sony Walkman. Incremental, my ass. It has single-handedly democratized the way we interact with location and geographical information.

    The iPhone was pretty revolutionary, though, touching off a revolution in how we integrate handheld devices into our social lives. And GMail is mostly a souped-up Hotmail that sucks slightly less.

    Also, both Google and Apple began as startups with revolutionary products, and both have had hits and misses over the years.

    I have no idea what the point of the original article was. None of its assertions sound remotely true.

  • While Google's myriad diverse products are either ignored for convenience or brushed off as incremental, the author doesn't seem to notice that there might be something incremental about the four Apple products he mentions. Maybe he should try putting them next to each other?

    He accuses the other big companies of buying their innovations, and forgets that Apple bought the idea (and dev team) for the iPod, and bought the OS and took the browser that it need to scale the iPod up to become iPhone and iPad.

    Perh

  • with game-changing technologies like the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad.

    A - nothing "game changing" about ANY of those.
    MP3 players (both hardware and software) existed for years before iPod.
    So did mobile phones - many of them far better and more innovative than iPhone. FFS how many generations was it before iPhone was able to use MMS and copy/paste?
    And iPad is nothing more than a big iPod. Again... tablets have been around for years before that.

    Yes, Google did develop a nice email system and some mapping software, but these were incremental innovations.

    B - Seriously? Some mapping software?
    Was there actually something like Google Maps and Google Earth before Google released those? Somet

    • Was there actually something like Google Maps and Google Earth before Google released those? Something that I'm not aware of?

      Yes. Google obtained that technology by acquiring Keyhole [wikipedia.org] in 2004. Google Earth is just Keyhole rebranded. Keyhole had the zoom-in from orbit, the ability to fly over terrain, and the smooth dynamic switching to higher resolution data, just like Google Earth has now. But it was a pay product, one that cost about $79 a year. There was an NVidia promotion; a free version that

    • by Duradin (1261418)

      "MP3 players (both hardware and software) existed for years before iPod."

      Did you even use any of the ones that existed before the iPod?
      Yes, they existed. And very emphatically yes did their UI suck. As well as their music management (or for that era I should say file/directory management).

      The nomad was a fricken brick. Yes, wireless, yes more space, both physically and capacity. And once the iPod kicked the mp3 market it in the rear the nomad was rather lame.

  • 100% Garbage (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Alcoholic Synonymous (990318) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @12:24PM (#33251568)

    I'm sorry, but this is garbage.

    Summary: "Apple is awesome. Everyone else sucks."

    What could have been a valid point gets derailed by blatant fanboi blinders. Apple is NOT an innovative company either. It's an innovative spin doctor. They are good at convincing people they must have a trimmed down, stylized, and monetized versions of established technologies. iPod? MP3 players. iPhone? Smartphones. iPad? Tablets. iTunes? Napster.

    Further, Apple is just as into buying up established tech and upstarts to inject life into its glossy image as everyone else (SoundJam MP). It even buys open source projects when parts it requires are at risk of being GPLv3'ed (CUPS). Hell, if it were not for FreeBSD's license terms, there probably wouldn't even be a OS X or iOS at all.

    Putting Shinola on things is a far cry from being innovative.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Completely agreed. I really like Apple's products, but to say they're the lone innovators is complete crap. Their industrial and human/computer interface design is certainly innovative, and that's what makes their products so nice to use, but just because it's the most visible form of innovation doesn't make it the only.

      I'm also incredulous at the statement that Google Maps was an incremental innovation. Surely people remember mapping websites pre-Google Maps, where you got served a basically static imag

    • Re:100% Garbage (Score:5, Informative)

      by UnknowingFool (672806) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @03:31PM (#33252496)

      What could have been a valid point gets derailed by blatant fanboi blinders. Apple is NOT an innovative company either. It's an innovative spin doctor. They are good at convincing people they must have a trimmed down, stylized, and monetized versions of established technologies. iPod? MP3 players. iPhone? Smartphones. iPad? Tablets. iTunes? Napster.

      Apple is very good at taking technology and making it usable for the general consumer. Were you around when the iPod was launched? There were two basic classes of MP3 players. Small portable ones that could hold maybe a dozen songs and large portable CD players that could hold a thousand songs or so. If you are just looking basic functionality you could decry that the iPod wasn't innovative. Having actually used the MP3 players at the time, I can tell you what made the iPod different was that it was small and held a lot of music. The other thing I can tell you is that the UIs for other MP3 players sucked. The software for them sucked as well. As a geek, I put up with it. With Apple they actually spent time in addressing all the little things that would annoy an average consumer. Syncing is one step. MP3 ripping and encoding occurs immediately when you stick in a music CD, etc.

      The same with smart phones. Yeah they've been around but they sucked well before Apple made theirs. Having one issued to me by work, I can tell you I detest using it. It's a WinMobile phone. It seems to me MS just took an OS, made it almost the same as desktop Windows, changed a mouse for a stylus and called it done. No thoughts were given about how the UI might need to be tweaked for an interface with a much smaller screen and small keyboard but no mouse. With the iPhone, Apple didn't put OS X desktop onto a phone and walk away. They actually thought about how a user might need to interact with it differently.

      The same with tablets. MS has been pushing tablets for almost a decade. Like the smart phone, very little thought was given to the fact that a tablet user may need to interact differently than a desktop user. Most of the tablets I've seen were basically a full desktop PC and OS shoved into a small form factor. MS just changed the mouse for a pen. No rethinking about how touch could be used better.

      Napster, really? You're going to compare a peer-to-peer filesharing system that allowed its users to illegally share copyrighted material to a centralized and legal music store.

      Further, Apple is just as into buying up established tech and upstarts to inject life into its glossy image as everyone else (SoundJam MP). It even buys open source projects when parts it requires are at risk of being GPLv3'ed (CUPS). Hell, if it were not for FreeBSD's license terms, there probably wouldn't even be a OS X or iOS at all.

      I don't dispute that Apple does buy other companies. However, they are very selective about what they buy. Unlike other tech companies (Time Warner buying AOL, MS buying Danger, etc.), every one of their purchases has actually led to a product or service of some sort to the company. NeXT technology became OS X. SoundJAM became iTunes. KeyGrip became Final Cut. Emagic became Logic Pro and Garage Band. Fingerworks' technology is used in both the multi-touch iPhone and the multi-touch trackpads. PA Semi is designing their mobile chips, etc.

  • Organizations and other social constructs by their very nature are geared towards stability and survivability. The larger they are, the more conservative they get.
    Large organizations are inherently hostile to radical thought and behavior which are necessary for innovation. Their best strategy is to use their endless resources to search and buy small start-ups rather than to futilely try to innovate in a self-defeating environment.
  • Article naive (Score:3, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @01:55PM (#33252020) Homepage

    It's a common observation that small companies hire more people than big ones. This is a myth. [findarticles.com] The small company jobs don't last as long. The numbers on people hired are easy to get, but the longitudinal studies which track workers over many years tell a different story. It's necessary to distinguish between career progress and churn.

    Most startups fail. The median life of newly formed businesses in the US is about three years. (That's pre-recession.) Most venture-funded companies fail. (From talks I've been to by VCs, the most likely outcome is what VCs call a "zombie" - not successful enough to pay back its investors, but just barely able, after downsizing, to pay its current bills and keep operating. Many dot-coms ended up in zombie mode, limping along for years.)

    There's a long-term effect that's even more troublesome. Knowledge, as an economic resource, may be mined out. The cost of obtaining new knowledge can exceed its commercial value. Big corporate R&D labs doing basic research, as GE, AT&T, Xerox, HP and IBM once did, are a thing of the past. That trend peaked in the 1950s and 1960s. Venture capital took up some of the slack, but even that is no longer working. Venture capital funds, as a class, have lost money each year since 2000. That's new; from 1970 to 2000, most VC firms were profitable.

  • Stupid statistic (Score:3, Informative)

    by PrecambrianRabbit (1834412) on Saturday August 14, 2010 @03:08PM (#33252368)

    I will rarely criticize anything as harshly as this, but, it has to be said: some of the analysis in this article could be used as a chapter in How to Lie with Statistics.

    For example, the article cites Tim Kane's "analysis" that shows that startups were responsible for all US job creation since 1977. His proof of this is to take all the net jobs created by firms existing for one year or less and compare that to the net job creation of companies existing for more than one year.

    Seriously, what kind of a piss-poor business can't manage to last a year? The least successful businesses I've ever seen, those one-off restaurants that crop up and then die, manage to last a year before their owners realize they're throwing away money. So, basically that data set lumps together a whole bunch of positive numbers in one category, and dumps all the negatives in the other.

    Now, the analysis in the cited article does get more nuanced than that, and it does, eventually, explain what I just said. But, it's very, very easy to get a misleading opinion from that presentation, and the linked article seems to perpetuate that misperception.

  • by masmullin (1479239) <masmullin@gmail.com> on Sunday August 15, 2010 @12:24AM (#33255156)

    I challenge you to name another tech company that innovates like Apple—with game-changing technologies like the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad

    False challenge. none of those products are game changing in and of themselves. None of the products mentioned are technical innovations, they are all copies from someone else's work. These products are are examples of terrific marketing and and understanding that modern life is becoming more about style over substance.

    Apple doesn't really sell technology products, they sell a "style" and an "appearance of superiority".

    Apple is very good at giving people what they want. Unfortunately it seems that people these days want selfishness and ego stroking. The very fact that they put "i" infront of all their product names demonstrates their selling of selfishness.

    eg. iPod - a pod of sound designed to keep others out of your bubble and away from the "i"

    -- posted from my apple iPad.

  • Apple Innovates? (Score:3, Informative)

    by scdeimos (632778) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @05:50PM (#33259206)

    Apple is the poster child for tech innovation; ... I challenge you to name another tech company that innovates like Apple ... These [other] companies constantly acquire startups and take advantage of their own size and distribution channels to scale up the innovations they have purchased.

    Apple is extremely good at pretty product package and slick marketing. They're not what I'd call innovators, especially considering that in the last 22 years they've bought 29 companies [wikipedia.org] to use their technologies in Apple products.

Are you having fun yet?

Working...