The History of Photography
Steve Jobs, one of the most creative entrepreneurs of the 20th century, the man who single-handedly revolutionized many lives, the man who has left a deep impact on the computer industry, software industry, motion pictures (animation movies) and the music industry, is no more.
He was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer in the year 2004. A year later while delivering Commencement Address at Stanford University, he shared his experience of being diagnosed with cancer and of being dangerously close to death. Reflecting upon those moments this is what he had to say, “
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. …..Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary……Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked; there is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Good Bye to the man who always followed his heart.
So Google Wave is dead. Google killed it. It wasn’t as unlucky as Larrabee. It did see some light of the day. But it lost life in it’s infancy. When Wave was launched about a year ago, it received mixed reviews. It roused fear, suspicion, awe and a subtle sense of mystery. Google called it, “a new web application for real-time communication and collaboration”. Soon there were mixed reactions from different users. On one hand there were users who hailed it as a tool that would substantially hurt emails, hurt Facebook and wipe Twitter off the face of this planet. Well, nothing of these happened. Several experts and geeks slammed Wave for its apparent complexity and slowness. Martin Seilbert on TechCrunch wrote “Google Wave sucks….” mainly because of its complexity, instability and slow speed. However there were hopes that as people will start using it they will get accustomed to the tool and gradually Google Wave will be accepted. Experts also hoped that at least its collaboration feature will help it survive and win users.
However, Wave optimists, who were an obvious minority, finally accepted defeat with Google itself announcing suspension of Wave. The main reason for its suspension according to Google has been lack of user acceptance. This entire episode leaves us with two questions. One, why Wave didn’t succeed, given the user-base that Google enjoys? Two, Is Google hurrying in pulling the plug? Is it a right strategy to altogether abandon the innovation for lack of acceptance? Karim Lakhani of HBS has hailed Google’s decision saying that, “…….admitting failure and moving on is another key lesson in managing innovation.” He further adds, ” The ability to (quickly) shut down failing projects and reallocate intellectual and financial resources to other more promising endeavors is critical to innovation success as it releases individuals and budgets to take on the next big challenge. “
We don’t know what are the internal investment criteria at Google. But the signal that this decision gives is that Google is both ambitious and ruthless with itself at the same time. On one hand, it doesn’t hesitate in launching highly ambitious tools like Wave and on the other doesn’t hesitate in abandoning it if it doesn’t perform well enough. The only mystery here is, what is that ‘performance criteria’ in a tool as radically innovative as Wave. Or, is it simply the performance of Wave, or is it a change in the product portfolio strategy? Shall we soon see features of Wave being integrated into other Google products? Well, only time will tell. As of now, as Google Wave and the Users’ manual to Google Wave both, are history. But as the author of its Users’ manual, Gina Trapani said, we can also say, “…I respect any product that shoots as high as Wave did, even if it misses in the market.”
For some academic work on a similar question, have a look at Agarwal, Rajshree; Bayus, Berry & Tripsas, Mary. 2005. ‘Abandoning Innovation in an Emerging Industry. ‘ Working Paper and also the paper that I am citing below.
Sanjay Jain, & Kamalini Ramdas (2005). Up or out—or stay put? Product positioning in an evolving technology environment Production and Operations Management, 14 (3), 362-376 : 10.1111/j.1937-5956.2005.tb00030.x
Larrabee is dead! Intel has announced one of the most ambitious graphics ventures’ demise on a blog post by Bill Kircos, Intel’s Director of product and technology . Intel didn’t announce it explicitly though, but fFortunately, Ryan Smith at Anandtech has deciphered it for us.
Four years ago rumours surfaced that ‘a shadowy organization called Larrabee Development Group‘ had launched itself to do the unthinkable in the High-end graphics chip industry. It had decided to take head on the two big crocodiles of the pond, namely NVidia and AMD. However, Job vacancy postings on Intel’s website did little to hide that Larrabee was an Intel venture. After a few months Intel proudly announced launch of Larrabee, a multi-core processor design which was supposed to compete with other GPGPU based (General Purpose Graphic Processing Unit) future products from competitors NVIDIA and AMD. Larrabee was supposed to be something like a combination of GPU/CPU. A chip that would have a full programmability of a CPU and throughput computing feature of a GPU. (see image below)
However, Intel’s foray into producing a Multi-core GPGPU Chip didn’t bother Nvidia and AMD much. On the contrary their strategies were not at all affected by Intel’s apparent plans. Both of them rather steadily went ahead with their strategy of Integrated Graphics.
After missing their initial product launch deadlines, last December Intel delayed the Graphic Processor launch and decided to downsize Larrabee to Software Development Platform. The product was now slated to arrive sometime in 2010. However Bill Kircos in his blog at Intel’s website has discretely written, “We will not bring a discrete graphics product to market, at least in the short-term.”
This means, Larrabee – the product is not coming to shelf. This case brings us back to the issue of abandoning innovation that was discussed here at Creatologue in the light of Microsoft’s abandonment of Courier. However, Larrabee’s case is quite peculiar. Larrabee, if it would have been launched would have been quite a radically innovative product. As is shown in the image below.
What Intel has done by abandoning Larrabee is effectively imitating its competitors by focusing on Integrated Graphics rather than thinking about a CPU/GPU hybrid.
It would really be interesting to explore when a company might abandon a radical innovation project? One obvious reason was that it wasn’t giving expected results. But then, in an uncharted technology category, it will always be difficult to estimate performance. On the other hand, while its competitors in the graphics processing segment, have a strong presence, especially NVIDIA being stronger in gaming segment, overall Intel is incomparably bigger than these competitors. Given it’s size Intel shouldn’t worry about economies of scale or scope. The only other probable expectation is shift in strategic importance of the innovation (Agarwal, Barry and Tripsas, 2005). Why such a touted innovation lost its importance before it could see the light of the day, only time will tell.
Agarwal, Rajshree; Bayus, Berry & Tripsas, Mary. 2005. ‘Abandoning Innovation in an Emerging Industry. ‘ Working Paper.
Last Thursday several Gadget lovers mourned with deep pain when Engadget wrote about sad premature demise of Microsoft Courier. It kind of made almost every Microsoft Fan (Who are an absolute minority now) a bit sad. Rumours about Microsot developing a dual-screen tablet started last September, and soon it’s images and even videos were leaked out. Microsoft however never confirmed it officially, until it decided to scrap the project.
The question however is, why would Microsoft abandon such an interesting product? Before Apple launched iPad nobody was sure of utility or commercial appeal of a Tablet PC. However, Apple’s iPad is one of the most successful début products in our recent memory. In the very first month of it’s launch it has sold 1 Mn units. Vladislav Savov at Engadget writes, “Steve (Jobs) told us it’d be revolutionary, and if sales are the measure of a device’s success, then the iPad seems to be well on track to validating its creator’s bold claims.” Now when future of Tablet Computing was looking so rosy, why Microsoft abandoned something, that was already creating some excitement among Techies?
Microsoft Courier is an interesting case of a proactive exit. There is lot of academic work on Innovation and Innovation system however there is not sufficient research available on abandonment of innovations. As it’s important for companies to know, how and when to commit to an innovation, it’s equally important to know, when to abandon an innovation. Research suggests that a company might abandon to pursue a new product, in case (i) the market doesn’t move according to its expectations or (ii) the planned innovation is not strategically important for the company. I found another interesting explanation in an article by Sanjay Jain and Kamalini Ramdas (2005). Using examples from Videogame industry they elaborate on what they have termed as a pace keeping approach to product development. In Videogame consoles, the development cycle ranges from two to five years, whereas the development cycle for graphics processing unit (GPU), which is a core underlying technology, takes about six months. In an industry like this, where core technology evolves much faster than the product, at times it makes sense to abandon a new product development, just because it’s neither easy nor profitable to keep pace with rapidly advancing technology.
Going back to the Microsoft Courier, do we really believe that this was a reason? In this case, it seems more the problem of ‘Apps’ rather than core technology. After successful launch of iPad, most of the applications developers have strongly invested their efforts, energy and creativity in developing killer Apps for iPad. Any new Tablet, with a different platform than iPad, could face a temporary ‘Apps-Drought’. In an article in March, Fastcompany had predicted a similar outcome based on the same logic.
We don’t know, and probably would never know why Courier was shelved. Maybe Bill, The Gates has some other surprises up his sleeve. Maybe Microsoft just lost interest in Courier. Maybe it was just pure bureaucratic problem of ‘cost overruns’ etc etc. The bottomline is Courier will never be a reality. A dream, that never came true!
So here is a video of a wonder product, you never had!
(1) Agarwal, Rajshree; Bayus, Berry & Tripsas, Mary. 2005. ‘Abandoning Innovation in an Emerging Industry. ‘ Working Paper.
(2) Jain, S., K. Ramdas. 2005. Up or out—or stay put? Product positioning in an evolving technology environment. Production and Operations Management 14(3) 362–376.
Recently Fastcompany has come up with the list of 100 most creative people in business. It’s an interesting list and over next few posts we will talks about some interesting individuals featuring in there. Apparantly there is no common criteria for selection. The introduction to the text states that they “……looked for dazzling new thinkers, rising stars, and boldface names who couldn’t be ignored.” Inclusion and exclusion of several names from this list, could be debated. However, one name that can’t be questioned, neither for its inclusion in the list nor it being at the top: Jonathan Ive, Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple.
Jonathan Ive is one of those who are responsible for the design revolution that Apple brought about a decade ago. He has been the chief designer for iMac, Apple Powerbook, MacBook, iPod and iPhone. Creativity scholars define creativity as “Useful novelty” and in that sense Aple’s products are a great example of creativity in business. The fusion between art, technology and customer focus has been the strongest driving force behind Apple’s success in last decade. Last year, Daily Telegraph named him the most influential Briton in America. Celebraing his influence the article mentions, “If this is the age of the media gadget, Ive is its multi-platform deity figure.”
Slate has run an interesting slide show presenting virtual history of credit cards. The merchant specific cards came in use as early as 1930s, when companies started offering, what they used to call “charge-plates” to their customers. However, the individual who is credited with introduction of the current credit card system is Frank McNamara. Frank McNamara was one of the founders of Diners’ Club.
However he got the idea of a Credit card system from an embarassing situation. He was having dinner at a restaurant and when the cheque arrived he realised that he had forgotten the wallet. That’s where he got the idea of having a system where one can “buy now and pay later, any time, anywhere”. The first card which was essentially for eating out at restaurants was a simple wallet-sized card made of paper. However, the concept behind it was revolutionary and within 60 years it has revolutionized shopping habits of people world over.
Right now in Macao, world’s oldest camera is on display in an exhibition. This reminded me of what I had read about Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. Niépce was the inventor of photography.
However it’s interesting how he got the inspiration to invent photography. In those days, popular form of catching images was with “Camera Obscura”. Camera obscura was basically a box with hole on one side of the box. So through passing of the light, the image in front of the hole would get reflected on a thin paper on the opposite side of the hole. Once this image was reflected on the paper, the person (or ‘photographer’) was required to trace the image with the help of a pencil. This is what Niépce couldn’t do. He didn’t have a steady hand. Since he couldn’t draw, he had to find some other way to be able to take photographs.
He tried to look for alternatives where he wouldn’t be required to use his hand. He experimented with lithography – a method for printing using metal plate or stone. He replaced the thin paper in the ‘Camera Obscura’ with a metal plate. After experimenting with different metals and chemical coatings he finally produced the first photograph on a highly polished pewter plate, coated with bitumen. After an eight hour exposure in the camera, the plate was washed in a mixture of oil of lavender and white petroleum to produce the first permanent positive image. Here on the left, you can see the image. By the way, Niépce had termed this a ‘Heliograph’, recognising the power of the sun. (source)
Sustainability is the order of the day. Many industries and organizations are facing the pressure to come up with eco-friendly products. However, pressure on Automobile sector is probably much more than any other industry. Mercedes-Benz has been doing some interesting research on this front through its “F-Series” Concept vehicles. However the latest in this series is an extremely innovative product, with not only some great technological innovations but also some interesting Design Innovations built in.
This model draws inspiration from Formula One cars on one hand, and on the other hand it uses the original M-B Patent Car, designed in 1886. The official press release of the product states, “As an allusion to the Benz Patent Motor Car from 1886, the vehicle is fitted with large spoked wheels. Moreover, the F-CELL Roadster incorporates stylistic elements from diverse eras of automotive history, such as the carbon-fiber bucket seats with hand-stitched leather covers and the distinctively styled fiberglass front section, based on the component from the Formula One racing bolides.”
Apart from the interesting design, another innovation in the car is, replacement of the traditional steering wheel with a Joystick. This interesting example of a creative use of advanced technology and diverse Designs, was achieved with the help of 150 trainee students from various branches of Engineering, related to the Automobile manufacturing. F-CELL will not only be environment-friendly because of its emission-free fuel cell system, located at the rear, but it has some impressive claims to speed as well. The official press release states that “With a power rating of 1.2 kW the F-CELL Roadster reaches a top speed of 25 km/h and has an operating range of up to 350 km.” However, the important question is, will it ever make it to the production floor? Or, it will stay just another Concept Vehicle.