Discussion about

October 5th 2011 7:03 am

Slowing mobile innovation?

I don't think I'm alone if I say that, compared to 2010 with its breakneck pace of innovation in the mobile industry, 2011 has been a bit of a let down. It seems almost hard to believe now, but at the beginning of 2010, the most advanced phones on the market were the original Droid and the iPhone 3GS, and the tablet market didn't even exist yet.

Yet by the end of the year, Google had become the dominant mobile OS, Apple had launched both the iPhone 4 and the iPad, HP bought Palm, and Microsoft launched Windows Phone 7. Compared to all that, the minor spec bumps and software updates we've seen for most of this year have seemed kind of meager.

So it seems to me that the pace of mobile innovation may be slowing. If that's true, the first question in my mind that follows naturally after is, "how much of this has to do with the surge in patent lawsuits over the same time period?" Am I alone in thinking this? What does everyone else here think?

sort by

8 replies

It's not because of patents. It's because with 1+ GHz CPUs, mature 3G networks delivering 1+ Mbit/s data rates, and mature operating systems, we've essentially reached an inflection point in the rate of improvement for mobile hardware and platforms. Adding multi-core, 4G data rates and larger screens, what have you, represent incremental user experience improvements to population at large.

The next period of high innovation will occur due to, be enabled by, everyone having Internet-connected mobile phones. It mirrors the PC trajectory a bit.

Siri, a natural language interface, may be that thing, but who knows. Natural language interfaces, like AI, have stumped everyone for decades.
2 like dislike

I think there's an important point none of the replies have made. All the things you mentioned that were released in 2010 weren't invented in 2010, they took years of development. The fact they all were released in 2010 is part coincidence and part competitive strategy. Some of those might have been delayed and released in 2011, and then we wouldn't be having this discussion. I don't think comparing one year to the next year is a large enough time period to make any conclusions about the pace of innovation.
2 like dislike

Mobile innovation can be defined in many ways. Quite a few people were disappointed with Apples announcement yesterday but if we step back and analyst the current situation the picture becomes clear.
Out of all the major smartphone players Apple is the only company delivering both the software and hardware for their devices (Nokia and Blackberry aside for obvious reasons). Quite a few innovations are coming from Apple on the software front (IOS 5, Siri, iCloud etc.) but the hardcore smartphone audience seems to be jaded to these things. Since the majority of smartphone manufacturers are only dealing with hardware their game plan is to introduce as many devices as they can into the market to increase their revenue. This has now set a presecence that truly can not be substained by a company like Apple.
At this point only time will tell if the split approach (i.e. Google's Android on Samsung's Nexus Prime) will be more successful than the tighter and more integrated Apple approach. We also have to look at Microsoft which took both scenarios into account and chose to go right down the middle with a mobile operating system that resembles IOS (closed ecosystem and integrated services) but is available to smartphone manufacturers.
As per patent lawsuits, that entire situation is definitely dragging down the industry. It might be time for our government to step in and fix that mess.
1 like dislike

"As per patent lawsuits, that entire situation is definitely dragging down the industry. It might be time for our government to step in and fix that mess."

What? Think of all those stuggling attorneys who will suffer significant income loss! Where is your compassion man!
0 like dislike

I have a theory that Apple's slew of lawsuits before the release of iOS was a carefully planned "pre-emptive strike." Apple has taken so many features from other platforms to weave into iOS 5 that anyone of them might claim patent infringement. Apple's legal team started lawsuits against everyone before the release of iOS 5, and maybe they will be willing to "settle" if everyone else will conceed to leave iOS 5 alone (legally). Doesn't that sound like a great strategy? Call it technology chess, or all out platform warfare. The element of surprise is always a great military strategy.
0 like dislike

I just read your comment, after posting mine :) I think the reason is Apple did not need big innovation release this year bec it has no opponents in means of sales still from android market.
0 like dislike

Goliath should never sleep on David. I doubt Apple is thinking that way. In a market as constantly competitive as cell phones, you want to stay as far ahead of your opponent as possible. Apple only comes out with a phone a year, that's is plenty of time for a company (Samsung) to put a device in place that surmounts an iPhone, considering they have come out with 10+ in the past year alone
0 like dislike

You are probably right. I wish they could all agree that everyone builds upon everyone else's ideas, and unless it is blatant cloning of an OS or hardware, it's all fair. Apple is clever enough to hold their cards close to their chest. At least this gives them a temporary advantage upon new product release. The other big technology roadblock? Inadequate development of battery technology.
0 like dislike