What is driving today's innovation explosion?

David Pogue: What makes you think there’s an innovation explosion? I think the innovation is going at the same rate it always has and there are pockets of moving forward in certain industries, certain areas and pockets where it’s stagnating.

When is the last time anything interesting happened with computers, PCs? I mean oh, is that a new version of Windows? Okay. It’s the same stuff, no innovation whatsoever, maybe Apple’s super-flat laptop maybe.

Right now, the innovation is in cell phones. And I think what’s driving innovation there is the iPhone, not the phone itself, although there’s a lot of innovation there, but the way it came about which was Steve Jobs went to all the cell phone carriers, Verizon and AT&T, and said, “Here’s the deal. I’m gonna make a cell phone, you’re gonna be the exclusive carrier, but you’re never gonna see it until we’re done with it.”

And that would never happen before. Verizon, Cingular, T-Mobile, they used to be the gatekeepers for innovation. They used to be the veto holders over any new phone, new advance, and it killed a lot of innovation.

People would go around and say, “What if we did things this way?” and Verizon would go, “Mm, how about not?” And, you know, “We want our menus to look like this.”

So when the iPhone became a hit and Cingular had taken Jobs up on the offer and said, “Okay, we’ll close our eyes and you’ll develop this phone,” then everybody started saying, “Well, holy cow. Maybe phone designers actually know something.”

And so first Google announced their phone operating system, Android, by the end of this year [2008], that’ll be 35 phone companies and phone carriers are going to be involved.

And then Verizon, the most calcified of all of the carriers, said, “We’re going to open our network to any phone, even ones you don’t buy from us.”

The Wired headline was, “Pigs fly, hell freezes over, and Verizon opens up its network.” So that’s how astonishing that was.

So the cell phone is about to take enormous leaps in innovation and this is going to be the year of the cell phone. They’re going to be much more like a computer in that you can install you own programs, you can make it look like and feel like and work like whatever you want. And it’s all because the iPhone cracked that old ritual of the cell phone carriers decide what’s in a phone.

Recorded on: May 15, 2008.

Innovation is going on at the same rate it always has, says Pogue.

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