// Posted by on 02/06/2012 (8:39 PM)

Once finishing Turner’s From Counterculture to Cyberculture, I found myself musing over the difference between invention and innovation. The difference seems simple. An invention is something (a device or process) that has been invented. Whereas, innovation is the application of new inventions. So why does the thesaurus on my Mac’s dashboard tell me that invention and innovation are synonyms (equivalent words)? Surely Steve Jobs, Apple’s mastermind, knew better than anyone than innovation is not the same as invention. Jobs was innovation.

Unlike most, Jobs had the ability to “Think Differently.” Under his guidance, Apple developed a commercial mouse that could be affordably purchased by the public. The ‘Lisa mouse” as it was called was not the first mouse ever invented. However, it was the first that was built to cost $25 rather than $400 or so created by Xerox. Jobs believed that if could make a mouse that was affordable, people would buy it– he was right.

When it came to computers, Apple was runner up to PCs, until the iMac. Unlike all other computers at the time, iMac was able to change the relationship between people and their computers. Instead of building a computer inside which the hardware hidden, people could see inside Apple’s iMac to the hardware. This allowed a relationship between the hardware and the “i” (or the individual using the personal computer) to develop. Of course, the “i” of “iMac” also stood for internet, only forging an even stronger relationship between people and their computers.

For Jobs and Apple, content was key. Sony already invented the Walkman, a personal music player. Sony had the capability, but not the vision to develop the iPod. Apple had both. Napster was booming, and the music industry wasn’t too enthusiastic about the file-sharing capabilities. Still, it was difficult to play the digital media. That was, until the iPod was unveiled. The iPod was the medium that could play the shared media. This could have really destroyed any relationship Apple hoped to have with the music industry, but he had another step in the plan: iTunes. Apple and the music industry both benefited. Apple made money even after their product was purchased through iTunes. It also made it so accessible, convenient and fairly priced to purchase music that the music industry was again making money on music. Jobs and Apple were able to fulfill everyone’s needs.

And then there was the iPhone which uniquely focused on software rather than hardware, like its competitors. Again, Jobs had the foresight to realize that this new step in technology was not only about the product, but about the Apps. Just as iTunes allowed Apple to produce revenue after the product was purchased. Apps also make using the technology, in this case the iPhone, simpler for the user.

What do you think will be more influential on future technologies: invention or innovation?


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Abbey said...

I think innovation will continue to be more influential on future technologies than invention. As you described throughout this post, it was the innovation of Steve Jobs, the application of these newly invented technologies, which caused so many strides in the technological world. The inventions were all there, but it was the innovation that moved them forward. Steve Jobs took a completely new stance by asserting that consumers don’t know what they want until they get it; I guess this argument could be in favor of either invention OR innovation as potentially more influential on future technologies, but I think the application of them is really what matters. Inventing a mouse that is affordable to the general public (those who own computers, that is) is a genius way to apply the new inventions and make them appealing to the mass consumer. Inventing something that is either not appealing to consumers or is unaffordable will not have an impact on future technologies: it is the innovation that makes it both user-friendly and accessible that will have the greatest impact.

// 02/12/2012 at 3:21 pm