Nothing New For IBM

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Big Blue’s executive VP for innovation and technology does not think a “next big thing” will be coming around the corner ever again.

I have to admit, if I were Nicholas Donofrio and my title and status within a global tech power depended on innovation, the last comment I would make would be one that claimed innovation ended with the 20th century.

I’d at least make sure the last paycheck cleared the bank before saying so, anyway.

Donofrio had no problem articulating that thought in an interview reported by ZDNet:

Donofrio said: “The fact is that innovation was a little different in the 20th century [than it is today]. It’s [now] not easy to come up with greater and different things.”

“If you’re looking for the next big thing, stop looking. There’s no such thing as the next big thing,” he added.

Long-time tech news followers will recall the quote long attributed to IBM founder Thomas J. Watson in 1943: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Of course, market demand and creative genesis occupy two different spaces in the technical ring.

Innovation, Donofrio continued to say, is less about products than about services, processes, or culture. And innovation still weighs on the minds of CIOs; Donofrio cited an IBM survey of 750 CIOs, who all named innovation as a top priority.

Instead of worrying about the next big out of the box product that generates a change in the way people accomplish tasks, the tasks themselves need to be innovated. Search has been one service that we have followed regarding IBM’s focus on innovating that technology.

IBM started to talk about search as a method to find concepts and not just keywords as search engines do today. In December 2005, IBM began talking more about its UIMA technology. Instead of being simply data-aware or application-aware, UIMA is information-aware; the technology can understand, for example, bass as a musical or an ichthyological concept.

As an idea, that sounds, well, innovative.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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