B-b-b-bill the Innovator
By: Dr Conrad Gempf
If the Department of Justice rules
against him and his company,
they will be stifling innovation!
Now, for most of us ordinary people,
innovation comes hard. But not for
B-b-b-bill. Starting with the DOS kind
of machine (although he didn't
really *start* with DOS, but that's
another story), command line
interface and five-and-a-quarter inch
floppies (ah... those were the
days! floppies really were floppy!),
B-b-b-bill saw a 1984 Macintosh, a
different kind of machine. This machine
used a mouse. This machine used
an interface of overlapping windows.
This machine had rigid little
three-and-a-half inch disks. This
machine came with sound and
networking, and you could plug other
things into it and they worked.
Without anyone fussing with DIP switches.
So B-b-b-bill innovated. And
the result was the Windows PeeCee we
all know and love: mouse,
overlapping windows, 3 1/2 inch disks,
multimedia with plug-n-play (sort of).
But was B-b-b-bill satisfied with that?
Did he rest on his laurels?
No way. He looked around and what did
he see? Someone was making a great
program and beginning to dominate their
market. The program had a
nautical-sounding name, Navigator. It
provided a way to gather and view
information on the World Wide Web. It
had a cute little square icon
thingie that let you know when it was
busy, and some buttons to take you
places. And the company who made it gave
it away rather than selling it
at first, and charged a little bit of
money for it later. Great! What
did B-b-b-bill do? What any innovator
would do; he innovated! He bought
or built a program to gather and view
information on the World Wide Web,
with some little buttons to take you
places and a cute little square
icon thingie that let you know when
it was busy. And, here's the master
stroke -- a real departure for B-b-b-bill,
but hey, he's an innovator,
right? -- B-b-b-bill decided that he
would give this program away rather
than selling it. Oh, and he gave it
a nautical-sounding name, Explorer.
But was B-b-b-bill satisfied with that?
Was he willing to stop there and
stagnate with his millions? No way! He
looked around and what did he
see? Someone else was making a great
product and beginning to dominate
their market. This device was grey,
about the size of a wallet, had a
touch sensitive screen that you could
write on with a stylus, and held a
datebook, an address database and
could take notes. All of this software
and data could be synchronized with a
desktop computer really easily. It
was made by a company called Palm:
a Palm Pilot. Now any ordinary
innovator might have felt a bit jealous
that someone else had thought up
this device first, might have been
intimidated, but not our B-b-b-bill!
He did what he does best; he innovated.
And now you can see ads in fine
(cf. *WiReD* June 1998, pp. 20-21;
for his latest master stroke: a grey
device with a stylus-sensitive screen
that synchs its datebook and
address data with desktop computers
really easily. And all this in a
package about the size ... well,
let's face it, pretty much exactly the
size and shape of a Palm Pilot.
B-b-b-bill calls it the Palm PC.
And what a poor world it would be if
there were no B-b-b-bill to innovate.
There would be lots of spreadsheets
(but no Excel), lots of word processors
(but no Word). We'd have easy-to-use
multimedia computers that used
mice, window-based interfaces and
3 1/4 inch disks (but no Windows97 now
98). We'd have world wide web browsers.
We'd have grey devices about the
size of wallets that synch with desktops.
We'd have to use other flight
simulators, too! What a bewilderingly
different universe! It really
makes you think, doesn't it?
It's the mark of an innovator to have vision
and the courage to bring that vision
into reality. Other innovators see
things that never were and make them
happen. But B-b-b-bill, as ever, is
a bit different. He sees things that
already are and somehow makes
people buy his version instead. He has
forever changed the way we view
the definition of the word 'innovation'.