Facebook and Minnovation

Well, I don't know about you but I was pretty disappointed by Facebook's announcement on Thursday. I was expecting something more meaty than what Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's CEO, described as "a set of apps."

Now perhaps I'm being a little harsh as I know full well my expectations were artificially raised by the hype and rumor mill that preceded Thursday's announcement, but, on the other hand, a set of apps for Android called Home? That's the big announcement?

Given that Facebook is still struggling to figure out how to justify its IPO share price I would have thought we'd get something with a little more "wow" factor. What we got is a mobile-oriented Facebook interface with "Chat Heads" . . . pop-up notifications with pictures. Zzzzz.

Zuckerberg enthused: "On one level, Home is the next mobile version of Facebook. On the other, it's a change in the relationship with the next generation of computing devices." What utter nonsense. But that's pretty common nowadays; all of the big players' "big" announcements are now merely iterations of existing products.

So where's the next iPhone coming from? Where's the next iPod? Where's the next ... I was going to cite something from Microsoft but it's been a long time since Redmond produced a real "wow!"

Perhaps the problem is we're all out of innovation in the computer products world. Where the mass market is concerned, the computer industry has become minimally innovative, or, if I might coin a term, it has become "minnovative"; it's turned into a flood of tiny, incremental improvements and the reason is very simple: For the majority of the world, Windows XP was and still is good enough.

Sure, the latest computer hardware has staggeringly fast processors and unbelievably huge memory, but we've reached the point where, for most computer users, last year's hardware can run this year's applications perfectly well with cycles and storage to spare. Indeed, hardware from the year probably can too, or even from the year before that.

Those of us who can and actually do use all of that performance and dream of having more do exist, but we're a tiny minority. The rest of the world's computer users not only barely scratch the potential of whatever computer they use, they barely understand what it is they're using!

Even so, the hoi polloi are eschewing regular desktops and laptops in favor of smartphones and pad computers at a remarkable rate for three main reasons: The first is simplicity, because managing one of these new devices is generally far simpler than managing Windows, OS X or Linux. The second reason is that apps for iOS and Android are cheap or free. And the third reason is all of the fancier stuff users might want to do is out there in the endlessly hyped "cloud," again for free or dirt cheap.

But the truth is that precious little of that fancier cloud stuff isn't really that fancy. It's more of the same old stuff you can do on the old and new hardware but prettied up. It's got its new, sexy party frock on, but it's still dancing to the same old tunes of word processing, spreadsheets, databases, image editing, email and social media.

So, where's the real innovation going to come from? I have no idea, but I know given Thursday's performance, it ain't going to be coming from Facebook.

Gibbs is underwhelmed in Ventura, Calif. Does your mileage differ? Tell him at backspin@gibbs.com and follow him on Twitter and App.net (@quistuipater) and on Facebook (quistuipater).

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This story, "Facebook and Minnovation" was originally published by NetworkWorld .

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