navigating innovation

I got a new mobile phone this week, and I’ve spent a fair bit of the time since then playing around with different programs and applications that are available for it. The killer app in smart phones for me is gps tracking. Using google maps, getting turn-by-turn directions and geotagging photos and notes are all incredibly useful features to have. Furthermore, it is the gps feature that will drive the augmented reality apps that are going to be the really cool things to have on our smart phones in a couple of years.

All of this got me thinking about something – Magellan introduced the first consumer gps tracking unit in 1989. Why didn’t a gps manufacturer ever introduce an app store? Many of the things that we’re doing now on smart phones could have been done on a handheld gps unit. So why didn’t Magellan or Garmin or someone think about making an open platform that anyone could program for?

I thought of this question while visiting some friends this weekend and one of them, a very good programmer, said that maybe they didn’t think to do it because they didn’t think it was their core business. That’s probably correct. On the other hand, if one of them had thought of it, maybe now they wouldn’t be quite so worried that everyone is asking ‘why do I need a gps when I have a phone?’

So here’s a few more questions – what product right now is like a gps in 1989? What non-core part of your current industry has the potential to expand rapidly? Finally, can you adapt your business model to take advantage of the answers to these questions?

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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6 thoughts on “navigating innovation

  1. Another factor we need to keep in mind is that -even today- GPS in mobiles is not accurate enough to allow those enhanced reality apps. So back at the App store we will not be finding many of these apps in the near future.
    Accuracy, reliability, and responsiveness was much worse back in 1989 (there were fewer satellites back then, etc.).

    • I keep hearing that Marco, yet the gps-based apps on the iPhone now are pretty powerful (and they do a lot of cool stuff – even with the limitations). So I think it certainly pays to be thinking about what you can be doing as the gps function continues to get better on smartphones.

  2. The strangest application I’ve seen that leverages GPS-smart phone technology is of the “is your partner cheating on you” type.

    Late at night they play advertisements on TV saying “she says she’s at a friends, but where is she” etc and then says that if you sms them your partner’s mobile number they’ll tell you where they are. How crazy! Talk about messing with people’s heads.

    I am not sure how it’s legal given the privacy implications, but they got the adverts on TV so I guess there’s a loophole….

    Maybe we could adapt it for the PhD supervisor market? Start playing adverts late Friday afternoon saying “Is your PhD student in their 4th year and still not completed confirmation? Do you wonder where they are right now? Simply sms this number…” 😛

  3. That’s pretty screwy! I was looking at similar apps that allow you to see where your friends are, but it looks to me like they have to give you permission to track them. It still has some fairly major creepiness (like the PhD supervisor app does!)…

  4. It is pretty weird. When I was looking at them I was thinking that it would be a useful tool to help Nancy and I coordinate where we’re at since we carpool everywhere. But the idea of always knowing where someone is is pretty bizarre, really…

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