by Paul Mah

A Closer Look at the Lack of Innovation in Today’s Tech World

Mar 27, 20123 mins
Computers and Peripherals

Even though piles of new gadgets are released every couple of weeks, only a small fraction of those electronics can be considered truly innovative. blogger Paul Mah takes a closer look at the reasons why.

I started this morning with the intention of writing about a newfangled projection keyboard that I recently saw featured on a couple of blogs, here and here. I vaguely remember reading about similar projection keyboards in the past, so I assumed that this new keyboard must incorporate a novel enhancement and, therefore, might be worthy of mention in my Gadget Navigator blog. I should have known better.


After reading a bit about it, I immediately noticed how similar the technical specifications for Elecom’s newly announced projection keyboard (TK-PBL042BK) are to that of Celluon’s Magic Cube keyboard, which was released last year. The marketing literature for the Elecom projection keyboard was different than Celluon’s, but after doing some digging, I found a high-resolution picture of the Elecom gadget, which has the words “Powered by Celluon” printed on its rear side.  That told me all I needed to know.

Same Exact Parts on the Inside

I can’t say I was entirely surprised to find the same parts inside both keyboards; many competing technological makers actually incorporate the same components inside their wares. Intel microprocessor and associated chipsets, for example, are used in practically every desktop PC and laptop available today. The displays for Kindle and Kobo e-readers are both created and manufactured by E Ink, and most computer mice used the same few optical or laser sensors in the past prior to the development of more advanced sensors including Microsoft’s Bluetrack and Logitech’s Darkfield.

Many companies are fine with simply rebadging existing products with their own brand name and packaging. This is true for many reasons. Some companies want to fill a perceived gap in a product line or leverage their brands to sell more products–even if those product were designed and made by another company. Of course, most of these companies often attempt to create additional value by putting in better software drivers or incorporating enhanced capabilities, etc.

True Innovation is Rare

What I’m really trying to say is that’s rare to find truly innovative products in today’s technology-obsessed world. Apple is one company that consistenly innovates. An example of this innovation is the company’s new combination process of waterjet cutters, high speed CNC machining and laser drilling that’s used to create the MacBook’s unibody frame. Unfortunately, this type of innovation is the exception to the rule, which is why most PC-based laptops have looked very much alike for so many years.

This is also why products such as the Ergotron WorkFit-S and the Dropcam HD have attracted my interest in this blog. The former advances the concept of a workstation by functioning in both standing- and sitting-positions; the latter packs a 720p HD camera, sufficient processing mojo for H264 encoding, 802.11b/g/n wireless and two-way audio into a product that weighs just 5.5 ounces.

On that note, I’m always seeking unique gadgets to review so if you spot one that cries out for an evalution, please drop me a note either in the comments section below or via Twitter @paulmah.