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Big Tech Stifles Innovation

As I read an article about small companies versus big ones, it occurred to me that large technology companies often don't get credit for one of their biggest services to the enterprise: stopping innovation.
As I read an article about small companies versus big ones, it occurred to me that large technology companies often don't get credit for one of their biggest services to the enterprise: stopping innovation.Moving quickly has its costs, and many enterprise-level organizations don't really want life in the fast lane. The uncertainty of rapid innovation makes planning difficult, if not impossible. Instead, enterprises prefer that things move a bit more slowly, so they can plan and budget for incremental change rather than radical rework. That's where big companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle come in; I'll call them Big Tech. By design, the industry behemoths create stable and predictable environment that allow companies to plan for several years in advance.

Sometimes, even Big Tech doesn't move slowly enough for corporate America. Take Windows XP, for example. After nearly a decade, most enterprises are still running it; many may run out the XP clock to 2014 when Microsoft says they'll finally drop support for it. So, big companies often stifle or slow innovation because their customers ask them to do it. Big Tech and enterprises are in a classic symbiotic relationship.

In support of technology retardation, Big Tech can also manage the growth of an entire sector. It might come through patent threats to anyone who is threatening the "vision" or it might be accomplished through anti-competitive business practices. The best chance that new technologies have for breaking out is when consumers can try them out and Big Tech doesn't see them as enough of a threat to do anything about them. Radical innovation usually doesn't have a friend in corporate America.

When you think about it, none of the technology innovations in the past 30 years began in the enterprise. They only made it to the enterprise level after being in the consumer or small-business world for several years and corporate decision makers began to see how useful they could be. Even then, Big Tech delivers them in a form that serves their own needs more than the enterprise. Or, the enterprise asks for a mutant version to match with something already deployed. (Example: "We want cloud computing, but it needs to work with IE6!")

So the next time you hear someone complain that a Big Tech company doesn't innovate, ask yourself whether your company really wants them to do so.