Innovation: Where those ideas really come from

By , IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

Silicon Valley is full of ideas: Good ones, bad ones, ones that flop and a few that make people billions. At places like Palo Alto Research Center Inc., people come to work every morning just to think up new ideas.

With all this innovation going on, a lot even in tough times like these, you might think all those people in sandals would have thought of everything -- if not every single idea, at least the obvious ones. But you'd be wrong. Unless they're just keeping tight-lipped about it, they're missing out on some big winners. My coworkers and I thought of them, and it's not even our jobs to come up with new ideas -- well, not these kinds of ideas.

I made one up the other day just to save my own skin, conversationally speaking. I call it SportsClue.

I can tell you what CSMA/CD stands for (Carrier Sense Multiple Access/Collision Detection), but when it comes to baseball I don't even know who's playing in the World Series until the third game. Football I can follow while I'm watching it, but so can a cat with good eyesight. I know Tiger Woods plays golf and the Williams sisters play tennis. That's about it. So cocktail parties can be a nightmare.

SportsClue (British edition: SportClue) would be a mobile wireless service. It wouldn't have to wait for a big 3G (third-generation) high-speed mobile data network or low latency for music and video. It would consist of just a brief daily description of what happened in the sports world over the past 24 hours. The Warriors lost again, the Islanders had their fifth straight win, Agassi stayed on top of men's tennis with another Grand Slam victory, and so on.

Just a quick read, no thousand-word screeds by sports section writers who disagree with the local basketball coach. It would be like a cheat sheet that's always up to date and always with you. And no one would know you were reading it because the type's so small on those handheld devices.

A colleague came up with one that would have even broader appeal: Tic-tac-toe via instant messaging. It would be simple and fast-moving and wouldn't take up a lot of screen real estate: a great way to let off steam with a friend while you're at work. And if you got caught goofing off, there wouldn't be any lingering message log containing all the unflattering things you wrote about your boss. Just X's and O's.

Our biggest would-be innovation is really just a way to use some other ones that are already here.

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