Innovation by the numbers

I think the hardest thing for many people to understand about device upgrade cycles is that, at a certain point, the devices we use constantly are pretty well optimized for their form factors. We get minor updates to cameras, or screens, or processors, but very few true changes to what we consider the core device structure until new materials or technology become available. We’re left with innovating by the numbers. Increase conversion by a few percent. Shave off a millimeter. Pare down an ounce. It’s a natural part of the lifecycle.

At eBay, our recommendations products were essentially paused until a whole new team was brought in that specialized in machine learning – an entirely new technology was required to move beyond minor incremental increased.

And Apple? Well, smartphones and notebooks all have very mature form factors (even with the modern touchscreen smartphones existing for only, what – about a decade)? With no clear, drastic change there’s no surprise that we’re talking about improvements of percentages. The problem is, are you improving the right numbers?