Optimism and Innovation

4/17/12

There are many opinions on the essential elements for innovation. One component is particularly crucial, and one of my favorite quotes on the matter is by Intel co-founder Robert Noyce, who said “Optimism is an essential ingredient for innovation. How else can the individual welcome change over security, adventure, over staying in safe places?” Having lived and worked in various entrepreneurial settings in Silicon Valley since the mid-1970s, I’ve had a pretty good view of the accelerating pace of innovation, and I couldn’t be more optimistic about the opportunities ahead.

From my vantage point, innovation, catalyzed by the microprocessor and accelerated by the impact of the Internet, has changed every facet of our lives. And we’re just getting started.

From Personal Computers to Personal Computing

Thanks to the pioneering inventors at Bell Labs and those that followed at Xerox PARC, the advent of microprocessors and networking significantly changed the IT industry through personal computers. For the first 25 or so years, personal computers excelled at automating rational tasks with powerful productivity tools. With ubiquitous connectivity, we are now clearly in an era of personal computing, where microprocessors and software power many kinds of devices connected through cloud-based services. The applications associated with these networks of devices are changing the landscape in healthcare, productivity, entertainment, and education, to name a few.

Ushering in the Next Generation of Technology

In many ways, we’re just scratching the surface of how people extract value from computing. So-called location-based services are being driven by developments in location-sensing techniques, location-aware applications, and geocoded data—all aimed at cultivating an emerging physical-digital landscape that more deeply links places and spaces to information we care about. Developments in machine learning, natural language processing, and natural user interface technology will make the devices we interact with more ‘intelligent’ and intuitive, surfacing and servicing user intent in new and unprecedented ways. Secure and permissible harvesting and mining of massive amounts of data will deliver greater insight and actionable intelligence in nearly every facet of our personal and professional lives.

Having purview over Microsoft’s engagement with the startup community through programs like BizSpark, I’m excited to see the growth and proliferation of young companies catalyzed by ubiquitous computing, devices, and cloud services, as well as easier access to funding and mentorship. Advancements in technologies that change how and where people gain access to new and better tailored information, coupled with the optimism and creativity of entrepreneurs, represent a vibrant source of ongoing and fast-paced innovation.

Dan'l Lewin leads Microsoft's global engagement with startups, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists, and business relationships with strategic industry partners. His team focuses on supporting the startup ecosystem developing on the Microsoft platform while fostering local software economies worldwide through the Microsoft BizSpark and Microsoft Innovation Center programs. Follow @

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