Henry Ford and the faster horse

Henry Ford
Image via Wikipedia

I’m not a hunter of famous quotes, they sort of grab my attention dependent on mood and timing.  But, I was reading something related to cloud technologies and came across a good one from Henry Ford:

If I listened to my customers they would have asked me to make a faster horse

Visionaries always look smarter AFTER they’ve achieved enormous success.  Most game changing technologies come from the mind of an expert who has vision and some luck.  Better mouse trap technologies(Google algorithm combined with better advertising engine) vs. never before seen technology(Netscape Navigator) have certain qualities that I think make it easy to read whether they are truly innovative or just iterative.

When I think about cloud computing and all the things its intended to enable, I don’t see visionary nor game changing.  I see evolutionary or, using Clayton Christensen speak,  ‘sustaining technology‘.  Simply put, applying existing technology to a new service and wrapping some additional iterative frameworks doesn’t make revolutionary.  Then I read this article summarizing this years CES show and I’m left thinking, really?  I just don’t see anything on there thats all that interesting.  New innovative technology is commonly beaten down by armchair analysts and I don’t see that on the list.

I think the amount of noise new technology gets, to some degree, can provide a litmus to how disruptive it might be.  Although with the number of hobby journalism going on, this test is quickly becoming worthless.  Law of averages puts most new ideas to bed well before any true adoption takes place.  But, I’d expect those technologies that did in fact “change the world” probably have similar attributes.  Without having the time and energy to study all the game changing innovations over the past 100 years, I suspect a healthy percent must have had to overcome significant adversity.  Which brings me back to Mr. Ford.

Think for moment when Henry Ford unveiled his first Model T.  The community must have been startled and dismayed at this limited noisy machine.  Comparing it to the existing horse transport must have led to doubt and ridicule.  The cost, speed, lack of infrastructure and fuel stations, poor reliability, I mean the list is endless.  I mean, you got to name your horse, it was a pet, a resource, and a friend to many.  What sort of engagement did that black T get?

So, if I compare this heresy noise test to the cloud world, it practically getting a ticker tape parade.  Everyone seems to love it, yet no is really using it….yet.  I think LJE is one of the few to say, ‘Come on guys, this is all marketing hog wash already, its called Grid Computing and its been around for awhile’.  So the question becomes, can technology be disruptive/innovative AND wildly accepted from the get go?  I personally can’t accept that conclusion, although there certainly might be a case for it from history.

Still love the quote.

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