x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sales success missing from inventors' repertoire

It must be terribly disheartening to be the inventor of a piece of technology that truly changes the way we live.

It must be terribly disheartening to be the inventor of a piece of technology that truly changes the way we live.

Look at Research in Motion (RIM). The Canadian technological wizards invented the BlackBerry, a device that revolutionised the way mankind communicates and at the same time enabled an evolutionary leap by creating an entirely new use for the thumbs.

BlackBerry was once synonymous with palmtop wireless email and messaging communication. Not so today. Its crown has slipped and Samsung is the biggest brand on the shelf, while Apple's iPhone is perhaps the most desirable.

Neither Apple nor Samsung has truly invented anything, however. They are both preeminent redesigners and marketers of existing technology. Apple for the high-end customer, Samsung for the broader mass market.

RIM, which has suffered an epic decline in the past year or so, has everything pinned on the launch of its latest device, the BB10, which is available in the UAE today. But beating the competition will not be easy. In fact it is probably an impossible task if BlackBerry's technologically pioneering forebears are anything to go by.

Take John Logie Baird. He invented television in the 1920s but now Samsung sells more than a quarter of all the sets on Earth. His namesake Baird company barely registers a blip.

Kodak, the inventor of Kodachrome photographic film and the portable camera, collapsed into bankruptcy after its initial failure to jump aboard the digital boom. Hoover, a name once synonymous with vacuum cleaning that transformed the lives of housewives in the early 20th century, no longer exists as a stand-alone company and has lost out to usurpers such as Dyson in the vernacular dictionary.

In the technology market it seems you can either be a successful inventor or a successful salesman. Nailing both jobs with the same device has proven elusive even to the biggest brainboxes. Just ask Sir Clive Sinclair.

 

jdoran@thenational.ae