Continuous Partial Innovation

This week’s activity in the tech sector seems guided by the rest of the economy, as the world holds its collective breath while waiting for the other, or any, shoe to drop. The presidential race seems to have stabilized with a significant if not conclusive lead for Obama. Apple announced refreshes of its laptop line, Microsoft sold off its Silverlight 2.0 news in advance of the PDC, and pictures and videos of the Gphone surfaced.

The Silverlight press conference produced a few interesting factoids, including the news that Silverlight penetration has reached 1 in 4 households after the launch at the Olympics and subsequent coverage of the Democratic National Convention. I asked Scott Guthrie how Chrome, Android, and iPhone support was coming, and got back: progress, optimism, and fuggetaboutit. Some subtle hints about data caching capabilities, forthcoming application announcements, and Silverlight code serving dual purpose within both browser and desktop code suggest Guthrie’s role within the company is continuing to expand.

Apple’s conservative approach to the so-called Netbook segment comes as no surprise. Each new announcement seems to roll up the last’s technological progress, which today centered on the MacBook Air’s build process being ported up and down the MacBook line. More forward-looking was the continued integration of Tim Cook and other executives into the presentation, with Cook in an increasingly active posture including some of the Jobsian humor long reserved for the boss. The net effect was of orderly consolidation of Apple’s transformation into the dominant architecture of the mobile Net.

The thread that ties so much of what’s visible of the tech iceberg together is the success, or difficulty, of managing the flow from old to new guard in the Cloud era. Age is really not a factor, as Jobs is signaling by changing Apple’s rhythm from Big Bang to continuous partial innovation. Microsoft is struggling not with the technology so much as the challenges of messaging, essaying the transition from structured to unstructured media so personified by the Twitter phenomenon.

And then there’s Sun’s Jonathan Schwartz, who broke a several-year moratorium on conversations with me with an intriguing new open source announcement. Whatever you think of the business model, certainly Schwartz continues to be a trailblazer in the leveraging of social media fundamentals.