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And the Handoff Goes To…

When you think semiconductors, who comes to mind? Intel? What about back before Intel’s heyday? IBM? Fairchild? The baton got passed in the 80s, and Intel has managed to hang onto it. But not every company can hold on, and even those that do can’t take it for granted forever.

Friendster was once all the thing. Then, after some thrash, MySpace became the thing. Then it was handed off to Facebook. There are still those waiting to see how long before there’s yet another social media handoff.

With phones, Nokia once ruled. The iPhone changed that. And here we talk about more than just sales. In fact, this isn’t really about sales at all (even though, at the end of the day, EVERYTHING is about sales). This is about presence of mind. Who are the thought leaders? Who is setting the innovation pace?

And that’s a mantle that Apple has been able to wear for a long time. Particularly at conferences featuring human/machine interaction, Apple has been the “watch these guys” guy.

But the watchers appear to be shifting their gaze. For the first time, I heard another name used in the slot that, last year, would have contained “Apple.” It was a quick thing, easy to miss. A throwaway comment, even. It wasn’t on a slide, there was no press release, there was no passing of the baton. It was just a statement about… I don’t even remember what, specifically. But one of those “Here’s whom to watch” things. And the company was…. Samsung.

Who also won an innovation award at last week’s MEMS Executive Congress.

Granted, I heard another comment about Samsung throwing so much up against the wall that something will have to stick. Is that innovation? Does innovation involve only directed intelligent design? Or can there be some genetic innovation as well, where different features combine in different arrangements, and the best-selling survives?

We don’t pay so much attention in these pages to sales and such. So we haven’t made a big deal about whether Android was selling more than iPhone. But when the thought leaders change whom they look to as their Chief Thought Leader and someone new gets that title, that seems worthy of note.

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