Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Are we suffering from breakthrough devaluation?

When you read about innovation in the press, your eye glides over the term breakthrough. It's used so often that it passes without notice. But yet, our subconscious sees that word and confers value on whatever is described as such. If it's called a breakthrough, then it must be one.

Then one reads an article like the Wall Street Journal's Portals column from last Wednesday's paper (link here courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

Author Lee Gomes cites statistics from Factiva Research indicating over 8,400 uses of the word breakthrough in press releases. Says Gomes,

To what extent are we experiencing "breakthrough inflation," in which the work that an engineer would consider simply a good day in the lab becomes, in the hands of the PR department, an advance worthy of being shouted about from the rooftops?

I prefer the term "breakthrough devaluation," because if everything is a breakthrough, then nothing is. And if you think about breakthrough--it connotes a very significant barrier, which is "broken through" via very hard work and ingenuity. A high standard indeed. Here is a list of dubious breakthroughs--you decide if the term has lost some of its value:

The first Canon PIXMA printers to earn the Pro designation, both the PIXMA Pro9500 printer - which utilizes long-lasting, pigment-based inks - and the PIXMA Pro9000 printer - which uses long-lasting, dye-based inks - produce brilliant, gallery quality prints up to 13 x 19 inches on a variety of specialty media and fine art papers. "These printers are a breakthrough not simply for Canon but for the industry," stated Yukiaki Hashimoto, senior vice president and general manager of the consumer imaging group at Canon U.S.A., Inc. "We have not simply reformulated inks, we have re-examined the selection of inks needed to create some of the finest, long-lasting prints possible."

Jenzabar, Inc., the pioneer of Total Campus Management (TCM), announced that the Software Information Industry Association has honored its Jenzabar Internet Campus Solution (JICS) with a 2006 CODiE Award as the "Best Postsecondary Educational Portal Solution."... "This award recognizes Jenzabar as leading the way in community building and constituent relationship management solutions for higher education," said Robert A. Maginn, Jenzabar's Chairman and CEO. "This announcement, along with the accolades we've received from clients using the enhanced functionality we recently released, positions JICS as a breakthrough platform for building and extending the campus community via the Internet...."

Skyworks Achieves Performance Breakthrough with New Line of Active Mixers; Broad Frequency Range Powers Infrastructure, Medical, Scientific and Industrial Applications. WOBURN, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 20, 2006--Skyworks Solutions, Inc. (NASDAQ:SWKS), an industry leader in radio solutions and precision analog semiconductors, today unveiled the market's highest dynamic range active mixers for mobile radio systems targeted at infrastructure, medical, scientific and industrial applications. These new broad frequency range solutions, which are part of Skyworks' rapidly growing Linear Products' portfolio, have achieved unprecedented linearity performance via a higher level of RF integration which secondarily improves both form factor and cost through the elimination of a negative power supply and additional amplifiers.

Vitesse Semiconductor Corporation (Pink Sheets:VTSS) today unveiled its latest high-speed crosspoint switches featuring breakthrough capacity and advanced Signal Integrity technology. Featuring a per-port speed of up to 6.5 Gbps and low-latency switching capabilities, the 72x72 VSC3172 and 144x144 VSC3144 asynchronous crosspoints deliver near-terabit aggregate bandwidth capacity. These crosspoints enable new cost and performance breakpoints for blade server, video and network equipment designs used in core, metro and enterprise environments. The new product additions underscore Vitesse's leadership and continued investment in Signal Integrity and Crosspoint solutions along with record product line business growth.

The listings go on for page after page after page. Breakthrough antiviral drugs, breakthrough formal verification of intellectual property solution, even a breakthrough employee benefits E-portal!

What happens when there's a real breakthrough? What will we call it then?

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