In what likely won’t be an on-going series, I decided to highlight products that are on the blazing edge of innovation. This is my salute to those companies willing to take chances and try something different.
Innovation in Fast Food:
To keep growing, fast-food chains have to offer new reasons for people to visit. The current trend seems to be offering more upscale and exotic items. Arby’s kicked off the upscale deli sandwich craze with it’s Market Fresh® Sandwich & Wraps. Then Jack in the Box (JITB) fired back with it’s complex line of ever changing Ciabattas. Wendy’s has been an innovative pioneer in Fast Food ( first to offer gourmet salads, Chili and Baked Potato Combos, etc). Now it proves itself again by unveiling its Frescata cold sandwiches. Unlike JITB’s square-shaped Ciabatta bread sandwiches, these sandwiches are square-shaped Frescatta bread. And unlike offering predictable fillings like bruschetta chicken and chipotle peppers, Wendy’s shifts paradigms with roasted red peppers and basil pesto. And notice how “FRESCATTA” sounds both fresh and European (meaning quality and exotic, even it it sounds like an Italian combination of bread and fish).
Innovation in Useless Software:
The little applets, pieces of software which run alongside real apps and are easily accessed at any time, have been around since Konfabulator (recently acquired by Yahoo!). Then Apple came along and revolutionized widgets, making them less functional and flexible by locking them in the Dashboard environment. Microsoft, known as a software innovation powerhouse, decided push these applets to their limits by not only bringing them back to the desktop in Vista but by changing their named to “Gadgets” too. Competition breeds innovation, and now since Widget/Gadget writers have to write for three different implementations, expect a flood of exciting new, semi functional sliding puzzles, calculators, clocks, little notepads, quote of the day annoyance windows, realtime pornography tracking, etc.
Innovation in Retro-styled Station Wagons:
Chrysler’s PT Cruiser was introduced in 2001 as an homage to its 1930’s Airflow wagon. Despite polarizing styling and a few recalls, the car is still going strong even though the design has remained unchanged for years. Chevy saw an opportunity to bring something better to market. The HRR is also a retro-styled wagon, combining the style of the 1949 Suburban and the poor fuel economy of its SUV decedents. The HHR laughs at the cautious, flabby-joweled styling of the PT Cruiser. Instead, it breaks convention by going for a more, flat-faced bulging panel form that looks like a cross between a station wagon and baby whale. Chevy bravely shows that this car’s so quirky that its wheels get more headroom and cabin space than its passengers.