Everything is always the same – until it isn’t. This week, there’s been two new products – one slammed by demand, the other in alpha – that for all their faults change what at least I thought was possible for software to do. These are breakthroughs – these are things that until you see them, they are not part of the lexicon of what is possible. The IT industry is all about these breakthroughs:

  • The Apple iPad – it was the breakthrough that finally after at least 20 years make “slate computing” something real. How many iPad-like devices have been announced now? 100?
  • For you Mac Haters out there, how about the IBM PC AT, Lotus 1-2-3, AutoDesk, and a couple thousand other apps that created a whole new way of using a computer?

The defining thing about these Breakthroughs is until someone, somewhere, somehow creates an actual working version of it, most people literally cannot imagine it, and even the most starry-eyed tech idealists will only see the glimmering of what could be.
Until someone does it.
Two such products came out this week I’d like to recommend you get your head around because they will alter your world tech view. Hell, there are both (as of now) free. First is FlipBoard for the iPad. I was lucky to see Flipboard in action about 2+ weeks ago, so I’ve had a little more time to mull it over and have been using it since the hour it became available. You can read all the details starting here but I can tell you two things from my own experience: it redefines for me where news comes from and adds a whole new purpose and reason for “doing” social media. That’s Big.
Here’s the second one: Tab Candy for Firefox:

An Introduction to Firefox’s Tab Candy from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.
For the past decade or so, the only way to interact with a lot of sites, the only way to struggle with all those browser tabs you have open right now was as a set of tabs along the top of your Firefox, IE, Chrome, or Safari browser. Aza Raskin has a working version housed in an edge version of Firefox that delivers a whole new way to relate to and solve the “I have too many browser tabs open” problem. Here’s a quick example I threw together:
Minefield Tab Sets
Tab Candy lets you create sizable, moveable groups of tabs. Working on one thing with its 8 tabs open, but you need to flip over to the 6 tabs social media tabs you have open? Two. Clicks. Definitely watch the video. Even it it’s a an alpha product on a developer build, this version of Firefox with Tab Candy is 10x more valuable to me than Chrome – my browser of choice.
Of course both FlipBoard and Eye Candy have rough edges, will be copied, probably improved upon, and endlessly lauded over and railed against on the interwebs. My point is you should be on the lookout as a startup or microISV for just these kind of breakthroughes to spark ideas in your head, and if you’re lucky, your own breakthrough.  Because everything is impossible – until it isn’t.

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