By Rob PegoraroSunday, December 31, 2006; Page F02
To succeed, computing and electronics firms need to reinvent themselves regularly, not just their products. Doing business in the same old way only invites competitors to leap ahead.
Consider the firms that were willing to rip up their own scripts this year, such as Google and Apple Computer. They were often rewarded with dramatic success, while those that couldn't play against type, such as Microsoft and most of the big movie studies, fell behind.
Google turned out to be one of the most aggressive innovators of this year. Had the company motored through 2006 on autopilot, it likely would have remained a fine Web search engine. Instead, it accelerated its software-development efforts with free, frequently improved releases, such as the Google Desktop search tool, the Picasa photo editor and the Google Pack of Internet and media software. The company also introduced an assortment of simple sites that offer free calendar, spreadsheet and writing tools. They're not fancy, but are far simpler and cheaper than Microsoft Office.
Apple also surprised the world in 2006. In January, only six months after announcing its decision to switch from its existing PowerPC processors to Intel chips, the company shipped its first Intel-powered models -- and by October, it had finished that transition. At the same time, Apple persuaded most developers of Macintosh software to make the switch to writing for Intel chips, which can't have been an easy sell. But most quickly rewrote their programs, earning impressive gains in performance. Apple's Intel adoption yielded another benefit: With extra software from Apple and other companies, new Macs run Windows programs as fast as a PC can.