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Judging Linux Innovation

From the 'Net New or Just Better than Before?' files:

BOSTON. Innovation is a tough word to define concretely.

It really does means different things to different people. Sometimes it is a net new 'thing' that moves the ball forward in some way (like electricity). Then there is disruptive innovation - like the first wave of Linux - which re-thinks and improves the way things are done.

I hear from a lot of vendors everyday that their product is innovative in some way - and why not - who wants to hear about a technology that isn't innovative?

Every so often though I get to hear about a different type of innovation. That is innovation in the way things are done - in the real world.

At the Red Hat Summit in Boston, I have the distinct honor and privilege of being part of the Red Hat Innovation Awards proceedings.

For the second time in the last 8 years, I am a judge (first time I was a judge was in 2005). Red Hat and indeed the technical world is a somewhat different place now but innovation - real innovation -  that comes from real people using technology remains rooted in the same core fundamentals to me.

It's either about some ridiculously cool use-case or service that just makes me go - WOW. Or perhaps more importantly it's about a real company that uses technology in a measurable way to do something better than before.

I like both types of innovation and both are worthy of awards.

The panel of judges collectively (via a scoring system) have selected just over a handful of vendors as category award winners this year. Reality from my perspective is that there were a lot of really interesting use-cases that I personally had never considered before about how technology change and usage can make things better and more efficient.

In the bubble of tech journalism it is easy to get caught up in speed and feeds and any given vendor's next Big Thing. It's critical to remember that in the end if that Big Thing (or even existing Things that might not be Big) are used by companies to do stuff. That's where innovation is manifest - in the usage model.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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