A product consists roughly of two main elements. The function of the product – what it does or is capable of doing and the usability of the same: how it does it.
Product developments starts often focusing on the first element. Compare for example the evolution of the windows operating system. When the first windows (95) arrived we were all amazed (may I say so) with the amount of possibilities we (not Mac or Nextstep users, etc) couldn’t imagine. If you look at the latest release of windows (called vista) the amount of (functional) features is not extensive. Yet the user interface has been improved a great deal.
When comparing the four main releases (95, 98 XP and Vista) of the operating systems you could say that in the beginning the increase in functional features dominate where as in the end the non-functional and usability elements dominate in the improvements of the products.
This is a normal development cycle. Unless there would be a new revolutionary operating system — which is not in line of expectations — the functionality of the current operating systems seem to have matured a great deal.
Or, seen from the other side, this could mean that before the introduction of new and revolutionary products previous versions needs to enter a dead-end street.
More or less the same is happening — in a lagging parallel — with the mobile phones. The first mobile phone really changed the world. Now, most important features get standardized and “only” the usability of the product improves.
Until there is a new mayor next step.
For operating systems a next step could be the light computer (Sun’s network computer) where most functional features are found on the web (instead of MS Office, you will use Google’s Office).
For mobile phones there is a similar revolution possible from the standard mobile to a new device. But this might take quite a while because the innovation rate in the mobile industry has been almost too impressive. We probably have to wait a bit before a new revolutionary product will change our lives again.