Are Silicon Valley's top companies running out of innovative business ideas?

Recent news reports say Apple and Google's car projects appear to be stalled despite massive investments of capital and people. What's their next big idea?
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

When scale is the winning factor -- innovation isn't needed to succeed in business.

Recent news that Apple and Google's autonomous auto projects are in trouble could indicate a troubling dearth of innovative business ideas from two of Silicon Valley's largest and most iconic companies.

Jake Smith's ZDNet story, "Apple car plan hits snag...," reports on information acquired by The New York Times and The Financial Times that there have been "dozens" of layoffs and high-level executive departures from Apple's secret Project Titan.

Alistair Barr's Bloomberg story, "Google's Self-Driving Car Project Is Losing Out to Rivals," points to serious challenges facing Google's car project, which still lacks much needed partnerships.

The Apple and Google automobile projects have gathered tremendous amounts of attention from the public and from within the companies. The New York Times reports that over an 18-month period Apple grew Project Titan to more than 1,000 staff.

Google's project has been running much longer than Apple's and it, too, has involved substantial numbers of people and resources.

Now, both projects appear to be stalled because neither company has been able to come up with enough of a differentiation that would provide a large enough competitive lead.

This means that two of the most successful Silicon Valley tech companies -- each employing tens of thousands of the world's most talented engineers and business leaders -- have been unable to make their best innovative ideas into a real business that can drive revenues.

These car projects have taken billions of dollars in funding and taken the attention of top management away from other projects, to create what looks like two giant white elephants.

Are Silicon Valley's top companies running out of bright ideas?

What's next for Apple and Google as they strive and fail to build new revenues outside of their core businesses?

They each have tremendous economies of scale within their respective markets and those advantages aren't in danger of disappearing. But the lack of execution on bold new ideas from these iconic companies is a troubling sign that when scale is the winning factor -- innovation isn't needed to succeed in business.

It's not a good sign for startups wanting to become the next big Silicon Valley tech company.

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