This guy is OK for not making a single dime for inventing the USB
Used in more than 10 billion devices throughout the world, the USB turned 20 years old last week. However, the man who discovered the technology has not made a single penny off it and he is fine with it.
Ajay Bhatt, Intel’s Chief Systems Technologist, who’s largely responsible for inventing the USB technology, told Business Insider, “I don’t do these things for money. I did this to bring about change, and it’s not very often that somebody gets a chance to bring about this big a change.”
As a matter of fact, the USB technology did not make money for anyone. This is because Intel, who was the first one to back Bhatt’s USB idea and who owns all patents to the technology had decided from the start to make it open and royalty free.
Bhatt believed that Intel had every right to do so.
The USB which is now regarded as the standard for connecting different devices, was once met with a lukewarm response from tech companies, including Apple and Microsoft, in the early ’90s when Bhatt had first proposed the idea to them.
Creating a single connector was a smart idea that basically bypassed the need for a separate driver or floppy disk to install each application. However, the basic fear of breaking the existing compatibility functions kept the companies from investing in his idea. But Intel was the only company that was bold enough to make the investment in his idea at the time.
“As an engineer, I’ve been handsomely rewarded by the company,” Bhatt added. “And I couldn’t do this kind of work anywhere else. I have nothing to complain.”
Even though Intel was the first to support the idea and has started building support for it into its chips, actually it was Apple who first shipped a USB compatible product – the iMac G3 – for end users in August 1998. Immediately, Microsoft followed suit when it provided USB support for Windows 98’s second edition.
So, does Bhatt believes that he may have missed out on a chance to make hundreds of millions of dollars? No. He believes that his contribution to the overall computer industry is what makes up for it. The basic purpose was to make the PC easier for regular users, and expand the overall PC market, and the USB undoubtedly helped the cause.
“If computers are seen to be easy, then we’ll sell more computers, and as part of that, we’ll sell more chips. It’s a much bigger picture that Intel saw,” Bhatt said. “As the pie gets bigger, we get a piece of the pie, and we’re happy with it.”
So will there ever be another technology that would be available everywhere as the USB? Bhatt thinks he found one: the stylus.
Currently, Bhatt is working with 35 companies to create a standard for stylus pens, so they could all work under one universal technology. If his vision comes true, then it would be mean that an Apple stylus pen could be used in a Microsoft Surface, and vice versa.
“We are defining a standard to make the stylus more ubiquitous, more responsive, and address the entire handwriting experience,” Bhatt said. “It’s the next frontier.”