I am especially glad to see the quotation in full! My old high school English teacher Mr. Peach (actually Dr. Peach, but he hated pretension) savagely attacked those who misquoted the entire intent by saying "Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Emerson's point centered on the key adjective "foolish." Mr. Peach was definitely among my top 5 ever favorite teachers. When we were studying Shakespeare's plays, he would usuall call the class to order with "Tomorrow and tomorow, creeps!"
Can you recall a time when someone changed a product and you thought "I liked it the old way." take, for example, when Microsoft moved the button to bring you back to the desktop from the left to the right, prople complained.
They are still complaining about Windows 8.
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,"
And yet, many companies reach a point where they won't support an old product. HP/Agilent has done that for years with old test equipment. But, they usually have some kind of backward compatibility, particlularly in their API so users can upgrade to new equipment without having to write new automation code.
It's no good just saying "we don't support the old product any more" and expecting customers to stay loyal ([cough] Windows XP).
In the era of the old and revered Nokia 5110 GSM cellphone, they stuck with the same form-factor and interface for quite a while. So if you had a car kit or a personal hands-free headset that worked with your old phone, it would work with your new phone too. This went on for quite a while, into the CDMA era. Then they changed, for no apparent reason, the phones were not that much smaller or thinner. When this happened, my employer (who used a lot of cellphones and accessories) began using other companies' gear. I think Nokia lost a lot of customers like that, and today they are a shadow of their former self (not for that reason alone though). So though consistency may be a hobgoblin, sometimes it can work in your favour, if you get everything else right.
Quote: "Innovation should not be restricted for compatibility reason."
Who said anything about restricting innovation? Innovate as fast as you can, otherwise the competition will get all the new customers. But if you want your old customers to stay with you as you innovate, they need a migration path. In practice, this often means continuing to support the old way of things for a while in parallel with the new innovations.
Sure, that takes time and effort (which I guess you could argue is a "restriction") but the alternative is losing old customers. It's much more expensive recruiting new customers than keeping old ones.
Backward and forward compatibility of programmable interfaces is feasible and has some other significant advantages (e.g., allows proprietary versions). There is no need to trade off future improvements for past if an interface is designed as described in published papers. See "etiquettes" in Fundamental nature of standards: technical perspective IEEE Communications Magazine, Vol. 38, #6, June, 2000, p. 70. or isology.com/pdf/fundtec.pdf
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