Does Microsoft Innovate?

David Tan
A very interesting op-ed piece ran in the New York Times this week. It was written by a former vice-president at Microsoft and talked about Microsoft's creative destruction. The point of the column was basically that cool, cutting-edge companies like Apple and Google continue to turn out great new products and services, while the only thing Microsoft actually makes is money. Almost $7 billion last quarter, mostly on the strength of the Windows 7 release and the continued growth of its Office applications. As if you have to defend a company making $6.7 billion a quarter in profit, I feel the need to chime in.

You can't deny Microsoft misses the boat from time to time. It has been pushing tablets since 2000 with little or no success, and after 10 years, Apple comes along and introduces the iPad and sets the tech world on its ear. It finally got into the portable music space with the Zune after Apple had pretty much shut it down. It has been playing catch-up to Google in the on-line and advertising space for years. Sure, these are all examples of pretty epic failures. At the same time, though, I don't know that these are really the areas we count on for game-changing innovations from a company like Microsoft.

Microsoft Research (a small division of the company where it focuses much of its R&D) recently created a video-Microsoft's Vision of the Future. The video shows a glance into life 10 years from now. It shows the innovations that will change your life. Whether it's because they improve healthcare, make your job easier or just make it simple to read the morning paper, it's all things we consider core to our daily life.

Aren't these really the areas where we need innovation anyway? As long as Microsoft continues to make big profits and can fund its R&D efforts, should I care that Apple or Google are the hip place for Silicon Valley hotshots to work? Of course you never want to lose the best and brightest minds, but it's not like Microsoft still can't pull in the talent.

The best part of that video is that literally every single technology is something Microsoft is actively developing or testing right now. It's not like watching the Jetsons to see what the future will look like. This is all real. Want to learn about some Microsoft creativity? Check out The Surface desktop touch screen computer. Check out their new WorldWide Telescope project. Microsoft is innovating in ways you can touch and feel, and ways that will shape our world for future generations. I'll take that type of creativity any day.

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Feb 8, 2010 7:02 PM Jonathan Dickinson Jonathan Dickinson  says:
On top of all that you said, while Microsoft technically plays catch-up, their tech is more sustainable. Quite honestly the Mac dock is pathetic compared to the Win7 taskbar (completely forgetting that Win1 had it). Surface is better than Apple multitouch (it wasnt their idea in the first place). The Zune isnt software vendor locked (ever heard of an API?). Its the old stuff - but done right. And then we get tech like the .Net micro framework. Or robotics studio. Geekgasm anyone? Photosynth - new idea too. So they dont always play catch up - and if they are not, well considering how hip and trendy the competition is, and how serious and realtistic Microsoft is: else has any room to play. Same old story. Nobody will remember Rianna in 10 years time, but U2 will be a legend forever. Reply
Oct 2, 2011 1:10 PM probl�mes de couple probl�mes de couple  says:
I like this web blog so much, saved to bookmarks. Reply

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