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Poll: How far behind has Microsoft fallen in the innovation race?

When it comes to product innovation and creating new markets, how far behind has Microsoft fallen?

My colleague over at ZDNet, Mary Jo Foley, recently blogged about Microsoft's lack of innovation. Her post "Microsoft's Challenge: Innovation, Innovation, Innovation" wondered out loud whether Microsoft would ever be able to recapture its ability to develop innovative products. Mary Jo points to the behemoth size of the company and the political infighting that drains resources from what should be the main strategic focus -- better, fresher products and growing market share.

I believe there are many creative people working for Microsoft, but, because of the large corporate culture, they are stymied from true innovation. And, until that culture changes, Microsoft will rely on the twin cash cows of Windows and Office to keep them afloat. I am not convinced that Microsoft will be able to change its culture to allow the risk necessary for innovation.

But, the real question is what do you think? When it comes to product innovation and creating new markets, how far behind has Microsoft fallen? Do you think the company will ever become a great innovator, creating new products and developing new markets?

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About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

47 comments
rrdepew
rrdepew

Microsoft is a BIG company, with lots'n'lotsa product lines. Some are innovative, and some aren't. We tend to think only of their twin flagships, the Windows OS progression and the Office suite. Let's face it, Windows is much, much less than innovative. (Why this is so is a whole other discussion.) And there's only so much you can "innovate" in Office -- most customers don't want to see a lot of changes in their Office suites. A large chunk of MS revenue comes from server apps and middleware that's invisible to most users. Are they innovative? Don't know. A surprising amount of MS revenue comes from hardware. Even though their mouse product line (for example) is mostly acquired and "me too," they've done some innovative things that their competitors haven't thought of yet. We can argue violently about whether their console gaming product line is innovative or just a well-managed cash cow. To judge the Microsoft monolith as "innovative" or "not innovative" isn't fair to those parts of MS that are creative, driven and truly innovative.

haleonearth
haleonearth

Microsoft never was in the innovation race you boob.

RicRegier
RicRegier

I believe if Microsoft would get out of the idea that they must be first out of the gate with something new and finish the product right then they would be farther ahead then they end up...

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

new to them, sorry, I thought you meant they actually invented or thought of something.

jfreedle2
jfreedle2

The only thing that the Open Source community knows how to do is to copy everything and violate all legal statues. They will never know how to truely innovate. If you have actual proof that any company or person did anything illegal, by all means submit it to the legal authorities, otherwise just keep you opinions to yourself.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

happening in open source, and when. The 3D effects graphics interface was introduced in open source in Glass 3D and Beryl many years before Microsoft even considered 3D effects. Most of what the Aero effects are straight thefts of the open source ones. Everything new in Windows for over a decade has been in open source first. Hell, Microsoft even stole Windows from Apple, and they got it from Xerox. DOS was written by someone else and only lightly changed by Gates, same with Excel, Word, Access, and all their software. No innovation anywhere.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Windows is used globally in every conceivable marketplace. Unless they start exporting to another planet, I don't think they have anywhere to make a mindboggling breakthrough in technology or marketplace, it'll just be improvements and adjustments to the way people conduct their computing lives today. Now, let's see something from Apple that isn't just a stripped down, proprietaary copy of something already available elswhere and I'd fall out of my seat.

carlsf
carlsf

They call the "RIBBON" interface in Office 2007 a innovation, sorry but we find it is a hinderance, and will remain with Office 2003. An as for the NEW WIN7, we tested it and have found it does NOT fit our business model too many changes Libraries, Jump lists etc and the file system is crap. We use XP and VISTA (32 and 64bit with NO problems)because we can set it to the "CLASSIC" option, and MS have removed it not even an option. We set our systems to the "CLASSIC" for a standard interface and ease of support. SORRY Microsoft but we will not be using WIN7 or Office 2007 or 2010 your loss.

jfreedle2
jfreedle2

You need to alter your thinking and learn to think correctly. The ribbon is a great innovation and leaving the classic option out of Windows 7 is much needed. That old view of the system needed to be gone with the old Windows 95/98/Millenium Edition.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

update for your staff used to the non ribbon Office package.

carlsf
carlsf

I have NO problem with learnin new ways that are prouctive. The problem we have with the "RIBBON" is that is is NOT productive. When our workflow goes down for a top workers, and we ask why the answer is always they are hindered by the new "RIBBON" interface, as the attempt to find what they required. If MS really had listened to their users the option would/should have been left in the O/S, and applications. Why do you think the adoption of Office 2007 and it will be the same for 2010.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

and which you prefer is a personal preference. By NOT having the old method as an option, Microsoft are simply telling people who prefer that they do NOT want them to buy their products - either that or they are saying 'Screw you, you'll take what we want to give you.' You can choose which you think they're saying.

dogknees
dogknees

Can you assure us that in 10 years you will still be running WinXP and Office 2003? Given that MS are not about to resurrect the XP interface (Thank Darwin), are you committing to never moving to a newer OS or Office suite? If we see a post from you in 5 years, saying you'll never move from Win7 and Office 2007, will you be starting with an apology for dishonestly committing to never moving from XP? I'm sick of people making these sort of absolute statements. In many cases, you can go back and find the same person said the same thing about the previous version of a product. And now they're wedded to it and are complaining about the next one. Grow up and learn from the past. You didn't stick to it last time! Why should anyone listen this time? Maybe you don't like change. Fine, but the fact that you don't like something is pretty irrelevant in the business or professional world. You do what is required to the best of your ability regardless of your beliefs or preferences. Or, you do if you're a professional.

dogknees
dogknees

Unless you make a serious effort to learn a new way of looking at things and a new way of working, of course you'll have trouble. Why would you think otherwise? Every thing we do in life that is new takes effort to learn and more effort to reach a professional standard. The fact that a bunch of people are doing someone one way is no recommendation. Nor is it a reason to keep doing it that way. Learn, grow, change.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the matter under discussion here; what is being discussed is innovation and Microsoft. In the very first year or two of the existence of the company called Microsoft, they did write some traffic control software which some people felt was a bit innovative, but the break for Microsoft came with the licensing of PC-DOS to IBM. What Bill Gates did was to buy an existing operating system from another person, make a few very minor changes, and license that to IBM as PC-DOS, for some big money. He then put it out for sale as MS-DOS. Later, Bill Gates bought a word processing package and sold it as Microsoft Word, and followed that with a the purchase of a spreadsheet package he sold as Excel. Purchases of other applications soon followed and we saw Access and publisher appear. Bill did some work at Apple, and walked off with the code for a new GUI, he worked it over a bit and Windows was born. He stole the code for a browser and Internet Explorer came to be. Over the years since the purchase of what became PC-DOS / MS-DOS all Microsoft has done is buy or steal software and make minor changes before selling it as their own. There is NO innovation required to do this. The big hype about the changes made in the GUI to make Vista different and to create the UAC came from Linux programs of some years earlier. Yes, the Microsoft marketing machine, the most well funded one in the world, makes out as if they invented these things, but they didn't. The only thing new about them is they're new to this version of Windows. We now have some people jumping up and screaming the Win 7 is the greatest thing since sliced bread, yet they seem to miss all the other people complaining about what they can't get to work in Win 7, and the people dumping it to load XP because they can get Win XP to work with their gear and software where Win 7 won't. Despite all the hype about new things in Vista or Win 7, there is NOT a new thing in it that hasn't been available in other operating systems or application software for some years. The closest thing to innovation that Microsoft has displayed in the last twenty years has been some of their predatory business and marketing practices, but they stole most of them from Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, anyway.

trichardson
trichardson

I think I understand your issue now Deadly. You are a Linux person right? Well I worked with both Unix and Linux for more than 10 years and have been a network administrator for more than 25 years. Trust me Linux will never take over the world. I have no desire to see it become any kind of standard. As the Beatle song "Nowhere Man" states: "he's a real nowhere man, living in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans for nobody." Nuff Said!

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

with software and hardware not working right with Win 7. But, from a sane marketing point of view, if people want a particular way of doing things because they're used to it, that's what you sell them - except Microsoft say - 'Stuff you, we want you to do it this way now, and we don't care about what you want. You're only paying for it.' Which is why such a large percentage of the supposed Vista and Win 7 sales have actually been licenses where they also get a copy of XP they can install over Win 7, and they do. People do not like change just for change's sake, and all the changes from XP to Win 7 GUI are simply for change's sake. The only real effective change is the UAC, which could have been done a whole lot better, and could also have been done while allowing Vista and Win 7 to have a Classic Windows GUI if people wanted to use it. The end result is people who have to use the finished product are walking away from Win 7 and the new Office Suite when they can, simply because they require too much new learning. Add in that the schools are still teaching Win XP, and it only gets worse. easier to learn how to use Open Office - be it on Windows or Linux, and easier to learn Linux than go from XP Classic mode to Win 7.

trichardson
trichardson

Probably because they can not adapt to change which that ability is critically needed to continue to work in the industry.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Anyway, this thread is about Microsoft and Innovation two things that have never had a meeting.

trichardson
trichardson

Don't you just hate whiners! Windows 7 is a great operating system. You don't have to distribute it as it is, customize it! it's modular and massively self repairing reducing IT overhead. Or perhaps that is it, they are afraid of losing their jobs. With a business model that will not adjust they are doomed anyway.

mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

Microsuck is like a banking corporation at this point and anyone with any brains should look elsewhere... well almost anywhere else really.

Jimb49
Jimb49

Microsoft has never been an innovator, They copy. Even their original Dos developed for the IBM PC was a clone of CPM & Xenix

Strayer
Strayer

As in DEC? I have a DEC Rainbow with software and manuals. I learned to to curse with that one.

Ocie3
Ocie3

but when an IBM team came calling, searching for a partner to develop microcomputer systems, they had the hardware but not an OS, or applications. When they asked Bill Gates whether Microsoft had an OS, he replied "We don't do operating systems." But when it became clear that IBM wanted to partner with a firm that had an OS, Gates reportedly changed his answer. Shortly after the IBM team left, Gates went to a shop that was down the street from his and bought DOS from its developer. Eventually, Microsoft bought the developer's entire business, and paid him quite well for it, just to be sure that there would never be a legal challenge to their ownership of DOS.

trichardson
trichardson

Apples orginal Macintosh interface was stolen from Xerox after Steve Jobs visited Xerox engineers to look at their new interface. They all steal. True innovation is accomplished by individual inventors who generally get screwed on the deal.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

or tried to copyright it to stop others from using it, - the exact opposite of how Bill Gates has behaved with it.

charleswdavis6670
charleswdavis6670

Xerox executives gave it away. They didn't want to tinker with something other that copiers. Failed to INOVATE.

pjboyles
pjboyles

It only takes about 30 seconds to find the truth about Apple and Xerox. Apple paid Xerox for access to Xerox's graphical interface. Can you say the same for any others?

trichardson
trichardson

Want to beleive you but I can find no reference to them paying a penny for the Xerox Gui. There is a demo on YouTube however where Steve Jobs admits that after a 1 1/2 hour demo to his design team by Xerox they came back and created their own. I will admit however Xerox did screw up badly! Point me at your reference.

gbsuyat
gbsuyat

Think of the Big picture not just windows/office. duh

kraterz
kraterz

Innovation? Let's see. From the very beginning... MS-DOS has roots in Seattle computer corp, Corel ran rings around the equivalent MS products, Borland's compilers generated more optimized and tighter code than the MS compilers, the WIMP/GUI innovation came from Xerox PARC and later Apple - Windows was a graphical shell around DOS that was unstable as an elephant on a tightrope, it was not until Dave Cutler came over from DEC that MS had any sort of stability in their OS, MS server systems were a joke till recently, IE has and will always lag behind other browsers in security and speed, need I go on? MS has got to where they are by sheer money and muscle. Imagine a small profitable oil company that can sell you petroleum at 1/4 the cost of Exxon, but it will still be squished in a few months by the Exxon money, contacts and muscle power.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

I worked for a bar and grill years ago that did almost no dining room business compared to other restaurants in the area. All the servers would brain storm about ways to bring in new business. One night our GM basically told us that the management really didn't care about bringing new dining room because they made a killing off of the bar, that was packed every night of the week. Microsoft is that same way. Are they behind in some areas? Yes. Are they still making a killing in their bread and butter market, the desktop OS and MS Office line? Yes

carlsf
carlsf

Microsofts bottom line.... When businesse like myself start demanding Systems and Notebooks without a O/S from OEM's, and they start (as some allready are)SELLING WITHOUT AND O/S, and the OEM's stop purchasing the volumes of licences from MS, then they might start listening. It is NOT until it affects your bottom line, then you start to think and by then it is too late.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

the only time they get close to innovation is just after they've stolen it or bought ir from some one else.

DMambo
DMambo

I think Microsoft has even lost ground in the plagiarism race, it's old strong suit.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you think Microsoft will ever become a great innovator, creating new products and developing new markets?

NexS
NexS

Innovation, one day, will turn the world into one of those sci-fi movies where machines take actions and make decisions. That scares me, to think that a user no longer actually has any control over a machine is daunting. You can keep your innovation, and put it in an airtight jar!

bdulac
bdulac

It seems that now MS is just trying to keep up with Apple. Let's be real, There hasn't been a huge amount of innovation from the guys in Redmond in recent years and with their latest software releases I don't thing we'll see much in the way of new ideas any time soon......

Kevin@Quealy.net
Kevin@Quealy.net

You could say Microsoft doesn't innovate ... but then by that same strict definition there are very, very few companies that do innovate. I think "innovation" is overrated. When I look at what Microsoft has done the past few years (MSE, Hyper V, Windows 7, Exchange 2010, the coming Office 2010) I see great things! Are any of these considered "innovative"? Perhaps not but they are still great products which bring a lot to the enterprise. Innovation is a great concept but I'll take making improvements their great products over innovation any day of the week.

trichardson
trichardson

Mary-Jo needs to pay attention. There are a host of new innovations only bits of which have been leaked from Microsoft, Courier for example. Is Apple innovative? No they just took an IPod and put a bigger screen on it. That's innovation? It can't even multitask! It's merely a marketing thing to raise income not an innovation just a rehash of an old product and not a very good effort at that.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

While I too consider the iPad a case of resting on their laurels, the iPod and iPhone brought new features to the portable media player and cell phone. The 'all-in-one', the single button mouse, a GUI long before Windows (yes, I know; Apple didn't invent it either, but they brought it to consumers). Microsoft has purchased or copied many of it's 'innovations'. They're not lacking in this area, but it's been years since I considered them a market leader. On the other hand, innovation isn't always what I look for.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

This was designed to resemble the output from a strike-on typewriter. The typeface was designed by Howard "Bud" Kettler in 1955. The design of the original Courier typeface was commissioned in the 1950s by IBM for use in typewriters, but they did not secure legal exclusivity to the typeface and it soon became a standard font used throughout the typewriter industry. As a monospaced font, it has recently found renewed use in the electronic world in situations where columns of characters must be consistently aligned. It has also become an industry standard for all screenplays to be written in 12 point Courier or a close variant. Most of the above is a quote from a wiki article. Sorry, another Microsoft theft.

trichardson
trichardson

No the new tablet product yet to be released. Light years beyond the IPad.

ldonegan
ldonegan

The internal bickering of Microsoft shall and will be its own downfall. In other words they are their own worst enemy. They have gotten so big that they have lost the art to be competitive where the Linux community is passing them by. Soon Linux will be lightyears ahead of the Microsoft monster. Additionally it is believed that Microsoft attitude towards innovation is that they are the only boys on the block...WRONG ! There are many other people in this world that are innovative, highly intelligent other than they meaning Microsoft.

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