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Is Microsoft An Innovator? - The Winer-Scoble Debate

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the i've-got-the-popcorn dept.

Microsoft 365

Carl Bialik from WSJ writes "Bloggers Robert Scoble (a former Microsoft 'technical evangelist') and Dave Winer (longtime Microsoft critic) debate whether Microsoft is driving innovation or playing catch-up, in an email conversation published on WSJ.com. Winer writes, 'Microsoft isn't an innovator, and never was. They are always playing catch-up, by design. That's their M.O. They describe their development approach as "chasing tail lights." They aren't interested in markets until they're worth billions, so they let others develop the markets, and have been content to catch-up.' Scoble responds that Microsoft's innovation can be found in the little things: 'I remember when they improved the error messages you get in Internet Explorer, or when they improved fonts in Windows with ClearType technology. That improved our lives in a very tiny way. Not one that you usually read about, or probably even notice. Is Microsoft done innovating in those small ways? Absolutely not. Office 2007 lets me do some things (like cool looking charts) in seconds that used to take many minutes, maybe even hours for some people to do.'"

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365 comments

Don't forget Clippy! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17064738)

See, M$ is innovative!

Chasing tail lights? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17064742)

If Microsoft are "chasing tail lights" could someone please brake suddenly.

Innovator, maybe not (2, Insightful)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064744)

OK, they make small improvements to things, btu yeah, the big changes are definetly taken (purchased or copied) from others.

Still, they have a habit of taking crap and actually making it pretty decent. At least to my experience.

Re:Innovator, maybe not (2, Insightful)

cepayne (998850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064986)

They have become a Venture Capital investor, buying up other peoples
technologies, and then enforcing their non-standards onto the
computing world.

If it weren't for their portfolio of IP (intellectual property)
patents, they wouldn't be relavent anymore in todays computing
world.

Just my $0.02 worth.

Re:Innovator, maybe not (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064990)

"Still, they have a habit of taking crap and actually making it pretty decent."
only compared to the crap it was.
Which is the real secret to their success.

Re:Innovator, maybe not (2, Insightful)

TerminalWriter (953282) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065002)

Still, they have a habit of taking crap and actually making it pretty decent.

And then sometimes, they take a pretty decent product, make a less usable version of it and then crowd out the better product, by bundling their version with the OS.

Re:Innovator, maybe not (1, Insightful)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065052)

They also have a habbit of taking something decent and making it pretty crap.

Re:Innovator, maybe not (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065184)

may I ask what in particular you are referring to?

Re:Innovator, maybe not (1)

simm1701 (835424) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065314)

Java
Java script
HTML
C++

Nice clean standards before MS - a jumbled mess with microsoft non standard rubbish stuck in the middle afterwards

Thats just off the top of my head - I'm sure others can think of far more

Re:Innovator, maybe not (1)

chthon (580889) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065074)

Even that mode is copied, because the Japanese industry worked in that mode in the seventies and eighties.

Re:Innovator, maybe not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17065178)

You mean the other way around don't you? I remember they took over Giant Software's award winning product and turned it into crap. I have not seen any real improvement in that since the day Microsoft bought it and just renamed it the word Giant Software to Microsoft. Where is the innovation in that? How about the anti-virus software. They bought some company and we have not seen or heard from that company ever again. They took a great backup software company in the 90 and turned it into Windows Backup which does a crappy job of backup. The list goes on and on.

Re:Innovator, maybe not (1, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065198)

Still, they have a habit of taking crap and actually making it pretty decent. At least to my experience.

Are you talking about Microsoft's crap or other people's crap?
I mean if we are talking about the transition from Win95 to Win2000, I would say that is true but let us take a look at some examples when we compare other companies vs Microsoft:

1. Apache vs IIS

Apache crap? I don't think so. Ever had to admin IIS 4 or 5? Gah! I don't know about newer versions though, but I have a hunch there are still issues going on.

2. Oracle SQL/MySQL vs MS SQL

MS SQL isn't all that bad if you got the hardware to keep it in line, but I wouldn't call Oracle or MySQL crap.

3. iPod vs Zune

I'm not going to even answer this one. *coughs*

4. Playstation 2/Game Cube vs Xbox

Yeah... Technically Xbox has better hardware and graphics, but you can't say the other two systems were crap.

5. Groupwise vs Outlook

I mean Groupwise isn't as say functional with VBA and add-ins... Well maybe that isn't a bad thing, but Groupwise wasn't crap. Now if your an Exchange Admin of Outlook I'm sure you might have some nasty words about Outlook. Its getting better though

6. Lotus Notes vs Outlook/Access

Um... Ok. You got me. Lotus Notes was and is crap. I can't defend that product. So we've got 1 out of 6. I could go on about Wordperfect, Quatro Pro, and Lotus Suite which weren't crap products. Microsoft didn't really improve on those when they came out with their competing office suite. If you are going to talk about improvements we are going to have to look at Office 97, 2000, 2002, 2003 and now Office Vista which is an improvement of their own products.

Give me a break (4, Insightful)

gentimjs (930934) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064746)

Stuff like UI-isms (paperclips, ribbons, hiding the file menu, etc) isnt "innovation" .... Stuff like Dtrace , TCP/IP, xml, .. THAT is innovation. Lets have MS give us some real innovation, you know - stuff that wont just change "the way things are done" inside of thier own software ecosystem.

Re:Give me a break (3, Insightful)

dysk (621566) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064852)

[quote]Stuff like UI-isms (paperclips, ribbons, hiding the file menu, etc) isnt "innovation" .... Stuff like Dtrace , TCP/IP, xml, .. THAT is innovation. Lets have MS give us some real innovation, you know - stuff that wont just change "the way things are done" inside of thier own software ecosystem.[/quote] Tell that to your grandma. Computers are made to be used, not to be repositories for acronyms.

Re:Give me a break (4, Interesting)

Slithe (894946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064918)

Stuff like Dtrace , TCP/IP, xml, .. THAT is innovation.

Don't get me wrong; DTrace does sound like a very useful application, but real-time debugging was available on Genera [wikipedia.org]. Clinical debugging (as opposed to mortician-style debugging) has been around for quite some time.

I agree that TCP/IP was innovative.

XML is just a simplified subset of SGML; while XML is useful, it is hardly innovative. If you want to see innovative, you should look at Project Xanadu [wikipedia.org]. .l

Innovation (1)

diersing (679767) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065166)

There is more then just technical innovation isn't there, can't innovations be made is usability, presentation, interfaces, support, etc?

Too big (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064752)

MSFT is too big and bloated to be nimble and innovative. For the last ten years their product execution has been horrible. They show up late to the party with a buggy product and treat their customers like criminals.

Time for Ballmer to go. As long as he's in charge at MSFT nothing is going to change.

Re:Too big (1)

dingDaShan (818817) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064850)

Taking a bunch of crap and putting it into one successful product IS innovation. Even if they are taking a bunch of products that someone else thought up, putting them together better is innovation. You can say that Microsoft is bloated and big with poor product execution, but what about the Zune? Have you actually used one? It has it's pitfalls sure, but the product was created from conception to execution rather quickly. Additionally, it has a unique menu system, a beautiful UI, and a interesting idea in the wireless sharing of songs. This is innovation. The Windows Media formats are all innovative. They allow greater compression than many other formats of similar quality. And while I am at it: FAILED INNOVATION IS STILL INNOVATION. Other companies don't need to execute perfectly every time they create something innovative (Ipod battery). Don't be so hard on Microsoft.

Re:Too big (2, Insightful)

Rytr23 (704409) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065070)

.. but the product was created from conception to execution rather quickly

Well... it usually helps when you purchase a prexisting product (toshiba gigabeat) and start from there..

..and a interesting idea in the wireless sharing of songs

Wow..you have an interesting idea of what interesting is.. I think most people would see thier implementation as ummm Worthless and/or insulting. But I guess Fanbois will be fanbois..

Re:Too big (2, Insightful)

damienl451 (841528) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065146)

Isn't it because most of their user base is comprised of criminals? I'm sure the majority of PCs out there are using illegitimate MS software one way or another.

Out of proportion (2, Insightful)

Qamelian (714680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064754)

Scoble says "I remember when they improved the error messages you get in Internet Explorer, or when they improved fonts in Windows with ClearType technology. That improved our lives in a very tiny way." Sorry, but ClearType is not something I consider life-improving. A cure for diabetes is life-improving.

Re:Out of proportion (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17064836)

Not only that, but Cleartype is mearly a marketing name for sub-pixel antialiasing, which is something Microsoft did not invent. So where is the innovation? "Friendly" error messages in Internet Explorer are also hardly an innovation, unless you're going to set the bar extremely low. Most developers and sysadmins hate the things anyway.

Re:Out of proportion (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064996)

When you work on a computer all day every day, little things that make that experience better are by definition life-improving. A cure for diabetes does not improve my life at all. It's not a question of proportion but perspective. Besides, if those programmers hadn't spent their time doing ClearType or fixed error messages do you really think they would have solved all of life's problems?

Re:Out of proportion (4, Insightful)

epiphani (254981) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065022)

Thank you Microsoft, for improving the error messages you get in Internet Explorer. Now my QA team always gives "Cannot find server or DNS error" as the error message, leaving me with very little to work with.

Bucketing all errors to prompt one page is not improvement - its obfuscation, its stupidity, its annoyance. It makes troubleshooting a problem exponentially harder.

If thats what microsoft thinks is innovation, they should have their product development team strung up by their short and curleys.

Re:Out of proportion (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065152)

A trivial search on the net shows that the 'ClearType' [desktoppub...gforum.com] is nothing more that a rehash of the same generic fonts available to all. I guess I am the only person that thinks Microsoft's perpetuation of "Proud Ignorance" is troubling.

Different kinds of innovation (1, Insightful)

otacon (445694) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064760)

Well technically I would agree that MS plays catch-up most of the time. They are always innovating the way they do business, and in turn setting a standard so to speak for commercial software. Two examples of how they have changed certain markets in the recent years would be .NET and Xbox Live. They may not be innovating on their flagship stuff i.e. Windows, Office, but they move forward in other areas.

Re:Different kinds of innovation (1)

ookaze (227977) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064964)

Well technically I would agree that MS plays catch-up most of the time. They are always innovating the way they do business, and in turn setting a standard so to speak for commercial software

What BS ! Using illegal business practices, to the point of make you convicted of abusing your monopoly, is surely not an innovation, as the law already exits for it, so it has been done before. Using and screwing a big name like IBM is nothing innovative either, even in business.

Two examples of how they have changed certain markets in the recent years would be .NET and Xbox Live. They may not be innovating on their flagship stuff i.e. Windows, Office, but they move forward in other areas

What nonsense again !
C# was not even their invention, and .NET is just a library around it, which is a pure copy of the Java innovation.
As for XBox Live, it's a copy of what you find on PCs (and was done before on consoles too). It's also no innovation, even on PCs.
So please ...

Re:Different kinds of innovation (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065040)

Yeah, because the video game market and Java didn't exist before Microsoft "innovated" them. It's just as posted in the article:
'That's their M.O. They describe their development approach as "chasing tail lights." They aren't interested in markets until they're worth billions, so they let others develop the markets, and have been content to catch-up.' Scoble responds that Microsoft's innovation can be found in the little things: 'I remember when they improved the error messages you get in Internet Explorer, or when they improved fonts in Windows with ClearType technology.
The industry existed, Microsoft came in and tacked on Live, and thought up their own version of a JIT language that they had control of.

Re:Different kinds of innovation (1)

otacon (445694) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065108)

Ok ok I agree the video game industry existed...obviously...and online gaming existed...but online gaming on consoles has always been kinda shitty...take PS2 online for example...Microsoft came out with xbox live and added a lot to console gaming that no one ever did before....that's innovation....I never said they invented online gaming...cmon

Re:Different kinds of innovation (1)

chthon (580889) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065176)

Microsoft is a marketing company, which happens to sell software.

I knew someone (in a course Linux, no less) who had done the same in the past with meat. He didn't produce anything, he just bought ready made meats and marketed them.

Cigarettes is also mostly marketing, although they have the advantage that their customers get addicted.

Coca-Cola, Pepsi, I am sure people can think of other companies which are much more marketing driven than excellence driven.

Re:Different kinds of innovation (3, Interesting)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065272)

Youre going to get a lot of replies, mostly saying "NO! It was done by this company." and that person will reply "No, it was done by this company first!" then another person will reply "No, this university came up with the idea." "NO! it was this eastern european researcher who wrote the paper!" "NO! It was this science fiction writer no one has read!" And so forth.

I think theres some kudos to bringing an idea or implementation to market and making it affordable for most people. I'm not sure innovation is the word here, but its real work and deserves real credit. I don't think its just marketing, as some cynics have already suggested.

Impressive Rebuttal (5, Insightful)

PingSpike (947548) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064762)

...Scoble responds that Microsoft's innovation can be found in the little things: 'I remember when they improved the error messages you get in Internet Explorer, or when they improved fonts in Windows with ClearType technology. That improved our lives in a very tiny way. Not one that you usually read about, or probably even notice. Is Microsoft done innovating in those small ways? Absolutely not. Office 2007 lets me do some things (like cool looking charts) in seconds that used to take many minutes, maybe even hours for some people to do.'"
Wow. Improved error messages in Internet Explorer. Which side of the argument is this guy on again?

Micorsoft does try to innovate (2, Funny)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064764)

... but they make such a mess of it!

ActiveX - why not let others use your computer resources too
MicrosoftBOB - bwahahahahahahaha
Clippy - bwahahahahahahaha x 200
MP3 player with WiFi (crippled beyond belief)
Brown Mp3 players (my god - who told them brown was the in colour?)
PlaysForSure - but not on our player

Pathetic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17065080)

It's nice that your list points three failures to the same product... very insightful.

And even if we took those three issues as separate products it's pretty damn pathetic that you have to go the entire way back to MSBob to make a list of 6 things you've found less than perfect in your little world.

If that's the best you can do I'd call MS a pretty damn good company from where I sit.

ClearType (5, Insightful)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064768)

'I remember when they improved the error messages you get in Internet Explorer, or when they improved fonts in Windows with ClearType technology.
Improving error messages can't really be called a new invention. ClearType is nothing but a marketing name for sub-pixel antialiasing, something that has been done before. So, if their examples for Microsoft's innovations are in fact counterexamples, this is quite telling.

Your wrong (0, Troll)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064956)

Innovation does NOT MEAN inventing.

Look it up.

Re:Your wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17065218)

Microsoft defines innovation to mean "bringing to market". But EVEN STILL, they're not innovators BY THEIR DEFINITION, unless you also let them define "market" to mean "windows users only". If you take market to be "computer users", they're not innovators in, well, anything much.

Re:Your wrong (1)

chthon (580889) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065248)

'Innovation' is a word that has been slapped to death in the last two years, and which has completely lost its meaning.

My default mode has now become to distrust everyone who happens to use the word 'innovation'.

Re:Your wrong (2, Insightful)

supasam (658359) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065264)

innovation (?n'?-v?'sh?n)
n.
The act of introducing something new.
Something newly introduced.

Anti-aliasing has been around since at least the seventies, Do YOU call that particularly new and thus an innovation?

definitely an innovator (1)

dingDaShan (818817) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064770)

The reason that Microsoft is so successful is in no small part to their innovations. Regardless of whether or not they created the ideas, by far the most difficult part is putting them into practice. This feat alone is a major innovation of the industry. An even greater feat is putting them into practice in large quantities. Furthermore, although Microsoft has had situations such as ActiveX, they have had success stories such as Direct-X too. Of course, the merits of Direct-X are continually questioned by OpenGL fans, but there is no doubt that creating a standard is innovative.

Re:definitely an innovator (1)

ookaze (227977) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065026)

The reason that Microsoft is so successful is in no small part to their innovations

Is it ? I thought it was due to abusing monopoly and IBM name.

Regardless of whether or not they created the ideas, by far the most difficult part is putting them into practice

But the difficult part you talk about is no innovation.

This feat alone is a major innovation of the industry. An even greater feat is putting them into practice in large quantities

Feats are no innovation.

they have had success stories such as Direct-X too. Of course, the merits of Direct-X are continually questioned by OpenGL fans, but there is no doubt that creating a standard is innovative

But DirectX is not a standard, whereas OGL is. So OGL is the innovation here, not Direct3D (or DirectX).
And OGL has far more merits, being used in most of the consoles out there too. Perhaps that's why DX merits are questioned : it's not even multiplatform !

Re:definitely an innovator (5, Funny)

Ithika (703697) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065050)

The reason that Microsoft is so successful is in no small part to their innovations. Regardless of whether or not they created the ideas, by far the most difficult part is putting them into practice.

Wow, that's incredible. Microsoft is "successful [due to their] innovations [...] whether or not they created the ideas". Just think how much less work innovation takes if you don't need to think up your own ideas! Why, I might innovate the wheel this afternoon, if I can be bothered.

Truly it is an exciting new realm of discovery that awaits us.

I used to work for Microsoft (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17064772)

But they fired me beacause of my membership in the GNAA.

Re:I used to work for Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17065016)

But they fired me beacause of my membership in the GNAA.

Read: they couldn't tolerate a hole that's larger than their own security holes.

Oooopppss ... did I really say that?

um (4, Insightful)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064778)

we are supposed to all shout NO!. But they innovated in one critical way. When the Unix wars were in full swing, they came up with a remarkable new business model that utterly crushed all competition and set them as the worlds main desktop and office OS.

Is that innovation? You may argue not, was it nice, nope, but they managed it, and business was so desperate for someone to get of their fat corporate arse and solve their newborn IT problem, that they loved everything microsoft did.

If only it hadn't been them that did it /sigh...

Re:um (1)

ookaze (227977) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065106)

But they innovated in one critical way. When the Unix wars were in full swing, they came up with a remarkable new business model that utterly crushed all competition and set them as the worlds main desktop and office OS

Excuse me ?
Using IBM's name and money to build an OS where there were none before, for brand new standard of compatible personal computers that didn't exist before, is not exactly innovation. The innovation was from IBM then : the IBM PC. Their business model was basically screwing IBM with the licensing. You can call that innovative, or their illegal bundling of OS and PC innovative, I sue don't.

they managed it, and business was so desperate for someone to get of their fat corporate arse and solve their newborn IT problem, that they loved everything microsoft did

I'm not sure love has a lot to do with it. I'd rather say vendor lock-in.

HAH! (0, Flamebait)

cpct0 (558171) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064786)

Yeah... I guess I'm not an evangelist for Microsoft then ;)

ClearType. It's so good MOST PEOPLE have it closed. It's closed by default, and it causes a %/$"%(load of problems with most software (Gaim and other GTKs for example has problems with that, I can't even see the "i" when I type a sentence). That said, I opened it, and found the way to get it configured (oh great, you actually need to go to a M$ website, and either download a powertoy or a IE ActiveX, talk about conviviality), and now am a happy user of it. But I had to lose a great hour trying to find the way to get things done. So I guess it helps EVERYONE.

Geez, if that's the best example he could harvest, Microsoft is in deep trouble!

Innovation? Who cares? (1)

tbannist (230135) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064796)

Really, most of us have fallen for the big lie. It doesn't matter whether or not Microsoft is innovative, everyone is innovative. It's inventive we should care about? I can rearrange the paperclips in my drawer and that qualifies as innovative. It's a work that means nothing. That's why Microsoft made it a key feature of their advertising campaigns, it's a technical sounding word that only requires that Microsoft copy other companies.

Innovation, huh? (5, Informative)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064830)

Scoble responds that Microsoft's innovation can be found in the little things: 'I remember when they improved the error messages you get in Internet Explorer, or when they improved fonts in Windows with ClearType technology.
How quickly they forget that ClearType, the method as Microsoft describes it, is a direct rip-off of the font smoothing technology Apple came up with for using Apple II's on (comparatively) lo-res colour television displays in the mid-1980's.

Small improvements... like tabs in IE? (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064862)

I think the MS evangelist is missing the point. What drives Microsoft to make those small improvements? I have heard from other recent articles, such as the 9-choice Vista shutdown menu fiasco, that the development team supposedly has Macintosh computers around as "good examples". I'd say that's playing catch-up. Of course, it completely makes sense that anyone wanting to dominate has a much shorter road to use a 90+% install base as a copycat platform rather than risk an innovation that doesn't work... MS lets the little guys figure out what doesn't work. If it works, they either copy you or buy you, whichever is cheaper. They'd be dumb not to given their position. After all, why earn a ph.d when you can hire one; and why hire one when you can just buy the end result off of him/her; and why buy the end result when you can just copy it and patent it from under them?

News?.. not really (4, Insightful)

Sassinak (150422) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064866)

Lets see... MS took an existing Operating system, repackaged it, and sold it to IBM. And thus an empire was born.

MS innovates in their marketing and licensing schemes, but is that really what you want from a TECHNOLOGY firm?.. Sure, their lawyers are smart.. ("Lets see how we can gouge you today, AND not have you realize until your bleeding").

Everything else they have done as been, as many have pointed out, been based on someone else's work, that they have taken to market with their leverage. Again, nothing I can respect from a TECHNOLOGY firm. Microsoft should just cut the crap and call themselves what they are. a Terriffic marketing firm. They are NOT and have never been a technology firm.

You are confusing innovation with (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064912)

creating new markets.

They are not the same.

Innovating is creating something new or different.

So Zune is innovation. Is it a new market? no. Is it new or different? yes.

No I am not a MS 'fanboi' but lets use the correct definition.

Re:You are confusing innovation with (1)

Sassinak (150422) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065012)

I think the gripe most of us have is that microsoft themselves use the term innovate. they wish to be the market leader, and they wish to set standards.

I am not a person that says, if you get too big, your out of the game. because honestly if I were in their shoes I would try to do EXACTLY (well, not EXACTLY, but pretty darn close) to what they are doing now. My gripe is that if you are going to make those claims, and take that standing, then as a market leader and as a innovator of technology, you should be doing significant R&D to come up with the next big thing rather than saying: "Hey, little sally is making money on lemonaide, lets sell that and put her out of business so we have another revenue stream".

And unfortunately I know well of what I speak, as I happen to work for the evil empire. (storm trooper uniform and all)

Just for clarification: (3, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064870)

innovation /nven/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[in-uh-vey-shuhn] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
-noun
1. something new or different introduced: numerous innovations in the high-school curriculum.
2. the act of innovating; introduction of new things or methods.

From dictionary.com

So, I guess technically MS does innovate, but they don't create new markets.

Re:Just for clarification: (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065006)

Yes, I'd agree with that definition. With every major software release, Microsoft innovates at least a dozen ways for the IT industry to tear its hair out and scream in frustration.

Return on investment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17064874)

Microsoft, who spends billions of dollars on R&D each year, is able to turn that into... friendly error messages and smooth fonts? That's a mighty fine return on investment there.

Who to side with? Winer or Microsoft? (1)

pldms (136522) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064876)

Not a pleasant position to be in :-(

Microsoft are more pleasant to interact with, in my experience.

topic? (1)

Triv (181010) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064902)

Okay, so where's the Apple icon that would seem to go with this story by implication? And what does the Hardware icon have to do with this? Or have the topic icons started making sense all of a sudden...except not?

Triv

innovation doesn't just mean UI development (1)

fourNineteen (731459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064920)

uh, are any of you aware of Microsoft Research? i'm not a fan of Redmond, but i do have colleagues who do real research, something a "technical evangelist" doesn't know/get educated about/understand, since it's not directly part of the marketing for their flagship products. there is serious cash being put into R&D at Microsoft for years. they also promote research in Academia; for instance Bill Gates donated 20M to MIT to help start the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT. http://www.csail.mit.edu/index.php [mit.edu] - egad, a building is even named after him! don't hate if you don't know the whole story... http://research.microsoft.com/ [microsoft.com]

Re:innovation doesn't just mean UI development (1)

Edward Ka-Spel (779129) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065238)

Yes, Microsoft R&D labs. I don't know about other fields, but in the field of computer graphics they have a very large group. In the late 80s, early 90s, they hired quite a lot of significant researchers in the field. Their directory looks like a "who's who" of researchers who established the field of CG. It seems like all the legendary researchers went there.

Nevermind that I have not seen a single research paper from any of these people since they went to Microsoft. I suppose I could've missed it, but I doubt it. I haven't seen anything in their products that show the results of this research either. I honestly have no idea what they are doing there. Better pie charts in Excel? Shader rendering in Halo? DirectX? These are not things you expect from the researchers that took CG from primitive line drawings to globally illuminated photo-realistic renderings.

Re:innovation doesn't just mean UI development (1)

Gregory Cox (997625) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065284)

Research isn't necessarily groundbreaking or original, and it doesn't even necessarily succeed in producing anything at all. (Also, I'm sure MIT is grateful for the donations, but if those MIT researchers innovate, you can't call that innovation by Microsoft.)

Maybe Microsoft Research is doing great things, but your comment would be a lot more persuasive if you gave examples of innovative research Microsoft has carried out.

Innovation? Not really.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17064946)

I just blogged about this because I read an article [thestar.com] in the "Toronto Star" about the launch of Vista in Canada. The best part is the last paragraph:
"Microsoft doesn't have to be the leader. They are a fast follower," Sharwood said.

Recent innovations (1)

Niten (201835) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064960)

Most of Microsoft's most commercially successful products "borrowed" heavily from other applications on the market, at least to start with. But I think that culture is starting to change. Microsoft PowerShell is the most impressive operating system shell that's been released in a long time, an innovative, object-oriented departure from the old Unix shell paradigm.

If you need absolute proof that innovation lives at Microsoft, take a look at their experimental operating system: Singularity [wikipedia.org].

Re:Recent innovations (1)

ettlz (639203) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065078)

But hasn't the idea behind Singularity been in academic labs years before?

At least now we have it in writing (1)

Pup5 (543611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064962)

We've always known that Microsoft doesn't innovate. And if that's the best Scoble can come up with, he's essentially just confirmed that fact.

Understand that politicians always say they're doing good for the people, used car salesmen always say _this_ car is the best deal you'll see, and those slackers at work always say that they're indispensable. Those who pay attention know the difference. Those who don't are the intended audience.

Microsoft knows that to maintain their monopoly they have to convince enough people that it's actually good for the customer. So they hire windbags like Scoble to do what he does. Let's just take a little satisfaction in the fact that this is as good as he can do.

=J

Microsoft itself is innovative (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064970)

It was and continues to be. They have their ups and their downs. Just like other companies, Apple included. Its fun to remember their screwups. They get noticed more because they are so big they attract enough "haters" to make a community.

Office was a great idea when it came out and has steadily improved. For some of us its entirely too much but it does the basics as well as enough fancy stuff to keep most business needs covered.

Xbox Live is probably their last great innovation. Everyone talks about online content not being original but until Live the execution of it for consoles was leaving a lot to be desired. Actually Live is a great example to follow for PC based content and should and could expand into the PC Arena. It probably is going to be used mostly as the stepping stone into the living room and is in a better situation to do so than Frontrow and Apple's iTMS integration to come.

Are they too big to truly innovate? No. There is much that goes on behind the scenes that we never see. The problem MS faces is that much of what they are planning leaks out under the guise of "will be integral to the next OS" that others can jump on it, deliver it, and appear as the originators because it takes too long for MS to turn on complete new releases of the OS.

If anything they may want to follow Apple's model of releasing revisions more often, though I doubt they could get away charging as much as Apple does for it.

The BASF effect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17064972)

Maybe they mean innovative in a different way, like BASF - making the good things we know better...except that BASF does it, you know...well.

Cleartype (1)

sottitron (923868) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064978)

Didn't Microsoft buy cleartype??

Re:Cleartype (1)

sottitron (923868) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065036)

Eh... I think I am wrong about that. I guess I just figured they did because I like it so much.

Re:Cleartype (1)

iapetus (24050) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065144)

It certainly wasn't an innovation in home computers, though - the Microsoft ClearType patent dates to 1998. RISC OS had sub-pixel anti-aliasing of fonts back in 1990.

The little things. (1)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 7 years ago | (#17064982)

I remember when they improved the error messages you get in Internet Explorer, or when they improved fonts in Windows with ClearType technology.

The little things are important, but not THAT important. Those are improvements, not innovations.

admission by omission (3, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065028)

Scoble tacitly supports Winer's argument by pointing to what would be normal "improvement" of products and technology citing that as innovation.

Come on! Every product is iterated! Scoble's claim this is innovation is specious. If any vendors out there didn't iterate on their own products with "small" improvements, they wouldn't stay in the business.

So, basically Scoble cedes the argument -- Microsoft really does lie in wait until the market is huge enough for predatory action, and jumps in with "small improvements". Innovation? Hardly.

Improved the error messages? (1)

mrjb (547783) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065034)

"I remember when they improved the error messages you get in Internet Explorer"

Don't make me laugh. The error messages in Explorer are pitiful, and haven't gotten any better, just more verbose. IE is not alone in this however. To illustrate the point, exactly the same goes for Oracle messages such as ORA-00942 "View or table does not exist"

So *which* view or table does not exist? The message can be made more verbose:

"The view or table that you tried to access does not exist. Check if the specified view exists, and if it doesn't, if there is a table of that name. If neither is the case, you can create one. Are you still reading? Please bring me a sixpack next time you want me to find the table for you."

but a much better approach would be to parameterize the error message:

"View or table 'pesron' does not exist"

This would *immediately* make clear that the word 'person' was misspelled, possibly saving hours of bug-hunting time. I'll accept the extra verbosity built-in for 'stupid' users, but at least give me some troubleshooting information so that I can fix what the hell is wrong.

Re:Improved the error messages? (1)

soxos (614545) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065206)

I wrote an short entry in my blog [patf.net] about this last month. I wasted an afternoon because there's a checkbox that will disable .NET 2.0 pages in IIS, yet, the error page you get isn't a 5xx server error type page. It's a damn 404, file not found.

Ok, I figured it out... (1)

Criterion (51515) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065056)

"Scoble responds that Microsoft's innovation can be found in the little things: 'I remember when they improved the error messages you get in Internet Explorer, or when they improved fonts in Windows with ClearType technology."

These are NOT innovations, in *any* way, shape or form. They are product polishing. It seems that the only way MS have innovated is by creating their own definition of "innovation" to suit themselves (hmm.. this seems to be a recurring thing with them), and brainwashed the media to make it come true.

Re:Ok, I figured it out... (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065220)

These are NOT innovations, in *any* way, shape or form. They are product polishing.

OK, so what is the last desktop app that you've seen that is innovative by those standards?

Not to sound trollish nor to apologize for MS bringing little new to the table but it's a tired argument that if someone takes something old, puts a new spin to it and finds acceptance than that person has created anything new, but rather stole from others.

It's like the music debate where a bunch of Zeppelin fans constantly go on and on about how Pearl Jam fans should feel the need to pay homage to LZ because PJ is nothing more than a LZ rip off. If we really had to see things that way we'd all be praising some cave man beating on a hollow log with a stick for being the first drummer.

I can not recall the last time I've seen something that didn't strike me as product polishing.

Definition, please? (2, Insightful)

soxos (614545) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065060)

Isn't innovation, by definition, creating products that are so new that they create markets? The small things that help are only making new technologies more useful, not inspiring new generations.

I'll make my case as such. Microsoft did come up with the XMLHttpRequest object, but it took people outside MS to turn that into AJAX.

Re:Definition, please? (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065192)

I dunno, why don't we look it up:

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=innovat ion Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.0.1) - Cite This Source innovation /nven/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[in-uh-vey-shuhn] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation -noun 1. something new or different introduced: numerous innovations in the high-school curriculum. 2. the act of innovating; introduction of new things or methods. [Origin: 1540-50;

Nope, nothing about markets. Lots about 'new' and a little about 'different'.

If they can be said to innovate, it's only because of the 'different' bit. They take someone's old idea, that they've already done, and make it desirable for the consumer. Or make the consumer desire it... It's a thin line. Still, introducing it differently is involved either way.

Not a surprise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17065064)

The fact that Microsoft isn't an innovator is known for a long time. Their "commitment to innovation" is just PR, and people know it since the 90's.

See, for instance:

MS: Innovator or Integrator? - June 10, 2000
http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,36902,00 .html [wired.com]

Saluting 25 Years of Microsoft 'Innovation' - June 14, 2000
http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,17180-page,1-c,o fficesuites/article.html [pcworld.com]

BTW, I know of many companies whose slogan includes "paradigm shift", "a new way of ...", "innovation comes first" or anything else along the same lines. As always, they offer the very same things as everyone else.

I think this sums it up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17065072)

Mr. Winer: I have to admit that I haven't played Halo, but of course I am familiar with it. I did a quick search and found that it was created by Bungie Labs, a Chicago company that Microsoft acquired six years ago.

Mr. Scoble: Yes, and there's always room for a company that innovates through acquisitions.

--

If I had their checkbook, I'd be innovative as hell! Fire the lot of them and let the guys with the checkbook do their work...

Worst "debate" ever (5, Interesting)

illuminatedwax (537131) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065076)

FTFA:
It was a fun debate.

No. It was a bloody awful debate, full of contradictory statements and non sequiturs.:
Guy 1: Microsoft doesn't innovate.
Guy 2: Yes they do! They innovate by improving their own software! So clearly they are more innovative than themselves!
Guy 1: Apple doesn't innovate either.
Guy 2: Ah, but what about Halo??
Guy 1: Um, Microsoft bought the company that made Halo.
Guy 2: That's just how they innovate: buying people who do! Um, I guess that's not innovation, so.... remember how much more Apple innovated in 1989, but then Microsoft made more money than them? That proves that Microsoft can innovate in this new horrible way that I just made up!
Guy 1: No, that doesn't make sense and you know it. I think Google is the top software company now because I use their products.
Guy 2: Well, Google shut down one of the things they do, and I like how Microsoft ranks my blog better than how Google does it! That's the kind of thing that makes Microsoft innovative: providing a better search result for a single query. Vista has an RSS aggregator. Is that innovative? Oh...no but it's cool. Also the XBox is popular.
Guy 1: Big corporations are all assholes and none of them innovate.
Guy 2: A friend of mine that works at Microsoft says he's happy that Google is innovating, because that means he gets to work on his projects to play catch-up...I mean innovate. Here's a bunch of random stuff Microsoft did that has nothing to do with innovation.

This uninformed waste of time brought to you by the Wall Street Journal.

As if! (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065098)

The dictionary definition (according to m-w.com) of "innovate" is "to introduce as or as if new". Microsoft has certainly introduced a lot of things _as if_ they were new (even though they weren't, since Unix, Linux, and/or Apple had them years before). Therefore Microsoft is innovative.

I feel bad for MS apologists... (5, Insightful)

AslanTheMentat (896280) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065100)

Wow... Where do I begin...

And the viruses and malware problem is significantly less since Windows XP Service Pack 2.
Huh... I seem to remember seeing an article purporting that at least half of the spam-zombies perpetuating these stock pump-and-dump schemes are Win XP SP2 boxen...

Apple will come out with iTV next year, after Microsoft has been doing Media Center for more than two years. I bet Apple will get credit for their "innovation" first, though, cause it's not fun to give Microsoft credit for innovation.
Maybe that's because Apple did more than cobble together a rank-ass Media Center version of Windows and slap a nice TV-video card in a tower enclosure. I mean seriously, where the hell are you supposed to put M$'s media center PC that will make it suitable as a Media Center AND a workstation? They completely missed the boat. Apple will most likely do it better, smaller, cheaper, faster, and with more quality. (I'm not a Mac fanboi so much as a MS Loather...)

[Winer]: You have to create things they don't teach in school. If you can take a college class about it, it ain't innovation.
True dat, BUT they really should be teaching security more these days. I can't say it really ever came up in my classes way back when, but then, it was a different day and age. PC's didn't get "mugged" the minute they stepped onto the internet then either.

Ahh, have you ever played Halo? That's from Microsoft too.
And here we have the crux of the problem... I believe Bungie had been working on Halo before Microsoft devoured them... In fact, it was Bungie who made many wonderful games for the Mac. Pathways out of Darkness? Marathon? Hello? Then suddenly, MS pwned them, and now they make crappy back ports to their "original" OS... *sigh* More importantly though, how is Bungie's Halo a Microsoft innovation again?

Yes, and there's always room for a company that innovates through acquisitions.
Forgive me, but being innovative does not involve buying other people's work and calling it your own, and furthermore not giving credit where credit's due, as above. That's called evil.

Would YouTube have gotten purchased for more than a billion if Microsoft wasn't threatening Google? I doubt it.
Isn't that the other way around? I mean, MS is kinda king-of-the-hill. Seems like Google poses more of a threat to MS... Where is Microsoft's innovative "video site"? Oh yeah, they are playing catch-up trying to cobble together their own...

No... most of MS's innovation is sadly in their relatively nasty and harmful business practices like "Embrace and Extend". Honestly, this is the kind of innovation we wish they would just shelve somewhere....

Innovations (1)

pubjames (468013) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065116)

Office 2007 lets me do some things (like cool looking charts) in seconds

And this is meant as a demonstration of how Microsoft is innovating. I remember when I last got excited about making "cool looking charts in seconds", it was using a program called Harvard Graphics in about 1991.

It's 2007 and he's talking about "cool looking charts". To me this just demonstrates the extent to which Microsoft is holding back innovation...

the 'Start' Button (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17065118)

Microsoft was the first to ever get this right with windows 95, OS/2 and CDE had a similar toolbar but it would disappear under other windows and you were constantly chasing after it by tabbing between windows. And what about all those network protocols MSCHAP (wireless), Cascaded style sheets etc. Is it that Microsoft doesn't innovate, or /.ers just refused to acknowledge that they do?

ATM released in 1991; ClearType shipped in 2002 (2, Interesting)

Beltway Prophet (453247) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065126)

Adobe Type Manager, with font smoothing, was out on Macs in 1991, long before ClearType, which was touted as one of XP's new features when it shipped in 2002. ATM was even available as an add-on to Windows by 1993, nine years ahead of ClearType. Furthermore, Mac OS 8.5 shipped with Apple's own built-in font smoothing in 1998. Whether or not M$ has done much innovating, that example doesn't exactly help his case.

Non-app innovations + what about PhotoSynth? (1)

elwinc (663074) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065128)

I'm not an MS fanboy and I only run Windows when I have to. My desktop has been Redhat since 6.1. And I'll agree that MS's applications are rarely innovative. But there are other areas for innovation. For example, in spreadsheets, Excel beat Lotus 123 because Excel was ready for mice and windows while Excel was still trying to make the transition from key-press menus. That's a user interface innovation, though rather antique at this point (but Winer says MS "never was" an innovator). BTW, this MS press release also claims MS invented the toolbar (maybe they mean a detachable one) http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/ofnote/05-07tim e.mspx .

The Office 2007 touts some kind of new UI improvement on toolbars. MS claims enough interest in the new UI to offer licensing http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2006/n ov06/11-21officeui.mspx [microsoft.com] . I'd call that a UI innovation.

Then there's the WinFS file system that was pulled from Longhorn. I don't know if it's better, but it sounds innovative.

One MS project that really interests me is PhotoSynth. http://labs.live.com/photosynth/. Anybody out there willing to argue it's not a truly innovative application?

One other area of innovation I'm willing to give MS credit for: building large systems. It's almost impossible to build software on the scale of Office and Windows. Tens of thousands of developers, millions of lines of code, thousands of different software & hardware environments to test in. Not to mention all the backward compatibility. I'm guessing here, but I bet MS innovated in large software project managment.

Double standard (1)

briancnorton (586947) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065154)

When microsoft develops something new, it's called "ignoring the standard" or "anticompetitive behavior." When they adopt the standard, it's called "muscling out the competition."

The fact is that microsoft does a lot of cool, innovative things.

  1. DirectX
  2. Xbox Live
  3. ASP
  4. Powerpoint
  5. Optical mice

How about the most innovative thing of all, getting people onto commodity hardware and out of the clutches of the clutches of the tyrannical interated systems of the 1980s.

It depends (1)

_Pablo (126574) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065162)

Which part of Microsoft are you looking at. You would be hard pushed to find much innovation of value in Vista (Search, gadgets, GPU accelerated UI, UAC...where have I seen these implemented better?), Office (ribbon bar is lipstick on a pig) or Zune (I don't consider wireless DRM a useful innovation) - but LINQ, XAML, ATLAS, POWERSHELL and their marketing of a monopoly certainly show innovative ideas.

Not Framed Correctly, M$ is Destroyer. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065216)

If they have framed the debate in terms of innovation or "catch up" they have overlooked the destructive results of Microsoft's domination and "improvements." The third of the three Es is Extinguish. This is played out by breaking competitor's programs on their platform. Once M$ has driven their competitors out they stagnate. XP was behind the free world when it was released and today it's pathetic. Vista has not even close to having caught up. The world of M$ PDAs is much the same outside of Japan. Fortunately they have not been able to push the Xbox, media PC and Zune onto the world but you can see how grossly inferior they are to their competitors. Microsoft will never innovate because they waste time and resources thinking of ways to put others out of business.

Witness the Bad Attitude: [wired.com]

Allard and the rest of the Xbox senior executives gathered to write brief statements on what motivates them to come to work every morning. The mission: to inspire the group's rank and file. "Most people put down flowery, make-the-world-a-better-place, Miss America types of things," Allard says. "I wrote: What gets me out of bed and into the office every day is the thought of Ken Kutaragi's resignation letter, framed, hanging next to my desk."

What an asshole.

Chaing Tail Lights Can Bring Innovation (1)

refriedchicken (961967) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065286)

For sake of not getting banned from Slashdot: Down with M$.

Now on to the actual post. I think the chasing tails lights method of development and business building can be not only financially sucessful like M$ has proven, but can also be innovative. Much like drafting you are staying as close as possible to your competition and then just at the right time jumping around them. Why does M$ have to build the next market sector? And just because they don't does than mean they are not innovative?

Has M$ done this? Yes. Look at the Xbox and Xbox Live. Look at Zune. Look at the hooks into Media Center. I have bought 2 Xbox's and a Media Center PC because no one else is allowing me to do the things they are when used together. I have gotten rid of the cable boxes and tivos because M$ actually gets it. One device with unlimited turners to record TV and the 360's to view them in any room (even wirelessly) and I get to stream music, movies, etc. While by themselves none of this may seem innovative but put them together and suddenly the technolgies developed by chasing tail lights is now innovative and even kicked Sony out of my house.

Oh yeah, and my MSN Messenger Phone rocks...OK, I don't actually have that but I have seen them for sale at Best Buy and it is yet another hook in to there connected network.

This is retarded (1)

sootman (158191) | more than 7 years ago | (#17065292)

Well, duh. First of all, there is obviously no single yes or no answer. MS innovates some, so yeah, obviously you can't literally say they never innovate, but good God, look at the examples Scoble gives--freaking "friendly" error messages (which suck ass) and ClearType [grc.com] are the best he can come up with as counter-examples? Everybody borrows from everyone else and builds on the work of others, but anybody who has been paying attention to the industry for the last couple decades knows that MS has not been doing much innovating, no matter how you define it.

I could spend all morning picking apart his arguments but I don't have the time. A couple highlights:

As to security problems in Windows, yes, Microsoft deserves blame there. But it has made huge strides.

He then goes on to say how fucking wonderful MS is that they were able to fix problems that other vendors had solved decades ago. (OMG! Don't automatically run scripts from web pages and emails! We're fucking GENIUSES!!!!11) That's innovation--cleaning up your own mess?

As to security problems in Windows, yes, Microsoft deserves blame there. But it has made huge strides... Very few [interns and college graduates] had more than a single class on security in college or universities. Our industry just hasn't cared about security either.

So, because computer security isn't taught in school, that equals innovating?* And which fucking "industry" does he think "doesn't care" about security? Obviously he's never been within a thousand miles of an IT department. Or IBM. Or Cisco. Or Sun.

And, although I love Apple (I have three Macs and three PCs in my house right now) I can't display full HDTV images through mine onto my HDTV screen (I have a slightly older Sony screen than Dave does). But with Xbox 360 and Media Center I can.

So, MS is innovating because you have an old TV? Uh-huh. Wow--backwards compatability, component outputs. Yeah, REAL fucking innovative. Unlike that non-innovator Apple, who's leaving analog outputs in the past where they belong and moving forward with pure digital goodness.** Besides, who brought A/V to the desktop in the first place?

I love the smell of flamebait in the morning. God, reading Scoble's lame-ass arguments makes me want to gouge out my eyes with a titanium spork. [thinkgeek.com]

* hint: maybe... just MAYBE... "innovation" = thinking up shit that's NOT taught in schools!!! Eh? Eh? My fucking God, this guy is as dumb as a bag of hammers.
** watch me change my tune in 2 months when Apple releases the iTV with component outputs. :-)
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