Friday, December 01, 2006

Is Microsoft Driving Innovation Or Playing Catch-Up With Rivals?

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.

I see a lot of respondents adopting the Microsoft method of re-defining the term innovation in order to apply it to themselves, or their favorite companies. You can write good software and not be innovative. You can run a tight ship and not be innovative. You can grab mind share, produce clever ad campaigns, sell lots of stock and hire the Rolling Stones to sing background to your product announcements and not be innovative.

I think Google is innovative, not because of their search as such, but because of the automated server infrastructure that makes search and all their other products so responsive using fairly ordinary hardware. Some of the also-rans in this space (like MS) have done a good job of copying features and in some cases improving on them, but they still have to struggle to keep their servers from grinding to a halt under load and they have to hire outfits like Akamai to serve up static pages, buffer downloads, etc.

I think its far too early to conclude that innovation is a part of Google's genetic make-up though. When it comes to fundamental research as opposed to "mouse wheels" and catchy color schemes I don't think anyone has caught up to IBM, and companies such a Apple and Microsoft have PROVEN that they just follow the market rather than leading it in almost every case. Innovation when applied to these companies couldn't be further from the truth.

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