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Microsoft Patents Technology

Microsoft is the Industry's Most Innovative Company? 421

mjasay writes "According to a recent analysis by IEEE, Microsoft's patent portfolio tops the industry in terms of overall quality of its patents. And while Microsoft came in second to IBM in The Patent Board's 2006 survey, its upcoming 2007 report has Microsoft besting IBM (and even its 2006 report had Microsoft #1 in terms of the "scientific strength" of its patent portfolio). All of which begs the question: Just where is all this innovation going? To Clippy? Consumers and business users don't buy patents. They buy products that make their lives easier or more productive, yet Microsoft doesn't seem to be able to turn its patent portfolio into much more than life support for its existing Office and Windows monopolies. In sum, if Microsoft is so innovative, why can't we get something better than the Zune?"
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Microsoft is the Industry's Most Innovative Company?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:24PM (#21769522)
    265 comments making "humorous observations" about Microsoft and innovation being used in the same sentence. 0 that contain any actual humor.

    Just call it a hunch...
  • Did they include... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nog_lorp ( 896553 ) * on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:24PM (#21769528)
    I wonder if they included Microsoft patents such as their Virtual Desktop Pager patent? (http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&d=PTXT&p=1&p=1&S1=(Microsoft.ASNM.+AND+%22Virtual+desktop+manager%22)&OS=AN/Microsoft+and+ [uspto.gov]) Honestly, a vast portion of Microsoft's patents are complete bullshit that should NEVER have been awarded. Remove cases of OBVIOUS prior art (Linux has had virtual desktop pagers as described in that patent forever, and when they received this patent Microsoft had never used such a thing), and Microsoft's patent portfolio is shit. ~nog_lorp
    • (1) the patent was filed in 2002, while they didn't have anything out then, I've been using the microsoft power toy that patent describes since around 2005.
      (2) Read the patent. It's not patenting virtual dessktops, it's patenting accurate thumbnails of virtual desktops and using those to swich between the desktop (as previews). I'm not sure I've seen anything remotely as described before beryl on a *nix system. Is there anything that had this feature prior to 2002?
  • by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:25PM (#21769552)
    ...that patents have jack all to do with innovation. Thanks for the great example!
    • by OECD ( 639690 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:45PM (#21769858) Journal

      ...patents have jack all to do with innovation

      Exactly. Invention != Innovation.

      The iPod is a good counter-example. There was nothing particularly inventive about it, but it was quite innovative.

    • by lurker4hire ( 449306 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:46PM (#21769874) Homepage
      While S/W patents are ... ahem... problematic, patents themselves are a pretty good indicator that a particular person or organization is at least thinking about new and innovative ways to use technology.

      Microsoft's problem isn't R&D, it isn't that they don't have smart, cool or interesting people (although I imagine it's getting harder and harder to find new smart/cool/innovative ones)... their problem is the business management.

      The management of Microsoft (based purely on my outsider observations) desperately wants to extend their monopoly as long as possible, by any means necessary. Their basic playbook, and it's getting kinda worn by now, is to make (or buy) neat tech and then force you to use their existing tech to use the neat tech. The problem with this approach is that the existing tech (Win & Office) is basically a frankenstein monster at this point and by crippling their new tech to force use of the old tech they ruin the good ideas. All this takes place well after the innovative thinking takes place.

      MS shareholders need to do something about the state of that company, otherwise they're just going to continue to piss money away and eventually find themselves just like IBM in the early 90's.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by porpnorber ( 851345 )
        I think I'd be even blunter than you. Microsoft's profits come from a small range of technologies and philosophies that are often old at deployment, often weak by design, and fixed by the 'vision' of a small number of powerful people with strong personalities but extremely limited technical competence. Its strategy is to protect those profits, by limiting the extent to which innovation reaches the marketplace. This can be accomplished by destroying competition financially, by acquiring and dismantling compe
  • by Joe The Dragon ( 967727 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:26PM (#21769556)
    the innovation is going to vista techs that no one seems to want like there crappy DRM system that mess up networking when you are playing a .mp3
  • Innovation (Score:2, Insightful)

    Does not mean making products. It is in regards to what they are doing with their money and what they are developing. Nowhere in there does it say "worthwhile" or "what people want" Hurrah for flaimbait.
  • if Microsoft is so innovative, why can't we get something better than the Zune?"
    They're coining it in from their monopoly position, they don't need to do dick.

  • Innovation (Score:5, Funny)

    by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:28PM (#21769596)
    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
  • That's the phrase to describe Microsoft. They patent the obvious, the things that have existed for decades purely to get one up on their rivals and to be able to say Linux stole their idea.

    Also having a good idea doesn't mean you can make it a product.
  • Innovation != Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PianoComp81 ( 589011 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:28PM (#21769608)
    Just because someone comes up with a patentable idea, doesn't mean it's a GOOD idea.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mpe ( 36238 )
      Just because someone comes up with a patentable idea, doesn't mean it's a GOOD idea.

      Similarly there may well be plenty of good ideas which arn't patentable.
  • Call me skeptical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cleon ( 471197 ) <cleon42NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:29PM (#21769618) Homepage
    The article, I notice, is rather light on details about what sort of patents they're talking about. As the OP says, people don't buy patents--they buy products. So concretely, what sort of innovation is Microsoft involved in? The article doesn't really go into that.

    Frankly, I think the patent system hasn't been a good gauge of innovation in many, many years. Patents are issued for everything from BS "perpetual motion machines" to the grilled cheese sandwich [patentstorm.us] are granted routinely.

  • I'm sure that there are lots of "innovative" patents in MS's portfolio, though I'm certain that many were purchased elsewhere rather than developed in house. Also, just because they are producing "innovative" patents, does not necessarily mean that their enduser products are. They seem to fall hopelessly short of the basics in reaching for the new and flashy. Example: wouldn't you think that an automated troubleshooting wizard for internet connectivity problems would flag a blank entry for the gateway? I re
    • by AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @05:10PM (#21770342) Homepage
      I don't think that means what you think it means. I'm sure that there are lots of "innovative" patents in MS's portfolio, though I'm certain that many were purchased elsewhere rather than developed in house.

      It does not seem that you are qualified to comment on the shortcomings of others, you need to work on yourself first. Those interested in what MS actually does in house might want to look at Micorsoft Research's project page: http://research.microsoft.com/research/projects/default.aspx [microsoft.com].

      Also, out of house research is not necessarily patented. A friend did research on distributed shared computing in grad school. The project was supported by Microsoft, they had access to Windows source code, they were not restricted from publishing their research.
  • People dont like to admit it but MS actually does have patents on some fairly innovative things (example: ClearType) that are pretty clever. Whether its good or bad that you can patent a lot of these things is debatable but at least they are producing some useful stuff as opposed to just using patents as a money grab like a lot of patent troll companies.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:48PM (#21769914)
      A word on Microsoft's ClearType "innovation":
      http://www.grc.com/ctwho.htm [grc.com]
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jorghis ( 1000092 )
        That page kind of misrepresents things, the apple wasnt really using subpixel rendering it was really just saying that you had 280 half pixels and you could use any two neighboring pixels to make one pixel that you would then use normally. The algorithms involved in cleartype are way different and substantially more advanced.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Lol, this isn't interesting. I'm sorry, which part of that Apple rant has anything to do with fonts? If I develop a paper plane, does that mean I can sue Boeing for developing fighter jets?
    • You picked a terrible example. Apple, IBM and a number of other companies had subpixel rendering long before MS. But as is their standard practice, MS claimed something existing elsewhere as new and innovative and went for a patent.
    • by wikinerd ( 809585 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:54PM (#21770018) Journal

      innovative things (example: ClearType)

      I have extreme difficulty to read ClearType text. I think this is related to the way the eyes of some people work and that other people also have similar problems.

      I always thought that everyone was seeing the same things as me (fuzzy text hidden in an abyss of colours) and I thought well, maybe the whole world turned crazy or what, until I told what I were seeing to some other people and I asked them what they were seeing and they said "soft black letters", and then I read about the issue a bit and confirmed that yes, I am one of these people who can't read this stuff.

      One would assume that the purpose of text is to be read rather than to look pretty. In this regard, ClearType creates difficulties for some people whose eyes can discern colour in more "resolution" than other people (ie it penalises people who have better eyes).

      • Are you sure your monitor just doesn't have reverse ordered pixels? Most LCDs have BGR color ordering... but some have RGB. Sounds the same? It is very different! The following is a very zoomed in example of some backwards y letter I just made up. In the first, the font algorithm (Cleartype) thinks (correctly) you have BGR color order. In the second, the screen has RGB color order, and Cleartype thinks it is BGR (which is BAD!). Notice that the first one looks like a backwards y, like it should. The second
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )
      People dont like to admit it but MS actually does have patents on some fairly innovative things (example: ClearType) that are pretty clever.

      How is applying anti-aliasing to text innovative or clever? If they had invented anti-aliasing, that would be innovative. But Cleartype is just an obvious combination of things that already existed.
      • The clever part is that they used anti-aliasing on subpixels in text. You are not the first person ive heard saying that it was obvious or that someone else had thought of subpixel rendering first. But if thats true why didnt anyone else ever do subpixel rendering for text on lcd screens before? Its very useful, if it was so obvious I would think that other companies would have done it. I'm not saying its good that its all locked up in patents, but I do believe that MS did something useful here and they
  • Microsoft makes innovative software that causes the super-fast multi-core CPUs to slow down to hide the fact that programmers can't create innovative software to keep up with the hardware. :P
  • All of which begs the question: Just where is all this innovation going? To Clippy?

    Microsoft has turned the business of chair throwing into an art. Nobody does it better than them. Why just a few short years ago, we were lucky to launch chairs more than a few meters. Even then they usually ended in a destructive fireball. Then came that luminary Ballmer. He changed everything. Next time you stand in awe of perfect chair-to-low-earth-orbit (CLEO, another MS patent), you thank Microsoft.

    Where does the in
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Microsoft's business is profit, fueled not by innovation, but from quashing competition, customer lock-in, bribery, intimidation, and FUD.

      Microsoft has never been in the business of making innovative anything. Customer happiness is not even on their radar screen.
  • The blog entry looks like some roundabout way to try to plant the (erroneous) idea that patents equal innovation. The number of patents a tech company obtains depends mostly on how much money they are willing to spend on patents, nothing more. Microsoft made it their goal to get lots of patents to fight open source a few years ago, they have the money to do it, and they are following through. They are no more innovative now than they were a few years ago.
  • by Lank ( 19922 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:36PM (#21769714)
    Microsoft Research [microsoft.com] is really cool. They crank out cool stuff all the time! Take a look! The problem is that most of their stuff never sees the light of day. MS just gets the patent then bury it and move on. WinFS and other neat things came out of there. They hire a lot of PhDs, too... James Larus, the guy that wrote SPIM (MIPS simulator) works there now...
    • If I pay a few millions and buy or even build an innovative R&D lab and let the PhDs there crank out super ideas every day and I never use them, I am not an innovative company. One department does not represent the whole company.

    • The problem is that most of their stuff never sees the light of day.
      I entirely agree with this. The funny thing, though, is that the page you link to has written in large print on top: "turning ideas into reality."

      [mod self up]
  • Are we done yet? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by davmoo ( 63521 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:37PM (#21769730)
    Just where is all this innovation going? To Clippy?

    Clippy has been gone for so many years now that when ever I see someone bring him/it up, it automatically diminishes my respect for the author. The only thing more lame than dragging out Clippy would be dragging out Bob, or the hoax/cliche phrase "640k is enough for anyone" crap.
    • by rk ( 6314 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:47PM (#21769904) Journal
      640k is enough for anyone, especially Bob and Clippy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sm62704 ( 957197 )
      Clippy has been gone for so many years now...

      I wish you'd tell Tom that. I hate walking into his office. He has all those annoying sound effects turned on, too.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by spun ( 1352 )
      Not only are Clippy and Bob so incredibly horrible that they will be remembered forever in the annals of stupid computing, Microsoft stole the ideas behind them from Brenda Laurel, and got them all wrong.
  • The article only mentions innovation once. At best, MS is very good at making sure their ideas are covered in terms of legal paperwork. That does not mean that they are innovative or inventive. Like IBM and other tech companies, how many of their patents are defensive in nature given the state of Intellectual Property today? True innovation means more than patents.
  • Microsoft's patent portfolio tops the industry


    Just where is all this innovation going?

    Repeat after me: Patents != Innovation.

    Patents are just a PTO bureaucrat's way of faking being a scientist who has spent a lifetime learning and extending a narrow field of knowledge.


    "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it." - Upton Sinclair

  • TFA says Microsoft has a bunch of patents - but then infers that this means Microsoft is innovative, which any Slashdotter knows to be false.

    Innovation is a product of bright engineers, who are doing it for the love of engineering. Patents are a product of lawyers, who are doing it for the money.
  • Zune? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wicka ( 985217 )
    What the hell is wrong with the Zune 2? The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive and it beats the hell out of the iPod classic.
  • It's pretty simple really, Microsoft has grown to large to truly innovate in the way that leaner companies with less of an internal bureaucracy can. Changes to code have to go through so many levels of approval that it's maddening.

    One only has to look at the length of time it took them to produce Vista to realize that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      An even more terse equivalent: "entropy". Most of the energy at Microsoft is no longer available to do work.
  • There are many ways to fail, to suck, or to do something wrong, and only a few ways to do something successfully, well, or right. I think, with this in mind, there's no need for further investigation into the size of Microsoft's patent portfolio.
  • by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:47PM (#21769890)

    Things that I have either heard of or seen coming from Redmond:

    1. Analysis of a video feed to generate a 3D model of the scene being filmed.
    2. That minority space wall, but without a special glove and working.
    3. Network LOD for fast-paced games that let one server drive hunrderds of clients.
    4. 2D neural-net based code that learned to drive a car (still only in the simulation phase.).

    Any of which could have had multiple patents. A lot of what they do is impractical as a product now (the wall for instance), but is an investment in the future. Like in the early 90's when they purchased tons of digital rights. And some, like the Network LOD, are designed for developers to tie them into MS products.

    But Microsoft, like AT&T when it had too much money, take a bunch of academics, give them money, and tell them to do cool things. After all, the whole deparment will pay for itself with a couple of nifty inventions.

    • by Dolohov ( 114209 )
      You should mention the interesting research being done by them in robotics. Yeah, lots of fascinating research...

      And yet their PRODUCTS are the Zune, Xbox360 and Vista: All uninspired copies of other products or marginal improvements on their previous products (which were themselves either copies or marginal improvements).
  • The summary cleverly shifts the subject to Microsoft is Evil, steering away from the real issue of software patents. Nice troll
  • I wish once in a while people would note, at least parenthetically, that the U.S. Patent Office has become something of a joke under Bush. It's even been known to ignore its own rules from time to time.

    Could I be forgiven for wondering if this might explain Microsoft's preeminence?

  • The software companies that amass the most patents these days, are typically those who do not innovate. This is a perfect example of that.

    I'm astonished that there is still any real belief that number of patents filed is any kind of measure of innovation. It's pretty much orthogonal as far as I can see.

    Just because the patent systems original intended purpose was to stimulate innovation, doesn't mean that that's what it's actually used for.
  • According to a recent analysis by IEEE, Microsoft's patent portfolio tops the industry in terms of overall quality of its patents.
    If you throw a million darts, odds are you will hit a hundred bulleyes.
  • We CAN get something better than the zune... its called an iPod
  • by Space cowboy ( 13680 ) * on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:53PM (#21769996) Journal
    It just goes to show that the relationship of {number of patents : innovation} is a similar one to number of {number of security patches : security of the system}. It's not how many {patents/patches} you have, it's what they do for you. Apple, for example, is in the process of building another $10 billion/year business out of the multitouch patents that it has. One idea, a few patents to ring-fence and expand it, 10 billion dollars. That's a *good* idea. Microsoft has clever patents too, (eg: cleartype), but all that leads to is an argument over whether the alternative is "blurry" or "accurate", and whether cleartype text is "clear" or "anaemic". In other words, they gained support on their own platform, but they didn't managed to leverage it too much elsewhere.

    Microsoft is *not* that innovative a company - it's bread and butter (80% of profits or so, I believe) come from corporations (not people), and corporations generally like "more of the same, please". There's nothing wrong with serving that demand, and [insert deity] knows they have clever people working there - the conclusion is that they don't *want* to be an innovative company - they're happy with the status quo, because it brings in gazillions of dollars for them. Sure, they'll have the occasional exciting new thing (how could they not, given their staff ?), but that's not the *company* focus.

    In comparison, Steve is fond of saying he likes to run Apple as a small company, with the resources of a large company. That the cash-in-the-bank at Apple is because they *do* take risks, they *do* push the envelope that little bit farther, and that having a large wad of cash to fall back on is very useful, you know, just in case... Apple is ~1/5th the size of Microsoft (I think) in terms of staff, that's a lot of people, but they're spread pretty thin ("small company", "siege mentality", "more productive"), considering they produce computers, consumer devices, a major OS, several consumer apps, several pro-apps, as well as design their own hardware, operate a chain of retail shops (where most of the staff are), etc. etc.

    Bottom line: Bill Gates said that Microsoft were one innovation away from being made irrelevant, and they work to protect their monopoly because of that. Apple's focus is more on the 'next big thing'. They take risks, and to do that you have to execute on new ideas. Apple is innovative, and its customers are people. Microsoft is protective, and its customers are corporations.

  • Really, all the article manages to say is that IBM and Microsoft patent a ton of shit, which is news to no one since they're enormous tech companies. The news post probably should be flagged flamebait or troll.

    All that aside, I could buy Microsoft being one of the companies that generates the most innovative ideas each year. That's more a statement of just how much different crap the company is into than any innotation per capita assessment. For example, I'd say the Wii shows more innovation than the 360
  • Well, duh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:53PM (#21770008)

    That's because innovation isn't measurable by the number of patents you produce. Let me tell you my patent story.

    I used to work at a company that made a widget. Details left out because of possible NDA/lawsuit goodness.

    There were 3 or 4 other players in this widget space. There are about 3 or 4 useful functions any of these widgets can do.

    One of the other players decides to patent "feature A from this widget, combined with feature B from this other widget". A multi function widget, merely taking two functions from two widgets and combining them. In other words, peanut butter is ok, and jelly is ok, but putting peanut butter with jelly is *hugely innovative* and deserves a patent.

    We held meetings and began to file patents too. They were all equally insane.

    There was NO INNOVATION going on in these meetings. Just carving up the widget patent space - that has existed for years - with each of these little companies nit-picking each other to death with patent suits and royalty fees.

    Patents do not equal innovation.

  • I know this is slashdot and all, but the person who wrote this summary is so hopelessly biased against Microsoft its not even funny... What ever you say, think or believe about microsoft. They are an extremely successful company. Your summary makes it sound like Microsoft is crumbling and worthless, but Microsoft is as dominant as it ever was, and there are NO signs of that changing any time soon. Yes there are competing products popping up here and there, and thats really a good thing.. but not one of thos
  • To Clippy? Consumers and business users don't buy patents. They buy products that make their lives easier or more productive, yet Microsoft doesn't seem to be able to turn its patent portfolio into much more than life support for its existing Office and Windows monopolies


    The Geek never learns to retire a joke that was never particurlarly true or funny to begin with.

    Slashdot will probably be still using the Borg icon for Bill Gates when the Gates Foundation wins him the Nobel Peace Prize for the

  • Compare for yourself (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thelexx ( 237096 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:56PM (#21770048)
    http://www.research.ibm.com/areas.shtml [ibm.com]

    http://research.microsoft.com/research/default.aspx [microsoft.com]

    There's no real contest though. If they were course listings, one reads like MIT and the other like a community college.
  • Lost in the Bureaucracy
  • Word Count (Score:5, Funny)

    by Blakey Rat ( 99501 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @04:59PM (#21770090)
    Words describing the article: 61

    Words bashing Microsoft: 74
  • CD in a shoebox (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nexus7 ( 2919 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @05:02PM (#21770146)
    Well, they got people to pay hundreds for a box with a 300 page book that nobody read and a CD.

    They practically invented the EULA for the masses.

    They entered new markets by simply buying companies and their portfolios.

    They probably weren't the first in any of these, but they perfected integrating these into a government-proof business strategy.

    So yeah, they're pretty innovative.
  • Patently Absurd. (Score:5, Informative)

    by delire ( 809063 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @05:06PM (#21770232)
    The size of a patent portfolio cannot be a reasonable measure of innovation, especially in this case given that much of the Microsoft patent portfolio comprises bought patents: patents are bought and sold just like any other commodity.

    Secondly, a patent doesn't guarantee the given innovation ever reaches the market. To the contrary, patents are often used to protect an existing inferior product from going to market by having a monopoly over a potentially superceding product. As a result it's possible to argue that patents discourage actual innovation rather than encourage it.
  • You can't equate patents with innovation. Sometimes it's just an indicator of how big their legal staff is. If you want to use the number of patents as an indicator for innovation, let me suggest this formula I just pulled out of my ass:

    Tripp's Law of General Innovation
    Innovation = (patents / lawyers) * engineers

    This formula obviously doesn't apply to companies which don't employ lawyers, but I can assure you, such an innovative idea can only help their score.
  • clippy? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by icepick72 ( 834363 )
    The author of the posting clearly has no knowledge of the state of Microsoft software and development tools today. Take one look at the .NET Framework and not only is it a ripoff of Java, but it made huge improvements like making a language-agnostic programming platform (parially due to CTS and CLI) and allowing multiple syntaxes (yes even Java-like syntax) to interoperate. Programmers can work in their language of choice and the compiled code will interoperate with all the other .NET languages which were o
  • Not that bad. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @05:19PM (#21770464) Homepage Journal
    Okay let's be fair. I am a Linux user but Microsoft does have some innovative and very good products.
    The Flight Simulator line that they bought from SubLogic is actually very good. I love it and it is one of the reasons I keep Windows on my system.
    I remember Word way back when No one used Windows and WordStar and WordPerfect ruled. It required a mouse and no one used it because it was SO different. Excel was another really innovative product. It was so much better than Lotus123 that it made your head hurt. I wounder how many Mac where bought just to use Excel before It was ported to Windows.
    Visual Basic for all of it's proprietary nature did let a lot more people write code for Windows. Of course it let a lot of people that should have never been allowed to code to write code but that is another story.
    Visual Studio is a very good IDE.
    The calendaring features of Outlook/Exchange are very good.
    The XBox 360 seems to be the right balance of HD graphics and cost.
    XBox Live from what I hear is very good.
    So yea give the devil his due.
    The real truth is that everything is going to look like small beans compared to Windows and Office.

    • Re:Not that bad. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @05:58PM (#21771180)
      Nobody's saying "Everything Microsoft produces is crap". (Or they shouldn't be, because it's not true).

      What is true is that Microsoft do not - indeed have never - innovated. They've taken existing ideas, either bought them or copied them then marketed the hell out of the result.


      Flight Simulator - bought from SubLogic. (You said this yourself!)

      FoxPro - Originally produced by Fox Software, which was bought out by Microsoft in 1992.

      Outlook/Exchange - Lotus Notes was a groupware product well before then.

      Access - Originally plagiarised from Borland Paradox.

      Excel - Plagiarised from Lotus 1-2-3. The two were basically playing leapfrog in feature sets before 1-2-3 bit the dust.

      Word - Plagiarised features from WordPerfect. Won the battle primarily by being sold to the boss rather than the secretary who was actually typing the letters.

      Windows - Most graphical operating systems of the 1980's-1990's were shamelessly taking ideas from each other. The bar across the bottom of the screen, for instance, was seen in RISC OS and CDE long before Windows '95 hit the shelves.

      XBox Live - the PS2 offered online play, but Sony never really exploited this. Frankly, it was a little early because it predated ubiquitous broadband.

      In fact, Microsoft can't even innovate at the very simplest level.

      Microsoft Paint (yes, that crappy little paint tool which has come free with Windows since the Windows 3.x days) - Take a look at this [wikipedia.org]. It's PC Paintbrush for DOS - developed by a company called ZSoft.
  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @05:29PM (#21770670) Journal
    This sounds contradictory, but think about it. Who were always considered the "top dogs" of sheer numbers of patents? IBM? AT&T? Maybe even 3M?

    All have some success stories from their respective research divisions, yet nothing remotely comparable to the number of patents they filed for.

    Truthfully, a lot goes in to taking a "innovative idea" and taking it all the way through to become a marketable product in mass production. I think some of these big firms just like to pay a "think tank" to work on "anything you like", throwing all manner of things at the wall to see what sticks. This ends up being profitable for them because of all the lawsuits they can file over the trivial patents other people end up infringing on by accident - and means they're likely to eventually come up with something really innovative, at SOME point in time. (EG. Post-it notes!)

    Smaller, more efficient businesses will do the R&D only on things focused squarely on a specific goal they've defined. They won't have huge numbers of patents, but will have ones relevant to their task at hand. These folks get more products to market per patent than the "big guys" do.
  • Begs the question? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WK2 ( 1072560 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @05:51PM (#21771070) Homepage

    All of which begs the question: Just where is all this innovation going?

    Does anyone else get the feeling that the editors actually do know what "begs the question" means, and are just screwing with us to get a higher post count?
  • by I'm Don Giovanni ( 598558 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @06:22PM (#21771572)
    Slashdotters are largely clueless regarding Microsoft, and willfully so.

    First, Office *does* have lots of innovations, particularly Office 97 and Office 2007.
    Clippy *was* innovative. Yeah, it failed, but a lot of research went into it.

    LINQ *does* rock.
    Which reminds me that Microsoft just recently released a CTP of the .NET Parallel Extensions [microsoft.com], allowing easy use of multiple cores in .NET code, including PLINQ (Parallel LINQ).

    VC-1 *is* the most efficient hidef video codec.

    XNA *is* an innovative product.
    See the 2006 DEMMX Awards [demmx.com] and see that Microsoft won Best of Show - Innovator of the Year (beating out the likes of Apple, who won a lesser award for video iPod) and Game Innovation of the Year, both for XNA.

    Microsoft *has* been commissioned by the JPEG working group to develop JPEG XR (aka HD Photo aka Windows Media Photo) as the next-gen photo image standard (where JPEG2000 failed).
    Industry Standardization for HD Photo [msdn.com]

    Check out this article on SIGGRAPH 2007 and learn that Microsoft is leading the way regarding graphics technology.
    Siggraph: Microsoft the new research powerhouse in graphics? [computerworld.com]

    F# *is* being "productized" and is already used in Xbox Live.

    Vista *does* have excellent speech recognition (despite a failed demo of a beta), even admitted to by Mac fanboy David Pogue.
    Telling Your Computer What to Do [nytimes.com]
    Windows 2 Apples [podbean.com]

    TabletPC'S *do* have the best handwriting recognition in the biz.

    It goes on and on.

    Microsoft Research [microsoft.com] is this era's "Bell Labs" and "Xerox PARC", but much of Microsoft Research's stuff does wind up in products. Microsoft Live Labs [live.com] is also doing interesting stuff like Volta (which is being productized), Photosynth, etc.

    Just because slashdotters don't are totally ignorant of Microsoft tech doesn't mean that such tech doesn't exist.
  • by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Thursday December 20, 2007 @06:41PM (#21771844) Homepage
    Actually, if you look into the history of Clippy, it started out based on very serious research in machine learning and human/computer interaction. Researchers developed a very awesome system that watched what you did, learned your work habits, and could figure out when you were having trouble, and then make useful suggestions. The product development people took this research and made Clippy, and explained to the marketing folks how great this was (and it was great).

    The marketing folks decided it wasn't coming up enough (who want's a revolutionary feature hidden away most of the time?), and so made the development people dumb Clippy down, so it would think you were in trouble at the first sign of anything slights wrong, and pop up.

    I suspect that this happens a lot with Microsoft products. The research version of Clippy was probably one of the best online help aids ever--way ahead of, and far more useful than, anything you'll find on Linux or Mac. Then marketing turns it into a joke.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton