Does Microsoft Innovate?

Actually, this is a trick question. Almost no large
corporation innovates. Although, perhaps, to become a large
corporation one must be innovative. But once having achieved such
status (i.e., large corporation), and usually a monopoly over a
segment of the market, what large corporations typically do is
crave the status quo (sometimes spun with the word
"stability" or "predictability"). For, by
definition, as long as the status quo exists, the large
corporation is in monopolistic control.

Note that I am not making a value judgment here. Most
businesses are in business to make money. One common way of doing
so is becoming so large that you control the market. To do so,
honestly, you have to produce a product or service that people
want and are willing to pay for. Note also, that I'm not
saying this is necessarily illegal.

But once you've either driven your competition out of
business (or bought and closed all of them), you can control the
price of your product without fear that someone else will under
cut you and therefore take away your control. Again, this is not
a value judgment. It's just business.

That said, it is a value judgment to say this is not usually a
GoodThing(tm) for the buying public. First, the price of the
product increases without any market-based counter balance.
Second, the product stagnates. That is, no useful/innovative
features are offered and existing problems are not fixed. Both,
in my judgment, are not GoodThings.

This is one reason why many people ask government to step in
when a monopoly exists. Leaving aside the question of whether
government intervention makes the situation better, the
realization that something must be done usually
takes place.

However, this post is not about what should take place. It is,
rather, about whether Microsoft, as a large monopolistic software
corporation innovates. And as I said at the beginning, the
answer, at least as it appears to me is — not any longer.

For example, look at the price of the Windows XP Home edition
operating system. At retail, it costs $199. Add to that MS Office
Pro 2003 at $499. Add the two and you are paying at least as much
if not more than the hardware cost of a new PC. Is this software
cost worth what you pay? The answer for a growing number of
people is no. There is very little that is innovate in either
product and what there is, in my opinion,is very costly for what
you get. Ask yourself this question: does either product help you
to do what you want done better (and I don't mean faster or
more of, that is more a function of the speed of the PC, not the
software)? For many people, the answer is no.

So, what to do? For now, start exploring the alternatives.
There are other operating systems. There's the Mac
OS, Linux/Unix, and a bunch of lesser known platforms out there.
Running on these platforms are some applications that are full of
innovations. I urge you to take a look at them and examine
whether they meet your needs. If not yet, stay with what you
have. But I think you will find that these applications are
improving by the day and if you come back and take a look in a
year or two, you may be pleased with what you find. Or not.



One response to “Does Microsoft Innovate?

  1. Rest assured, they innovate. Too bad all the innovation is in their licencing scemes ().
    BTW for most of the time software has cost equal or more than the hardware it runs on.