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Doug's Mailbag: Microsoft Innovation, More

A former Microsoft exec recently wrote in the NY Times that Microsoft's biggest groups would rather compete with each other than innovate. Some readers aren't that surprised:

Brass is probably right. But let's face it: It is easier to sit by and maintain than to take chances and innovate. Risk can get you fired if it doesn't pay off.

An interesting aspect of large companies is that they tend to not like cannibalizing their own products. Business history is full of such stories. They are making money, so why change? So when I read Dick Brass' comments, it did not come as a shock. Office brings in big cash for Microsoft, so why make changes for a tablet PC that the Office group thinks no one will use?

That's where innovators come into the picture. They take a chance, and if the market likes it, it takes off. Apple has been waiting for 25 years for its easy-to-use interface to become an overnight success. Apple has less market share and has been forced to try new ideas to keep alive. Remember Apple's Lisa or the Newton?

The market generally doesn't want innovation in Windows or Office. Businesses and individuals have invested heavily in learning how to use the tools; they don't want to relearn from scratch every three years, even if it is a better product. The big changes in user interface are part of why Office 2007 didn't get adopted as quickly as MS hoped; ditto Vista. Tinker with the parts the public doesn't see.

When you have a castle, you protect the castle. When you are cold, wet, and hungry, you can be very creative.

One reader recently commented that Windows-based tablets, by and large, have been failures. But Dave can think of two products that might change that:

John pointed out the failure of tablet PCs in a recent Mailbag. I don't disagree, but would like to point out two recent tablets that might improve the image of Windows tablets. My boss just got a Dell Latitude XT2, which is one of the most amazing portables I've seen. And HP has just released the tm2t Windows 7 tablet.

Neither of these is as small or light as the iPad, and they're certainly out of its price range. However, for those of us who do IT support or other tasks that require a fully functional PC, maybe 2010 will finally be the year of the tablet.

And add Steve to the list of those who are making the best of their current job situation:

I'm starting on the third year of no increases, but thankfully there've been no forced furlough days so far. We had three weeks last year. It's really tough for someone my age to get a new IT job so I'm kinda stuck 'til they throw me out.

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to

Posted by Doug Barney on 02/17/2010 at 1:17 PM


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