Innovation at Microsoft
I frequently mentioned Microsoft innovation in the past. I encountered some interesting observations about Microsoft innovation in the past month:
- Eeyore designs Microsoft’s product: “It makes me think of how many feature meetings I've had and what a small percent of those features have actually ever shipped. Not that every feature is a good idea, but it's damn near wake-worthy sometimes for a feature to actually get out into shipping bits. Que Eeyore: ‘Oh no. Now we have to support it. I suppose a hotfix request will come in any moment now’”
- Integrated Innovation is the Microsoft Way: “Microsoft's corporate culture is very much about looking at an established market leader then building a competing product which is (i) integrated with a family of Microsoft products and (ii) fixes some of the weakneses in the competitors offerings… when Microsoft does try to push disruptive new ideas the lack of a competitor to focus on leads to floundering by the product teams involved.”
With new product offerings like Office 12, Microsoft may be turning a corner, but it is hard to tell at this point. The more I read about it, the more I like. When Microsoft does notice a shortcoming and devote resources to it as in past software crises such as the Internet and security and currently in user interface design and graphics, they tend to eventually solve the problem in question. Maybe, innovation is one of those shortcomings waiting to be addressed.
Also, the company may be bogged down by the weight of addressing software fundamentals such as reliability, performance, security, and compatibility, which I initially thought were solved with the movement of the 9x platform to Windows XP. I was dismayed by the underwhelming PDC preview of Windows Vista, but then I realized that many improvements were under the hood and that at least sixty groups at Microsoft will not have integrated their offerings into Vista until the second beta. As an example of an under-the-hood improvement, Vista was sluggish when I first installed it in my laptop, but the operating system became springier and more responsive over time; this may have been due to SuperFetch and other memory optimizations in Vista.
Of course, Vista will be a great product, which fixes existing problems in XP and offers a few new things like Avalon, but it looks like I might have to wait for Windows Vienna to move beyond fundamentals to more dramatic, enabling technologies.
I don’t want to diminish the work of thousands of employees, whose job, if done correctly, is to make sure that their feature area silently succeeds, crashes less, or allows users to work more securely and confidently, but I think that we are are still way off from the potential of computer technology.