Microsoft Talks Innovation

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Microsoft is no stranger to criticism, whether justified or not, but it has responded to a recent piece from a former employee, Dick Brass, who essentially alleges that the company’s best work is behind it.

Gloves off, gauntlet thrown down, metaphores mixed

Brass was once Microsoft’s vice president in charge of ClearType and responsible for its ebook and tablet efforts back in the day when Microsoft was one of the very few companies that seemed to be taking the whole affair seriously. In a recent editorial piece for the New York Times, Brass paints a fairly sad picture of Microsoft, describing it by saying that,

“Microsoft has become a clumsy, uncompetitive innovator. Its products are lampooned, often unfairly but sometimes with good reason. Its image has never recovered from the antitrust prosectution of the 1990s.”

Indeed, it’s a fairly damning look at the company, and one that has inspired a direct response from Microsoft on its official blog, through the medium of its vice president for corporate communications, Frank X. Shaw… and Shaw manages to make a very convincing case indeed that a lot of the criticisms levelled at Microsoft aren’t necessarily its own fault, indeed, that the company does quite well.

Shaw uses ClearType as the example, saying that,

“For the record, ClearType now ships with every copy of Windows we make, and is installed on around a billion PCs around the world. This is a great example of innovation with impact: innovation at scale.

Now you could argue that this should have happened faster. And sometimes it does. But for a company whose products touch vast numbers of people, what matters is innovation at scale, not just innovation at speed.”

It’s certainly an interesting debate, and one that could well force some of Microsoft’s detractors to sit down and take note. The fact is that Microsoft, for better or for worse, has a truly massive customer-base, and making anything new available to a large percentage of those users can prove a longer process than for other companies.

Still, it’s interesting stuff to see both sides of the argument.

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