Microsoft — Innovator Or Aggregator?

Vanity Fair ran a terrific article in its recent August issue, entitled "Microsoft’s Lost Decade." The gist of the article is that since 2000, Microsoft, under the guidance of CEO Steve Ballmer, has fallen flat and failed in most new arenas it’s tried to enter: e-books, music, search, social networking, etc. It also highlights that in recent years, Microsoft has been much more of a follower than an innovator. So it should be no surprise then that at our recent Forrester Research sourcing and vendor management Forums, I found that the one vendor that inspired most discussion, disagreements, and polarized opinion amongst the attendees was Microsoft.

Why? The theme of our Forums was "innovation," and this question repeatedly arose: Is Microsoft ready to take back a position as a leading innovator? It certainly dominates the market, and its huge revenues always cause mutterings of discontent (or is it jealousy?) from others in the market, but when it comes down to innovation — and to paraphrase Monty Python — just what has Microsoft ever given us?

Let me give you a straw poll of comments overheard at our recent Forums:

·         Various operating systems for the fledgling PC market had been around before IBM handed the golden goose to Microsoft to deliver an operating system for its entry into the PC market place.

·         On the desktop, Lotus 123 was the first good spreadsheet and WordPerfect was the first good word processing program. Both were crushed when MS Office came along offering what many at the time thought were inferior products in Excel and Word, but which enjoyed the benefits of being bundled into one integrated suite.

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