I think implied in the title, and the observation that Microsoft seems to copy other company’s innovations, is that copying is a bad thing. As a researcher myself, I obviously respect and admire innovation. That’s why I love Google and other companies that fearlessly push the envelope of the possible. So from that perspective, copying ideas or making small incremental improvements on existing ideas is less than admirable.
However, I think that Microsoft is serving a critical role, and doing so better than almost any other technology company out there. They are the elephant in every room of every building, so risky innovation is perhaps the wrong strategy for them. The release of Internet Explorer 9, for example, is claimed by many to come “too late“. It’s essentially a good copy of the Google Chrome browser, just like Zune was a copy of iPod, that came out much later than the original.
I disagree with the claim that IE 9 came out “too late”. I think IE will regain market share, because it will be the default browser on all new Windows machines and now that the major problems with IE are fixed, non-technical people will be less inclined to switch away from it when they purchase a new computer.
That’s what seems to work for Microsoft, and is keeping me (arguably, a power user) happy switching back and forth from Linux to Windows (instead of just staying in Linux 100% of the time). The strategy is to let other people fight it out in the realm of risky innovations, and then copy the winners of that process as quickly as possible. I wouldn’t do it that way, but I’m glad someone is. The world runs on incremental improvement.