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Former Microsoft employee Dick Brass has an op-ed in the NYT arguing that our better days are behind us, (“clumsy, uncompetitive innovator” . . . ouch!) and using examples from his tenure to make the point that the company can no longer compete or innovate. Obviously, we disagree. :) But his piece does represent a good opportunity to touch briefly on how we think about innovation.
At the highest level, we think about innovation in relation to its ability to have a positive impact in the world. For Microsoft, it is not sufficient to simply have a good idea, or a great idea, or even a cool idea. We measure our work by its broad impact.
To make his point, Dick generally focused on ClearType, noting that this technology was “stifled” by existing business groups. 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. And in response to Dick’s comment about Tablets and Office, I’ll simply point to this product called OneNote that was essentially created for the Tablet and is a key part of Office today.
Another point worth addressing is Dick’s assertion that Xbox is “at best an equal contender in the game console business.” Fact is, Xbox 360 was the first high-definition console. It was the first to digitally deliver games, music, TV shows and movies in 1080p high definition. The first to bring Facebook and Twitter to the living room. And with Project Natal for Xbox 360 launching this year, it will be the first to deliver controller-free experiences that anyone can enjoy—a magical experience for everyone that Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, and Time magazine each named one of the top inventions of 2009.
And in a world of software plus services, the groundbreaking part of our game strategy is Xbox LIVE. Today, more than 23 million people around the world routinely connect to the service to play games, chat, listen to music, watch movies and much more.
There is always the opportunity to do more, to move faster, to bring products and services to the world in new and interesting ways, and we embrace this. But thanks to the contribution of Dick and others on the ClearType team, ClearType certainly stands as an example of how it works well.