For the past few years, Microsoft have gone to great lengths to draw attention to the contributions they have made to computing. Despite, or perhaps because of this, every time the word "innovation" is mentioned in connection with their business, it is greeted with howls of derision and letters of refutation from the open source peanut gallery. One noteworthy feature of these exchanges is the complete absence of supporting evidence on the open source side. Besides endlessly reiterating the "MS Bob sucks" line, Microsoft's detractors have never presented any counter-arguments at all. Surely Microsoft's claims are based on more than one failed product.
In fact, Microsoft have been doing quite a lot to extend the state of the art. Microsoft Research was one of the first research laboratories established by a software company, over ten years ago. It currently employs over 600 researchers worldwide, many of them top industry figures, such as their current head, Rick Rashid, the mind behind the Mach kernel. Over the past ten years, Microsoft Research have been repeatedly recognised with the industry's highest honors, such as the ACM's Turing Award.
Those readers who are interested in learning the truth behind Microsoft's Freedom to Innovate will no doubt be curious as to what directions Microsoft Research has taken. Well, they certainly haven't been idle! There isn't an application of computing technology that Microsoft Research hasn't taken an interest in. User interfaces of all kinds, systems research, graphics, artificial intelligence...it would take the computer science departments of several of the world's finest universities combined to equal Microsoft's contributions to the field over the last ten years. Microsoft's research efforts have placed them in the same league as organisations such as Xerox PARC, Bell Labs and IBM.
It should be clear at this point that Microsoft's reputation as a center of innovation in the computing industry is well-deserved. With a world-class research facility directing efforts into both practical and theoretical areas of investigation, Microsoft is one of the top dogs in innovation. Their research efforts have yielded considerable rewards for their customers too, with concepts from Microsoft Research fueling advances in everything from games to enterprise technologies. At Microsoft, research works closely with development to put brand new technologies into the field faster than anyone else.
Quite a different portrait than that painted by their detractors, who are little more than contrary and argumentative crackpots tinkering with a 30 year old operating system design, while muttering about the lack of innovation at the only company in the last decade who has successfully brought any new ideas to the OS market. And MS Bob. I expect we'll still be hearing about that when the linux kernel finally collapses under the weight of it's own unmanageability.