could out-innovate knowing that was the one thing they could do that M$ couldn't
Did you buy that four-digit ID on eBay? You've combined Microsoft's favourite word into the same sentence with the most geriatric of all derisions.
Microsoft innovated a metric butt unit, but very little of this advantaged the end consumer. They innovated business methods more so than technologies, especially the business method of crossing the legal and ethical line and getting away with it long enough to sip fine Champagne with one foot on Netscape's corpse while confined to the corner of the room wearing a pearl-crusted dunce cap. Vlad the Impaler tips his hat.
Speaking of Vlad, are you man enough to tell Vlad he can't innovate? To his face? Do you wish to wear the outcome of that assertion? Just because he's never much bothered to tweak the recipe for making Damascene steel or grafted on a lickable hilt (one that actually looks attractively lickable)? No, he just sits there thinking "no matter the sword, they all bleed the same way". Admittedly that's not the hallmark of innovation as celebrated among the proletarian ranks, but it works the gutters and coffers just fine.
One would think given his methods that more of the population would elect to somehow slip between his masochistic fingers. And yet they didn't. That's not what happened. Tell me it doesn't take innovation to become that sadistic and not have your entire empire relocate itself to the next valley over. Are your heirlooms and golden geese locked away in a proprietary chest for which only Vlad possesses the master key? You might have suspected something sooner, but you really liked the gaily-painted wooden wheels and the decorative hollow horse head. Steve never managed to sell that, yet somehow Bill was manning triple shifts under the lash to slake demand.
Wolfram Alpha just made me this nice chart in under sixty seconds and a permanently shareable link. Innovation, or just trying harder to please because you catch more flies with honey than vinegar? [when lacking Vlad's henchman army]:
appl msft profit over time
Microsoft had Apple's number for pretty close to twenty years, and without ever suffering cardiac arrest. Apple is cool like Lance: it's amazing what one can achieve sans so many testicles when clad in relentlessly promoted, well-branded apparel. Apple burned through five heart-lung machines before they regrew their permanent hair, but what flowing fleece it was.
Tell me what company in their right mind would deliver innovation to the end-user riding on top of a such a long, gracefully ascending line? Yeah, it faded a bit over the past five years. But Microsoft had it coming. Boy did they have it coming. A hectare of discarded Champagne bottles began to cultivate a mirulent strain of black mold. And right in their own back yard, less than a stone's throw away. Dang, what a mess to have to clean up.
Apple's time is coming, too. The migrant consumer is already beginning to scout valleys even further afield. People only pay through the A$$ for so long before they wise up, unless they're fleeing from fresh horrors of ruthless innovation in the sprawling valley of the damned.
A kinder, gentler Microsoft won't do anything to help Apple sustain its insanely high profit margins. At the same time, a return to form of the old ruthless Microsoft could turn into an expensive tactical nightmare, with the Koreans nipping at their other flank.
Much depends on the new Khan. Personally, I hope their first agenda item is to take a giant bite out of Oracle's rapacious backside. Later they release M$inx in a master stroke of branding genius with all the tedious and uncool APIs of XP's cooling corpse completely open sourced and unencumbered. Just think, you can continue running your old copy of Turbo Tax 2005 all the way to the next Y-who-cares epoch meltdown.
Forget about games, though. Warm drool is greeted with open arms (not open source) by the primary stake holder. Thus it will always be, whether the cape's clasp is festive fashion or fossil forged.
"Innovation, my friend. What a quaint notion. [Giant oak door thuds shut.] Allow me to show you to your room. Do you prefer to sleep in a saggy bed or hanging from your ankles in a snug cocoon? Ah! You're a traditional man, after all. I knew it the very instant you arrived. The other method is so much better for the posture and ... circulation but people such as yourself rarely change."