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back to article Microsoft staff savage Ballmer at company confab

During Microsoft's annual full staff meeting, employees unmistakably expressed their displeasure about how the company is being run. Every year Redmond assembles the rank and file for a huge presentation about plans for the next 12 months, with senior management laying out current progress and future plans. According to comments …

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Anonymous Coward

Nothing most of us on the outside haven't already gathered. MS are in a bit of a tiz and need someone good to come in and give them a bloody good kick up the backside to get them motivated again. Get them back to their glory days when they knew how to make tech exciting.

( I'm a Linux fan and even I think it's sad to see the once great MS seem to have settled into a middle aged rut! )

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Anonymous Coward

"Knew how to make tech exiting"?

And this was when? When they came up with the Clippy or were planning to kill that non-MS invention called the Web with their very own project Blackbird?

To be honest they've hardly ever been very good at that. The only thing was they had managed to turn themselves into a monopoly and now they can't play those games anymore.

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I dunno

Just some of the silly highlights I enjoyed from MS over the years....

The first time I used Excel in Windows 286 on a 286 machine after having used DOS Lotus 123.

Moving from WordPerfect 5.1 on DOS to Word 2.0.

Seeing Windows 3 in Russian Cyrillic fonts!

Using the Word 2.0 Hebrew edition, typing the other way around was bizarre.

The first time I used Windows98 beta, after Windows 3. Then later using WinXP for the first time.

Developing apps and utils at work in Visual Basic for Ms-DOS ( anyone remember that! ).

The first time I used a graphical email app.

The first time I played a WinG ( remember that? ) game and later DirectX games.

Using Access, a GUI based DB, after using the granted altogther better dBase III.

The fun of fighting to secure enough memory to run big software using various memory managers in DOS!

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Holmes

Spooky

Just realized Steve Balmer reminds me of Kevin Malone of the US version of The Office.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TV7UodM5W_w

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMU0tzLwhbE

Could they be one and the same?????

Developers, Developers, Developers.

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Angel

Memory........

.........don't forget (pun intended) working out the difference between EXPANDED memory and EXTENDED memory.

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IT Angle

MS glory days

When were they, please remind me? Only MS Altair BASIC was something never eclipsed by competing products IMO. MS-DOS had competition from DR, and it's not for MS-DOS itself but for all the great DOS games that we remember that era. NT was OK (up to and including 3.51), but it's API is a kludge. W95/NT4.0 were just adequate. Thanks to MS Office we now have OpenOffice and that's all that's good about MS.

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HUH????

That company is an unmitigated menace to numerous smaller competitors. MS falling into a middle-aged rut is a GOOD thing. Might give some breathing room to new upstarts and startups.

On that tack:

developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers,

developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers,

developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers,

developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers,

moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun,

moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun,

moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun,

moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun,

moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun, moh-ti-vayshun,

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Thumb Up

RE: "Knew how to...

Actually Project Blackbird was aimed at Hollywood/studios/etc, the entire MAFRIAA parasite network, to provide them a closed-source, controlled content delivery network.

IMO they tried to preempt the inevitable arrival of dynamic web pages etc, see details here: ftp://ftp.microsoft.com/developr/drg/Multimedia/Blackbird/BBFAQ.htm

Yes, it's still up there though you better save it as it will be taken down very soon now, after this post. :)

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Anonymous Coward

Staff

You can't really blame them... Gates vs. Ballmer - no contest and MS has truly lost its way (that said, MS Office still dominates).

Will the same happen at Apple ?

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To be fair

Monkey has lots of evidence on you tube for being a jackass

Tim Cook has none of which I'm aware.

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Anonymous Coward

The same did happen at Apple. Then they brought Steve Jobs back in. Yeah, Microsoft do seem to be in a rut. They have stopped innovating and started imitating, and it could be a downward spiral unless someone with a huge amount of vision comes in and takes the reins. Actually that's not fair, they do innovate, just not in the mainstream consumer market where it can be seen by all. That's what Jobs had, and still has (health not withstanding), the ability to see what people don't yet know they want or knew was missing. Microsoft is big enough to be brimming over with ideas from young staffers with vision, but none of it seems to be filtering to the top.

Windows 8 is a good example, I have it running on an Atom powered slate and it is good (for a preview release) and will do Microsoft proud in the market. However it is going to be 2 years too late by the time it is released, and lord knows what Apple will have the iPad doing by that time.

So come on Microsoft, invent, innovate and give us cool stuff again, because if you don't, the alternative is Apple, and in a recession, that's the last thing we need.

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Already happening

Ask the patent lawyers.

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it already has in the 80s when Jobs left the first time - remember Scully, whatever became of him?

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Almost right

"Actually that's not fair, they do innovate, just not in the mainstream consumer market where it can be seen by all." - True in their core business, but nobody can say the Kinect isn't the consumer market and you could almost argue it's mainstream.

Microsoft seem to turn up in all kinds of places which imply they are considerably more astute than they appear to be. There is definitely some brains in the outfit, and they definitely use their size to try and be in the right place at the right time.

The problem they have isn't in their company, it's in the dominant image they have created for their main product: Windows. Apple are blatently leading the way, and Microsoft are playing catch up. I think they employees have the right to be frustrated, but I also don't think this is SteveB's fault. They've been caught out by a company which continues to play its advantage.

Microsoft need to regain the mindshare behind Windows, and they probably will need to do some serious innovation to do this. The problem is, a company can buy 99% inspiration, but all the money in the world can't buy the final 1%.

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Microsoft never really did that much innovating in the first place. But yeah, it's what happens when a successful company is taken over slowly from the inside by the stuffed-suit MBAs. It's killed nearly every tech company that's gone down that path (for a broad definition of 'tech', in that a lot of manufacturing and engineering firms have suffered the same fate).

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Mushroom

One "word" (or sort of) on MS Office still dominates

LibreOffice

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Anonymous Coward

the comparison with Apple is bogus...

MS is a software company that has so far been about getting Windows OS everywhere (with Office, the killer app, in tow). But the world is shifting rapidly towards consumer electronics in place of PCs, the web and clouds above it supporting myriad different apps and sites. This goes for the enterprise as well as the home. There are powerful forces behind this transition including Google and every company who has come up against MS and lost out as a consequence.

Apple is a hardware company who make highly popular devices but who are also extremely adept at modifying their software platform to help flog these devices (witness the morphing of Mac OS X into iOS).

MS need to give up with the "Windows, windows, windows" mantra and realise that the world largely does not care about that any more - it is all about apps, sites and clouds (or will be once Google and their friends get their way). No-one cares about the platform any more as long as it enables them to access what they want. Android is a good example - it's a means to an end for Google and not the prize.

Whether or not MS have ever been innovators is really only flamebait; they are certainly not innovating now and are playing catch-up with so many different things that I'm not surprised to hear about the staffers' revolt.

I seriously doubt that Ballmer is the man to change their fortunes - they need someone intelligent who is an innovator and maker of things rather than a bombastic imbecile.

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Innovation.

None of the big tech giants innovate really. That's not to say they don't come up with loads of new ideas and technology, it's just they won't take the gamble of developing an idea that isn't almost guaranteed to rake in a load of cash.

Microsoft has taken a few gambles recently, Kin phone (flop) and Windows Phone 7 (yet to meet sales expectations). So you can see the problem with trying to release something a bit too different.

Startup companies can get away with gambles because the development costs are lower and time to market faster. A big company has to spend a lot of time getting approval from management, sitting in meetings, marketing meetings, test strategies, websites, support websites, branding etc.

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Big difference

This time it is Job's who selected his successor. Last time he was forced out after having all his power and influence removed.

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"They have stopped innovating and started imitating"

Er....when DIDN'T they imitate? They bought DOS off another company for chump change and Windows was nothing more than a cheap ripoff of MacOS. Office, for all it's domination in the market, really doesn't offer anything more than any other office suite (except a fugly interface). Even the XBox isn't really all that innovative. It's just an underpowered PC dedicated to video games.

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Correction, Windows and MacOS were ripoffs of Xerox R&D.

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They have stopped innovating and started imitating

No, they have _always_ imitated, it is just that they made more noise about their copy than the originals had managed.

Altair BASIC (and all subsequent MS BASICs) was a copy of the DEC BASIC that BillG used while at Harvard (it is alleged that he managed to get hold of a copy of the assembler code of this).

MS-DOS was a function copy of CP/M.

Windows copied what was being done by Star, Apple, DRI's GEM and others.

Excel copied what was already done by VisiCalc (the original), SuperCalc, and others.

Many other products were bought in and rebranded, such as FrontPage, Publisher, Visual BASIC, MSC.

Even Kinnect is a licensed product (developed in Israel) with software by Rare in the UK.

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Coat

I gotte get my eyes checked...

I read that sentence as "They have stopped innovating and started irritating"...to which I responded in the immortal words of David Byrne: "Same as it ever was..."

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Gem

I had to run the Gem desktop for an OU module. What happened to that?

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@Hampshire, re: Kinect

They didn't "innovate" the Kinect, that was done by an Israeli startup.

All MS did was open their prodigious wallet and purchase it.

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history repeats

"Last time he [Jobs] was forced out after having all his power and influence removed"

Which as I recall was what Jobs did to Woz.

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Gem and the OU

It went into the dressing up box along with the kipper ties, flares and nylon shirts.

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Pint

did MS copied everything?

No. They didn't steal others' ideas, they paid for the privilege to use them [exclusively]. No one stopped Apple from purchasing Kinect, for example, probably they just weren't interested in the tech, or didn't have use for it or didn't offered enough money to PrimeSense. So what's the problem? All corporations do this, some (i mean Apple) better, than others (I mean MS).

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@sisk

"Windows was nothing more than a cheap ripoff of MacOS". Really? Then MacOS was expensive ripoff of Xerox Alto.

In fact, Apple licensed the GUI from Xerox and MS licensed it from Apple, so there's no quarrel. Everyone was free to develop their GUI shell as they liked. Xerox failed to commercialize Alto innovations. Apple succeeded. MS followed.

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Speaking of jacks and asses... Lots of companies on the roadside

are the flotsam of companies that got JACKED-IN the ass. Either they treaded on or suckled too much from ms and got the crowbar or vinegar -- or both... or, they got steel jacks and rubber balls inserted wrong-way, and are not able to walk right-way...

Now, if his stage-flipping sub was Mini-Me or Herman, the crowd of 20k+ would have been really upbeat instead of beat up....

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Stop

Altair BASIC copy of DEC?

You are certainly wrong. With all of my disrespect towards MS I have to admit that Altair BASIC was a good job by BillG. He wrote cross-assembler (from PDP-10 to 8080) and 8080 emulator that ran on PDP-10. The Altair BASIC itself allowed two letter variable names, multiple statements per line (colon separated), it had interactive interpreter (like python and Tcl have today) etc.

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MS Office still dominates?

Yes it does. Office 2003. Or maybe 2007. 2010? Not so much. MS don't get revenue out of old software continuing to run. And Office 2012 is going to have yet another different UI. Smart.

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“SteveB did one of the smartest things I've ever seen him do as CEO today: He delegated responsibility by paying someone else to jump around like an asshole during his entrance instead of doing it all by himself,” said a poster. “Now if only he'd do the same with his regular day job.”

Now that did make me laugh!

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I think one of the main reasons is that Bill Gates lived the "technical era" whereas Ballmer has always been focused with the business side of the company. At least that's how I picked it up.

And yes; even though he lived it I too think that Gates wasn't the brilliant minded guy as many proclaim him to be, which has been proven several times when employees or friends looked at some of his work (the famous VB program for example) and basically burned it down the ground without knowing that it was Gates' doing.

But despite all that you cannot deny the fact that he has lived and experienced it. Starting out with hardly anything but a couple of good ideas and knowing how to present these.

And I think that has helped a lot, but is also something Ballmer seems to lack. I dunno, but I somehow doubt that Metro would have been released under the dictatorship, errrr, leadership of Gates.

Just my 2 cents though

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Meh

time to be bold

If you look at the history of the computer industry, Microsoft should be toast by now. Ten years ago they we seriously wrong footed by wave after wave of innovation (internet, web, Java), and their core OS was shown to be badly exposed to DDoS, worms and viruses (thanks in no small part to DCE RPC ported from Unix).

BillG took brave decision after brave decision to buckle down to the “Trustworth Computing Initiative”.. the fact that we’re still using Windows is down to the trench-warfare to defend the bastion.

With Office-10 Win7, Server-2008R2, Hyper-V, SQL/Server and the rest, Microsoft is now at a point where it can get back to innovation, but that requires bold leadership and serious engagement with Open-Source philosophy.. one way to do that is to open source (like F#) .NET because (given the choice) most people would still implement C# systems on Windows even if it was licenced for OSX, AIX, SunOS, Linux.. they’ve done it before with ROTOR (SSCLI).

Microsoft staff are right to be concerned: they’ve build trenches, but we’ve now entered the tank age.

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'BillG took brave decision after brave decision to buckle down to the “Trustworth Computing Initiative”.. the fact that we’re still using Windows is down to the trench-warfare to defend the bastion.'

Not quite a brave decision, more of a business need. He ran a company that dominated the PC, as he had managed to get the OS installed on the disk *before* it was installed in the machine.

There were two main products that they marketed, the 'OS' and Office. (Win 3.11 wasn't technically an OS.) Plus, the market was growing very quickly and they cleverly used that momentum, exploiting their market share and making it hard for others to get in. When others tried -- remember DR DOS? -- and took MS to court, while they maybe won and got damages, MS and the market had moved on, so these were always pyrrhic victories.

I would say astute to see the business opportunity and work with what they had. (Embrace, extend, extinguish.) Now that the PC market has matured they are just another ordinary tech company.

Hey, wouldn't it be ironic if they were to get bought out by IBM? After all, who thought Sun would die?

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Anonymous Coward

"glory days when they knew how to make tech exciting."

When would that be?

Put to one side the likes of Kinect and Xbox.

In the Wintel world, what have they ever done that hasn't been more dependent on Microsoft's capabilities at dealmaking (or more recently, market bullying) rather than Microsoft's capabilities as a technology outfit?

Exhibit 1: DOS. Imported, not locally developed (see also MS vs STAC, etc).

Exhibit 2: NT. Imported, not locally developed.

Exhibit 3: OLE etc. Imported, not locally developed.

Counter-examples, please.

Microsoft's influence outside the certified Microsoft-dependent community is not what it was, and Ballmer is clearly not a dealmaker like Gates.

Sell.

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I'll let you have exhibit 1, but the other 2 are rubbish.

Yes, "Dave Cutler" was imported and the OS he created looked a lot like VMS, but if DEC had believed it was "imported" as-is, then they'd have sued Microsoft out of existence. Hiring people from other companies doesn't count as "importing" their previous work.

Similarly, OLE was an in-house effort as early as OLE 1 (being based on something produced by the Office team).

On the other hand, I don't suppose the general public ever thought that either were "exciting".

Back on the first hand, if you want proof that *some* people inside Microsoft still know how to program, consider this: closed (or lost) source crapware from many moons ago that had no right to ever have run in the first place *still* works in the current version of Windows. That's an exceedingly *un-exciting* feature of Windows that has ensured the upgrade fees continue to roll in year after year after year. Windows may *be* crap, but what matters for the vast majority of customers is whether it runs *their* crap.

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Anonymous Coward

Put to one side? Stupid logic.

*Why* put aside Kinect and the XBox? They were MS and they were exciting. You can't arbitrarily dismiss exciting tech products and then claim they make no such thing.

As for your three exhibits, all you have 'shown' is that they were imported. So what? The question was whether they make tech exciting not whether they develop it in-house.

Where did you learn logic? *Did* you learn logic?

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It's worse than that, the innovation that has escaped from MSFT is all reactionary, desperate scrambling to stop others taking their customers. Biggest example: C# may be a better language than the steaming pile Java is but it exists only because MSFT tried and failed to subvert Java, it's the reaction to Java.

Microsoft copies their competition and reserves innovation as the icing on those copies.

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Linux

MS Backward Compatiblity

I dunno, I still have some code I wrote for System III Unix that runs just fine today on the newest Linux boxes available. Of course, they must be recompiled...

The shell scripts and (later) perl scripts run w/out a recompile, as does nearly all the java code I still have.

OTOH, some of MS's own apps won't even install on modern versions of Windows (I'm thinking of my Office 97 suite, the last version which seemed worth the cost for my needs) and of course, when we got the first WIndows 7 boxes at home none of the 32 bit printer drivers for our existing printers worked any more....

I'd like to give MS credit where it's due for * attempting * backward compatibility, but I don't think it's quite the seamless continuum you describe, nor is it so exceptional.

OT3H, sure they have been innovative at times, and near as I can tell OLE is theirs. Another thing they've always done well is linking code from multiple programming languages, starting back in DOS days and continuing thru .NET.

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DEC Settlement

> if DEC had believed it was "imported" as-is, then they'd have

> sued Microsoft out of existence.

http://everything2.com/title/The+similarities+between+VMS+and+Windows+NT

"""Obviously, DEC weren't happy with the apparent similarity of Windows NT and their product, VMS. In fact, when DEC's engineers noticed the problem, and brought their concern to the senior management, suing Microsoft for intellectual property violation was a possibility. Instead, there was an out of court settlement with Microsoft."""

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> *Why* put aside Kinect and the XBox? They were MS and they

> were exciting.

"""Kinect is based on range camera technology by Israeli developer PrimeSense."""

XBox is a PC optimed for games and is otherwise just another console as has been made by others for decades before it.

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> linking code from multiple programming languages, starting back

> in DOS days

The original Microsoft languages:

Microsoft BASIC

Microsoft COBOL

Microsoft Pascal

No, these couldn't be linked together.

Microsoft C (bought from Lattice)

Visual BASIC (DOS)

Microsoft Quick Pascal

No, these couldn't either.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: PrimeSense and Xbox

So what?

Again, I repeat, the question was not whether they were developed in-house but whether they were exciting and from MS.

If you don't believe they were exciting that would be a different issue, but a brief look at news and tech reports from those periods would show the mainstream opinion did.

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WTF?

Buying shit to look cool.

"the question was not whether they were developed in-house but whether they were exciting"

So, all it takes is for MS to buy another persons invention and they suddenly become hip, exciting and cool?

Sort of like what you wintards accuse iBuyers of doing?

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Stop

DOS, NT and OLE

I'd not call them "imported". DOS was licensed, ported to PC, then bought completely and extended greatly. NT was developed by Dave Cutler inside MS premises, not while he worked at DEC, so the only import was Dave himself (MS should better "import" Thompson, Ritchie or Kernighan IMO, but having had Xenix and euthanized it, those guys had to worry if MS did)

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Pint

Kinect is based on

"Kinect is based on range camera technology by Israeli developer PrimeSense". So what? Most things are invented by human beings, not corporations (e.g. multi-touch technology), but some companies are able to recognize innovation when it falls down on them while others aren't.

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Really?

One of the first programs I ever got paid to write was in Pascal (the only 3GL compiler I had for CP/M which supported a language I actually knew; yeah we're going back a ways). By the time the guy came back w/ requests for a version 2.0 I had learned C, and I distinctly remember building some libraries of Ccode and linking them into the Pascal program I had written him. 'may have been Borland though, now that I think about it, though I seem to remember evaluating the cost of the switching to MS specifically because of that capability.

I also remember (later) extending some RM Cobol code with database calls written in C, but that was Unix for sure, ergo not MS.

Memory: 2nd thing to go.

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> the question was

The _actual_ question was, as is in the title of the article, whether Microsoft was being 'innovative' or imitative.

Buying in stuff, sticking your own name on it and generating 'excitement' through advertising is not being innovative.

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