Google and Microsoft: Why Does One Seem Cooler and ‘More Innovative’ Than the Other?

Young Bill Gates, innovator (Microsoft)

In the three previous installments you’ll find lower down in this Thread, I started with ‘Google’s powerful new Photos feature — and then heard from a Microsoft veteran about Microsoft’s earlier steps in this same field. Why, this reader asked, does Google (or Apple) end up with so much of the attention and coolness factor for developments that had been underway, longer, elsewhere in the techno-sphere? Readers weigh in with further hypotheses.

First, a reader in the tech business in California says the crucial concept is that of the “first widely noticed” innovation, rather than the first actual engineering or scientific breakthrough:

Variations on this theme have been playing out for years.  People thinking VMware came-up with virtualization, when it was IBM (or someone else) back in the 1960s.  People thinking that x86 servers were where fancy network interface card features (“stateless offloads”) were created when it was in the mini-computer vendors.  Call it “first widely noticed” advantage I suppose.

A reader who has worked at Google, but not on the Photos feature, writes:

Your ex-Microsoft correspondent reminds me of an old New Yorker cartoon I used to have on my office door but unfortunately got lost in a move. In the cartoon, a beaver and a rabbit stand in front of a huge concrete dam, and the beaver tells the rabbit something like "It was my idea, you know?"

Great products are not just a pile of good ideas, they are a combination that works well together in practice to meet real user needs. PhotoSynth was indeed a great technology, but it was never incorporated into a compelling product. And your correspondent conveniently ignores the biggest innovation in Google Photos, its unparalleled ability to find relevant photos from descriptions of their content.

More assessments after the jump.