Now, in 2013, Microsoft finds itself not at the vanguard of a burgeoning trend, but playing catch-up. The Wall Street Journal says Microsoft has contacted parts suppliers in Asia to ship components for a smartwatch. No doubt the company has seen Gartner's estimate that the wearable electronics market will reach $10 billion by 2016.
Why is Microsoft following and not leading? One reason is that there's a disconnect between its substantial research capabilities and its product development efforts. Microsoft far outspends Apple and Google on research and development -- its $9.4 billion budget is nearly double Google's $5.2 billion and more than triple Apple's $2.6 billion, according to S&P Capital IQ -- and it has been the company with the world's largest R&D budget for the past 12 months. Clearly, Apple gets a far bigger bang for its buck when it comes to matching research to product development.
Another problem is Microsoft's protect-your-own-turf culture, which makes it difficult for it to develop products that span departments. And it doesn't help that Microsoft demands that all its products lead back to Windows. That bit of turf-guarding holds back innovation.
Preston Gralla is a Computerworld.com contributing editor and the author of more than 35 books, including How the Internet Works (Que, 2006).
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