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Most of these do very little real R&D. Or if they do it's poor quality.

Microsoft's last decade has been an epic history of constant R&D failure. Successful MS-branded R&D, like Kinect, was actually bought in from outside.

Apple plays this game too. Apple is far more successful as a packaging, marketing and industrial design corporate than as an R&D factory. Apple's two key skills are being a monopoly that can span different market segments and link them together, and collaging ideas that have been developed to a reasonable level of polish by third parties.

Amazon finished most of its critical systems development a decade ago. The only new product is a scalable server business, and that's not exactly on the technical edge. Likewise Kindle and ePub which have been around as ideas for a decade or so. (I was talking to my then-publisher about ebooks in 1998.)

eBay is also stuck around 2000, and the software seriously sucks. But it has a de facto monopoly, and there's no real incentive to develop it further.

Google does real R&D but its product labs are spread around the world.

The fact that HP's R&D was raped by Fiorina and Dell is a packager is evidence of the contrary - a lack of serious interest in R&D in most of corporate America.

What the US has is a de facto monopoly in many areas - search engines, core networking, e-commerce, desktop software, and so on.

But the corporations that own the monopolies are actually multinationals. And creating a monopoly is one of the best ways to end useful innovation. You're often left with something that looks like R&D, but most of the time it produces non-threatening incremental rather than dynamic change. (See also Adobe, Intel, and so on.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Dec 13th, 2010 at 09:35:06 PM EST
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