Microsoft has a well-deserved reputation in software circles for being technologically derivative. In other words, Microsoft has borrowed or bought every good idea it's ever had.
This theory isn't unfounded. For example, Bill Gates and friends didn't write the code for MS-DOS. They bought something called QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) for $50,000, tweaked it and licensed it to IBM for huge profits [source: Moscovitz]. They didn't code the original Internet Explorer, either: They licensed the source code from Spyglass Inc., maker of the Mosaic browser, and used that same basic code for three or four versions of Explorer [source: Sink].
Defenders of Microsoft know that the company isn't such a great technological innovator -- Gates didn't realize the potential of the Internet until 1995 -- but they will say the company has some of the most cutting-edge business ideas in the field [source: Colony].
Think about it. Before Microsoft came along, no one had entertained the idea of selling software and hardware separately [source: Rapoza]. IBM licensed MS-DOS from Microsoft because it wanted to concentrate on hardware. Gates, Steve Ballmer and other Microsoft executives foresaw the lucrative potential in licensing their operating system to dozens of different PC hardware makers.
When the Harvard Business Institute studied the secrets of Microsoft's success, they pinpointed the company's innovative approach to its intellectual property [source: Silverthorne]. Microsoft has created a gargantuan library of proprietary source code "components" that work across the Windows platform. If a developer proves his loyalty to Microsoft, he gets access to that code library -- and hundreds of millions of potential Microsoft customers.