Brass Says Microsoft Dropped E-Reader Ball

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-02-04 Print this article Print


Brass also cited Microsoft's development of e-reader technology as an example of the company's supposed failure to innovate and to control infighting.

"Early in my tenure," Brass wrote, "our group of very clever graphics experts invented a way to display text on screen called ClearType. It worked by using color dots of liquid crystal displays to make type much more readable on the screen. Although we built it to help sell e-books, it gave Microsoft a huge potential advantage for every device with a screen. But it also annoyed other Microsoft groups that felt threatened by our success."

Specifically, engineers and executives in other company divisions either "falsely claimed it made the display go haywire when certain colors were used" or that it "was fuzzy" and induced headaches, or else attempted to take over the project for themselves. "As a result," Brass wrote, "even though it received much public praise, internal promotion and patents, a decade passed before a fully operational version of ClearType finally made it into Windows."

For his part, Shaw argued that Microsoft eventually managed to integrate the technology into its products, even if other companies such as currently dominate the e-reader space. "To make his point, Dick generally focused on ClearType, noting that this technology was 'stifled' by existing business groups. ... [However,] ClearType now ships with every copy of Windows we make, and is installed on around a billion PCs around the world. This is a great example of innovation with impact: innovation at scale."

While Microsoft has partnered with and other companies to produce e-reader software for PCs, the company has expressed no interest in building a physical e-reader device that could compete against those made by, Sony and other companies.

In October 2009 comments delivered at Erasmus University in the Netherlands and reported by Reuters, Ballmer said, "We have a device for reading. It's the most popular device in the world. It's a PC ... we are not interested in e-readers ourselves."

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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