Innovation is not just about cool new products. In technology, the best ideas require a) really smart people and b) lots of funding. For the past 33 years, Microsoft has had both in spades. Yet, the precursor to any product release is the research and innovation that occurs before the first shipment to customers, that "pre-pre-alpha" stage where ideas are born.
In a recent two-day visit to Microsoft corporate headquarters, we met with several researchers working on new projects. A few of these projects have already resulted in shipping products; others may never see the light of day -- they are meant as a proof of concept. Some could change how we do computing altogether. Yet, all of them are driven by bright thinkers who are working to solve real-world technical problems.