There's a fascinating article about Xerox
PARC (link via Hacker
News) and how Xerox
dropped the ball on computing (only to have Apple pick
up the ball and run with it, followed closely by Microsoft).
But what most people don't realize is that Xerox was never in the
computer business, and I think licensing the technology to Apple was
probably a smart move. But to me, this is the key quote:
“Xerox did research outside their business model, and when you
do that you should not be surprised that you have a hard time
dealing with it—any more than if some bright guy at Pfizer wrote a
word processor. Good luck to Pfizer getting into the
word-processing business. Meanwhile, the thing that they invented
that was similar to their own business—a really big machine that
spit paper out—they made a lot of money on it.” And so they did.
Gary Starkweather’s laser printer made billions for Xerox. It paid
for every other single project at Xerox PARC, many times over.
Myth - The New Yorker
That quote, “[i]t paid for every other single project at Xerox PARC,
many times over,” is, to me, the key quote as to why large
companies should always invest in research and development. Sure, not every
idea will pan out, but those that do pan out, really pan out!
(Heck, venture capitalists do that today—fund a bunch of projects, most of
which will fail, but the ones that don't make tons of money)
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