What is "innovation"?

Another quickie.

Raymond has a comment that illustrates a common theme in the IT industry: it's one rule for Microsoft, one rule for everyone else. And some people would say that's fair, because we have a monopoly on desktop operating systems (and maybe office suites, too).

Innovation is another area where we get beaten down. Look at Apple's iTunes, for example. I'm not saying it's a bad idea, but it's hardly ground breaking. There have been subscription-based music download websites for quite some time, and it hardly took a genius to say “let's charge per song instead of per month!”

Yet it is hailed as the most innovative thing since sliced bread.

What was “innovative” about it? They simply took an existing idea (sell music over the internet) and improved upon it by combining it with another existing idea (sell individual songs rather than entire albums). Which is exactly what Microsoft does, and yet we are never seen as innovators, only imitators. (We also have some original ideas of our own, but we're often refining existing ideas, some of which originated here and some of which did not).

What does it really mean to be “innovative”?