"So how innovative really are (say) Microsoft ?"
Mindboggling ofcourse - however, their stuff is most used, so they sure are a clever bunch. Like I saw in a film yesterday: "They're so incompetent, that the guys ahead of them can't do their work right and fall over. They move up."
"We've already established that Apple (for all their patents) basically flogged a "reinterpretation" of Xeroc PARC's windowing interface."
So did Acorn and the rest. Apple was the first to take that idea and implement it sensibly in the consumer market. After that, the rest followed suit. So, we should be thankful to Apple, otherwise we wouldn't all be happily running Windows. Psst, don't mention Doug Engelbart, okay?
"And of course the iPod (which saved Apple's bacon as it were) has more than a passing resemblance to how the Creative Zen (and its kind) work doesn't it."
Ah, that must explain it. Popular myth will have you believe the return of <angelic-choir>Stevus of Jobus</angelic-choir> and his iMac saved Apple. Anyway, the iPod made them fat and OS X isn't good for the old teeth. So, we should be thankful to Apple, otherwise we wouldn't all (soon enough) be running Vista and having a Zune for Christmas. That's what I call mighty-fine-wise-a*s-country-trash innovation, yeah.