Research and Development

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During fiscal years 2011, 2010, and 2009, research and development expense was $9.0 billion, $8.7 billion, and $9.0 billion, respectively. These amounts represented 13%, 14%, and 15%, respectively, of revenue in each of those years. We plan to continue to make significant investments in a broad range of research and product development efforts.

Product Development and Intellectual Property

Most of our software products and services are developed internally. Internal development allows us to maintain competitive advantages that come from closer technical control over our products and services. It also gives us the freedom to decide which modifications and enhancements are most important and when they should be implemented. We strive to obtain information as early as possible about changing usage patterns and hardware advances that may affect software design. Before releasing new software platforms, we provide application vendors with a range of resources and guidelines for development, training, and testing. Generally, we also create product documentation internally.

We protect our investments in innovation in a variety of ways. We work actively in the U.S. and internationally to ensure the enforcement of copyright, trademark, trade secret, and other protections that apply to our software products, services, business plans, and branding. We are a leader among technology companies in pursuing patents and currently have a portfolio of over 26,000 U.S. and international patents issued and over 36,000 pending. While we employ many of our innovations exclusively in Microsoft products and services, we also engage in outbound and inbound licensing of specific patented technologies that are incorporated into licensees' or Microsoft's products. From time to time, we enter into broader cross-license agreements with other technology companies covering entire groups of patents. From time to time, we purchase or license technology that we incorporate in our products or services.

While it may be necessary in the future to seek or renew licenses relating to various aspects of our products and business methods, we believe, based upon past experience and industry practice, such licenses generally could be obtained on commercially reasonable terms. We believe our continuing innovation and product development are not materially dependent on any single license or other agreement with a third party relating to the development of our products.

Investing in Innovation

Innovation is the foundation for Microsoft's success. Our model for growth is based on our ability to initiate and embrace disruptive technology trends, to enter new markets, both in terms of geographies and product areas, and to drive broad adoption of the products and services we develop and market. Our innovation investments focus on the emerging technology trends and breakthroughs that we believe offer significant opportunities to deliver value to our customers and growth for the company. We maintain our long-term commitment to research and development across a wide spectrum of technologies, tools, and platforms spanning communication and collaboration; information access and organization; entertainment; business and e-commerce; advertising; and devices.

While our main research and development facilities are located in Redmond, Washington, we also operate research and development facilities in other parts of the U.S. and around the world, including Canada, China, Denmark, England, India, Ireland, and Israel. This global approach will help us remain competitive in local markets and enable us to continue to attract top talent from across the world. We generally fund research at the corporate level to ensure that we are looking beyond immediate product considerations to opportunities further in the future. We also fund research and development activities at the business segment level. Many of the innovations created by our business segments are coordinated with other segments and leveraged across the company.

In addition to our main research and development operations, we also operate Microsoft Research. Microsoft Research is one of the world's largest computer science research organizations, and works in close collaboration with top universities around the world to advance the state-of-the-art in computer science, providing us a unique perspective on future technology trends.

Based on our assessment of key technology trends and our broad focus on long-term research and development of new products and services, areas where we see significant opportunities to drive future growth include smart connected devices, cloud computing, entertainment, search, communications, and productivity.