Now it’s different at Apple in that they do recognise a lot if spending on R&D but I think that’s for tax reasons.
And they were quite productive:
> Apple's ATG was the birthplace of Color QuickDraw, QuickTime, QuickTime VR, QuickDraw 3D, QuickRing, 3DMF the 3D metafile graphics format, ColorSync, HyperCard, Apple events, AppleScript, Apple's PlainTalk speech recognition software, Apple Data Detectors, the V-Twin software for indexing, storing, and searching text documents, Macintalk Pro Speech Synthesis, the Newton handwriting recognizer, the component software technology leading to OpenDoc, MCF, HotSauce, Squeak, and the children's programming environment Cocoa (a trademark Apple later reused for its otherwise unrelated Cocoa application frameworks).
Here are some blog posts by ATG's Jim Miller giving some background on concepts such as Data Detectors.
What you don't get to see with Apple is all the stuff they don't launch or that lingers on some shelf for years and years. They only talk openly about stuff that they are ready to show and productize giving the false impression that these things just popped into existence.
By the time the iphone shipped, they'd been working on it in some form or another for over half a decade or so. Giving people enough room to do stuff like that with an open ended agenda and strategy is exactly how you move forward as a company. The value of people like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk is recognizing the strategic value of efforts like this in an early stage and then making sure it happens. That requires being clued in enough to recognize the strategic value and focused enough to then make it happen. If you look at the timing, this was shortly after they launched OS X and apparently went "what else can we do with this?" (IOS is based on the same architecture).
Corporate R&D labs are where this stuff gets parked by companies that are too impatient to wait for that. That's exactly what happened in Nokia.
Certainly investor confidence in your / your companies ability to do this, and this matching their investment goals is also a factor..
These 2 exaples are wildly hailed in media worldwide as 'innovators', and are able to get long term strategic funding to innovate. Most CEOs aren't, and can't. Not sure the cause, but certainly a factor somehow.
In practice companies have always been run for the benefit of corporate insiders. Not the widows and orphans who might own a few stocks.