Microsoft: The Redmond Copying Machine

“My recent video, which tweaked Microsoft for crowing about its ‘innovation’ in Windows Vista (without acknowledging its huge debt to Mac OS X), triggered plenty of reaction. It probably comes as no surprise that your comments quickly devolved into ‘which is better’ bickering, which will proably never end,” David Pogue blogs for The New York Timest.

“Some of you claim, with much anger and swearing, that Apple steals from Microsoft just as much as the other way,” Pogue writes. “My response to one such response: ‘You’re right–very few things were actually invented wholesale by Apple. The mouse, menus, overlapping windows, the CD drive, Wi-Fi wireless, and so on–all of these things were developed elsewhere.

‘But Apple *standardized* them. Chose them, recognized their potential, perfected them, made them over in its own way, and brought them to the masses.

‘In Vista, on the other hand, Microsoft did not select unrecognized features, did not have any particular vision in knowing what would work and what wouldn’t, did not put its own stamp on anything. It simply waited for Apple to recognize and perfect good technologies, then duplicated them bit for bit. Oh, and then claim to be a leader in innovation. That’s quite a difference!’”

Full article, with another example of Microsoft’s blatant copying, here.

MacDailyNews Take: Only the most severely deluded would think that Microsoft innovates. There is simply no record of sustained innovation coming out of Redmond. The fact is, we all use a Mac today in one form (the real thing) or another (the upside-down and backwards insecure kludge that is Windows). The Mac won long ago, even if the wrong guys did grab the bulk of the money. Windows Vista is yet another a poor copy of features from a combination of Mac OS X versions dating back over five years grafted onto the same old rusty Windows undercarriage. Microsoft’s not-long-for-this-world Zune is a particularly bad copy of Apple’s iPod+iTunes (bigger, thicker and uglier with the added bonus of poorer battery life + Zune software that won’t even install properly). The list of Microsoft’s appropriations from Apple and others goes on and on. Apple leads, Microsoft follows. As usual.

For those that misunderstand the whole “Apple Mac and Xerox PARC” thing, an essay discussing the relationship was written by Bruce Horn in 1996. Bruce was one of the main designers of the Macintosh software, and he worked at Xerox for years before that, so he’s uniquely qualified to discuss their relationship. Full article here.

Related articles:
NY Times video: Did Microsoft rip-off Apple’s Mac OS X in Windows Vista? – December 14, 2006
NY Times’ Pogue reviews Microsoft’s Windows Vista: ‘Looks, Locks, Lacks’ – December 14, 2006
Forbes: Microsoft Windows Vista boss suffers from Mac envy – December 12, 2006
Unlike Microsoft’s Windows Vista, Apple’s Mac OS X Leopard will create no new jobs – December 12, 2006
Microsoft’s Windows Vista: obsolete on arrival? – December 04, 2006
InformationWeek: Now that Vista is the past, let’s look at the future: Apple’s Mac OS X Leopard – December 02, 2006
Microsoft’s Windows Vista and Office 2007 releases generate yawns – December 02, 2006
Dave Winer: ‘Microsoft isn’t an innovator, and never was – they are always playing catch-up’ – December 01, 2006
Microsoft’s Windows Vista vulnerable to malware from 2004 – November 30, 2006
Microsoft Windows Vista developers used Apple Macs for inspiration – November 27, 2006
Microsoft’s Windows Vista is basically Microsoft’s version of Mac OS 9.3 – October 11, 2006
Microsoft Windows Vista: If you can’t innovate… try to impersonate Apple’s Mac OS X – August 10, 2006
Ballmer: I’m Microsoft’s ‘primary champion of innovation’ – July 27, 2006
Microsoft botches another copy job: Windows Vista Flip3D vs. Apple Mac OS X Exposé – June 26, 2006
Windows Vista rips-off Mac OS X at great hardware cost (and Apple gains in the end) – June 13, 2006
Computerworld: Microsoft Windows Vista a distant second-best to Apple Mac OS X – June 02, 2006
Thurrott: Microsoft going to get eaten alive over Windows Vista’s resemblance to Apple’s Mac OS X – March 09, 2006
NY Times’ Pogue on Gates’ CES demo: Most of Vista features unadulterated ripoffs from Apple Mac OS X – January 05, 2006
Analyst: Windows Vista may still impress many consumers because they have not seen Apple’s Mac OS X – January 05, 2006
Apple’s talent and innovation vs. Microsoft’s hype – October 25, 2005
Microsoft’s Windows Vista strives to deliver what Apple’s Mac OS X already offers – October 10, 2005
Thurrott: many of Windows Vista’s upcoming features appeared first in Apple’s Mac OS X – September 26, 2005
Microsoft’s Ballmer: It’s true, some of Windows Vista’s features are ‘kissing cousins’ to Mac OS X – September 18, 2005
PC World: Microsoft innovation – an oxymoron – September 14, 2005
As usual, Apple leads, Microsoft tries to follow – June 02, 2005
eWEEK Editor Coursey: Longhorn so far ‘looks shockingly like a Macintosh’ – April 25, 2005
Due in late 2006, many of Windows Longhorn’s features have been in Mac OS X since 2001 – April 25, 2005
Microsoft’s new mantra: ‘It Just Works’ ripped straight from Apple’s ‘Switch’ campaign – April 22, 2005
Apple CEO Steve Jobs on Microsoft’s Longhorn: ‘They are shamelessly copying us’ – April 21, 2005
Microsoft’s Windows Longhorn will bear more than just a passing resemblance to Apple’s Mac OS X – April 15, 2005
Steve Jobs: Microsoft copied original Apple Mac with Windows 95, now they’re copying us again – February 08, 2005
Where Apple leads, Wintel follows years later – January 31, 2005
Novell CEO: ‘Microsoft sucked $60 billion out of IT industry that could have used for innovation’ – September 13, 2004
Apple CEO Steve Jobs: Mac OS X Tiger ‘is going to drive the copycats crazy – June 28, 2004
PC Magazine: Microsoft ‘Longhorn’ preview shows ‘an Apple look’ – May 06, 2004
Charles Arthur: Microsoft’s definition of ‘innovation’ different from everyone else’s – April 27, 2004
Windows ‘Longhorn’ to add translucent windows that ripple and shrink by 2005 – May 19, 2003


  1. Hardly anyone innovates. That’s probably the most over-used word in the Industry these days.

    Apple ripped off (poorly) Konfabulator and renamed it Dashboard; purchased CoverFlow and integrated it (poorly) with iTunes 7; “borrowed” patented content from Creative and Microsoft for iPod+iTunes, etc.

    On the other hand, Microsoft copies, well, nearly everyone.

    So, hardly anyone can have the finger pointed at them for not innovating. Not Apple, nor Microsoft. The difference is whether you can market yourself as an innovator (despite proof of the contrary) or not.

    We should definitely start using another word instead of “innovate”. Everyone of us use it. Most of us are liars.

  2. I don’t know why people continue to use the word innovate as if it means “invent.” Innovation means doing something novel, not necessarily creating something from scratch. This is what Apple does ALL the time. They venture into new territory, sometimes by creating, sometimes by rethinking and re-implementing already existing things.

  3. Apple innovate? Good one MDN. I actually fell off my chair laughing.

    I don’t what this Pogue character is smoking, but it must be some pretty good stuff. I can guarantee you this: Apple will never come up with something rivaling the simple sophistication, elegance and ease of use that comes with all of Microsoft’s spectacularly imaginative products. Thank you Redmond!

    Why do you think one of Microsoft’s slogans is “Your potential. Our passion.”? These guys are passionate about end user experience and creating simple solutions to complex technical problems. Always have been. Apple has been looking over the fence but that’s all they can do, ’cause all Cupertino seems to come up with are second-rate almost-rans to Microsoft’s awesome creations. This story could start and end with the marvelous Zune. Case closed. The Zune won; the iPod lost. Game over. I won’t even go into the mess that is OS X. Try again, Apple!

    Your potential. Our passion.

  4. Microsoft has supported the Myth that both companies copied from Xerox, this is not true. Sure Apple was given access to the stuff at PARC. They also gave Xerox Apple stock in return, so even though there was no licensing arrangement for the GUI ideas, there was consideration and Xerox knew that Apple was producing products based on what they had seen.

    Microsoft on the other hand did simply copy the Macintosh. As far as innovation, Microsoft’s key innovation has been how to profit from others R&D and in many cases how to sell inferior products to the masses. They are also the kings of writing licenses that benefit MS much more than the the other party.

    As far as innovation lets look at MS’s products:

    BASIC – A copy of Dartmouth’s BASIC (I give them credit here – they did a good job)

    DOS – Purchased a student’s project copying CP/M

    Windows (1-3.11) – copied early Macintosh – added the combo box though copied from NeXT

    Word – Many came before it – so not sure

    Excel – From their multi-plan copying Lotus 123 copying Visicalc

    Windows 95/98- Copied Mac OS X System 7 Due to court ordered changes diverged some – closest they ever came to parity – was harder to use, but had some advantages over the mac – innovated the start menu

    Internet explorer – copying Netscape

    Windows CE – copied Palm copying Newton

    Windows XP – Added stability and themed for a slightly more unique look

    PocketPC – See Win CE – rebrand

    Media Center PC – Copied early Mac-TV combo box

    Vista – Copied Mac OS X – a bad copy

    Things Apple copied:
    Basic GUI – with cooperation from Xerox

    Combo Box – Acquired from NeXT

    Fast user switching – Though Apple holds the patent and the MS employee that created it worked at apple and is listed on the Patent.

  5. Does anyone remember that, as of Windows 95, they copied the Mac without embarassment?
    * cmd-x, c, v (becamse control-x, c, v – at least in Windows 3.x, they used control-ins and del)

    * control panel (became control panel)

    * Trash can (became recycle bin)

    So many more things, yet people think MS invented this shiite.

  6. The only thing I ever agreed with (Win/DOS) people on about early Macs was the following:
    Throwing any kind of file into the trashcan = delete
    Throwing any disk into trashcan = eject.

    However, it’s great to hear someone say that today (and people still do). It shows me you have absolutely NO knowledge of anything Mac since the 1990’s. That said, you lose any respect from me as a “computer guy” since I can use both.

    For those that STILL don’t know, the latest Mac OS (meaning OS X from day 1) changes the trash icon to an eject icon automatically when dragging a disk image.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.