Microsoft Goes Overboard In Windows 7-Mac Denials


Solution providers are puzzled over Microsoft's vehement denial that the Windows 7 look and feel was "borrowed" from Mac OS X. In fact, some suspect that Microsoft doth protest too much.

"Does Windows 7 borrow from OS X? Of course it does," said Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based Microsoft Gold partner. "Innovation comes in all forms, and when someone does something that works, others will borrow ideas, and there's nothing wrong with that."

Many parts of Windows 7 look similar to Mac OS X, says Andrew Kretzer, director of sales and marketing at Bold Data Technology, a Fremont, Calif.-based system builder. "The much heralded revamping of the Windows 7 taskbar certainly seems to have been borrowed from the OS X dock -- especially the jump lists -- and Aero Peek was definitely influenced by Expose," said Kretzer.

Earlier this week, Simon Aldous, a Microsoft partner group manager in the U.K., was quoted as saying that Microsoft in Windows 7 tried to emulate OS X from a graphical and ease-of-use standpoint. "What we've tried to do with Windows 7 -- whether it's traditional format or in a touch format -- is create a Mac look and feel in terms of graphics," Aldous said in an interview with PCR, a U.K.-based channel publication.

Microsoft's response was quick and tinged with obvious irritation. Brandon LeBlanc, Microsoft's in-house Windows 7 blogger, called Aldous' comments "inaccurate and uninformed," and a Microsoft spokesperson told PCR that claims that Mac OS inspired Windows 7 are "totally inaccurate."

While Aldous' comments put Microsoft in an awkward position, solution providers see Microsoft's response as a boldface denial of something that long ago became commonly accepted as fact. And so by denying the obvious, Microsoft isn't doing itself any favors.

"To suggest that this sort of thing doesn't happen is either naive or disingenuous, and the denial by Microsoft is totally transparent," said John Eaton, president of Eaton & Associates, a San Francisco-based solution provider that sells both Macs and PCs.

Microsoft has borrowed from Apple with every operating system after DOS, notes Matt Makowicz, principal at Ambition Consulting, a Somerset, N.J.-based solution provider. "Windows and Mac have always had similar graphical features, thus fueling the argument that Microsoft doesn't innovate," he said.

Apple has also clearly borrowed its share of ideas from Xerox PARC and from Windows, notably in the Sidebar and Remote Desktop. Nick Gold, sales manager at Chesapeake Systems, a Baltimore, Md.-based Apple VAR, says it's "silly" for Microsoft to deny that Windows 7 was inspired by OS X because operating system foes have always borrowed ideas from one another.

Windows 7 has been one of the smoothest product releases in Microsoft's history, and it looks plenty capable of erasing Vista's wretched legacy. Microsoft has controlled the marketing and messaging around Windows 7 with hawk-like intensity since day one, and this episode shows the lengths to which it's willing to go to defend Windows 7's honor from perceived slights.

But in Gold's view, that tactic only goes to show how much Apple is in Microsoft's head these days.

"I think it's particularly telling that Microsoft is going to great lengths to distance themselves from even the slightest hint that they may be getting some inspiration of Mac OS X," Gold said. "It goes to show just how much they see Mac OS X as a threat right now."