Microsoft's Vista Had Major Mac Envy, Company E-Mails Reveal

The messages, which were filed as evidence in an Iowa state court trying a Microsoft antitrust case, were between several company evangelists and executives, including Jim Allchin, the head of Windows development efforts at the time. The Vista, then "Longhorn," evangelists had just returned from the June 2004 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference.

Lenn Pryor, former director of Microsoft's platform evangelism, said Spotlight, the new Mac OS X 10.4 search tool that Apple chief executive Steve Jobs highlighted at the conference, was "amazing. It is like I just got a free pass to Longhorn-land today." Pryor now works for Skype.

Allchin agreed. "I don't believe we will have search this fast," he wrote in an e-mailed reply June 30, 2004.

Another Microsoft evangelist, Vic Gundotra, who also attended the conference demonstration of Mac OS X (Tiger), noted other impressive components of Apple's operating system, including video conferencing, what Apple calls desktop "widgets" (whichVista ended up calling "gadgets"), and user interface rendering.

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"The bits we deliver in Sept. 05 PDC [Professional Developers Conference] must be compelling, even in beta form," Gundotra wrote in his message of June 30. "UI must be hot. We will be directly compared against tiger." Gundotra recently left Microsoft, and will join Google after a year's sabbatical to abide by a non-compete clause.

Microsoft released the first beta of Vista to a limited number of testers two months before the 2005 PDC.

Other Microsoft documents and e-mails posted to a Web site by the Iowa case's plaintiffs have embarrassed the Redmond, Wash., developer several times. In an e-mail made public in late 2006, Allchin said: "I would buy a Mac today if I was not working at Microsoft." He later rebutted the statement, saying that he has "being purposefully dramatic in order to drive home a point."