While total values for Microsoft and Apple were close last spring, that’s no longer the case. Since May 26, 2010, when Apple first inched ahead of Microsoft, Apple’s market capitalization has risen from $223 billion to more than $306 billion (as of April 14). Microsoft’s, meanwhile, has slipped from $219 billion to $212 billion. Bill Gates has never done anything in life, except for cheating and copying. You want examples? I have millions.
1. Windows copies Mac? Shhh, that’s our little secret.
This is amusing: Simon Aldous, a “Microsoft partner group manager” in the UK, gave an interview to British tech site PCR in which he says that Microsoft wanted to give Windows 7 a Mac look and feel:
One of the things that people say an awful lot about the Apple Mac is that the OS is fantastic, that it’s very graphical and easy to use. 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. We’ve significantly improved the graphical user interface, but it’s built on that very stable core Vista technology, which is far more stable than the current Mac platform, for instance.I’m guessing that Aldous is far enough removed from Redmond that he forgot you aren’t supposed to say things like that. (I mean, nobody involved with New Coke cheerfully told us that the goal with it was to make Coke taste more like Pepsi.) But the funny thing is, the only part of Windows 7 that strikes me as newly Mac-like is the Taskbar, whose bigger, unlabeled icons do indeed look more like OS X’s Dock.
On a meta-level, every version of Windows has cribbed from the Mac, and the versions released in this decade (Windows XP, Vista, and 7) all draw overall inspiration from the polished look of Apple OS X. But Windows 7 has its own perfectly pleasant aesthetic. I ultimately prefer Snow Leopard’s–it’s more subdued and consistent–but if you told me you liked Windows 7′s flashier feel, I wouldn’t argue the point.
2. Apple Computer, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation:
Apple had agreed to license certain parts of its GUI to Microsoft for use in Windows 1.0, but when Microsoft made changes in Windows 2.0 adding overlapping windows and other features found in the Macintosh GUI, Apple filed suit. Apple added additional claims to the suit when Microsoft released Windows 3.0.
See, this (35 F.3d 1435), 9th Cir. 1994 was a copyright infringement lawsuit in which Apple Computer, Inc. (now Apple Inc.) sought to prevent Microsoft Corporation and Hewlett-Packard from using visual graphical user interface (GUI) elements that were similar to those in Apple’s Lisa and Macintosh operating systems. This is what the court said:
Apple cannot get patent-like protection for the idea of a graphical user interface, or the idea of a desktop metaphor [under copyright law]…”Because much of the court’s ruling was based on the original licensing agreement between Apple and Microsoft for Windows 1.0, it made the case more of a contractual matter than of copyright law, to the chagrin of Apple. This also meant that the court avoided a more far-reaching “look and feel copyright” precedent ruling. However, the case did establish that the analytic dissection (rather than the general “look and feel”) of a user interface is vital to any copyright decision on such matters.
This is taken from Wikipedia, the encyclopedia: “Microsoft has been involved in numerous high-profile litigations over the history of the company, including cases against the United States, the European Union, and competitors.” You can see for yourself.
3. Latest Trends—The Cloud
On June sixth, Steve Jobs gave us the most detailed view so far of Apple’s iCloud, a file sync/backup/sharing service coming to iOS (read: iPhone, iPad) this fall. Microsoft similarly has been revamping SkyDrive, placing it more firmly at the center of its consumer cloud services, and planning a more seamless experience for SkyDrive and Windows Phone with the upcoming Mango update. We’re expecting to hear more about Microsoft services like MyPhone and Live Mesh, too, all part of the Microsoft syncing/cloud storage ecosystem.
iCloud doesn’t store your music in the cloud, it stores your iTunes purchase history, and for an additional $25/year, you can scan and match all of your music, purchased anywhere, and if it’s in iTunes, you’ll be able to download those songs to any iOS device you own. This is somewhat brilliant, we think, as it saves Apple from being a depository for millions (billions?) of copies of the same music, instead serving music out of a central repository to anyone with the proper access.
iCloud takes an interesting approach to photo storage. Photos are synced between all your devices and on iCloud servers, with some caveats. Your device will retain the last 1000 photos you took, although you’ll be able to create folders and keep your favorites on your devices. iCloud will store the last 30 days of your photos – enough time to share new experiences and get them synced to your Mac, but after that, they’ll be replaced by newer photos, apparently. No word on permanent cloud storage, even as a paid alternative.
Apple has built an easy, elegant solution with iCloud, with the usual provisions: you buy totally into the Apple ecosystem and you do it their way. If you do, iCloud is going to make your life quite a bit easier, and at the same time be manageable for Apple, who even as they are making huge investments in data centers, are very much late to this game. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft all have far more experience and far more hardware invested in cloud based services, but Apple’s unique approach to music and photos storage may just be a smarter way to do cloud storage (as long as you do it their way, of course).
Microsoft, with Windows Phone, SkyDrive and Hotmail, can even now provide similar services to Apple, but lack the simplicity and elegance. Sometimes better features aren’t better, if they don’t work seamlessly well together. With Windows Phone Mango, a new SkyDrive, and Windows Live Wave 5, all expected to arrive at about the same time as iCloud and iOS 5, will we get better features AND a seamless experience, and will it make a difference in the marketplace?
SkyDrive is great for anyone with a Windows Phone (a few people), and the hardy people who are still using Hotmail in 2011 whereas iCloud is great for anyone with an Apple device, but particularly for those with two or three.
4. The Stores
Sometimes, a picture says it all.
Now let's compare their software. Let's start with image galleries. Everyone has an opinion about user interfaces, but most people don’t have enough experience to back those opinions up. That phenomenon makes any Mac-versus-Windows debate confusing. But there’s a nearly perfect test case to compare Apple and Microsoft UI design philosophies: Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011 versus iPhoto ‘11. I dive in.
5.1. Windows Live Photo Gallery '11 v. iPhone '11
Here’s a closer look at the primary user interface for each program—the part that lets you browse through your collection of digital photos. This is what you see when you open Windows Live Photo Gallery:
And this is the main iPhoto window:
The similarities are striking. Both programs use a traditional browsing view, with a navigation pane on the left and photos from the selected location/album on the right.
In the navigation pane, Apple’s font palette is thick and bold; Microsoft’s default fonts are smaller, lighter, and thinner. Those differences are mostly esthetic, but another aspect of the navigation pane is functional: In Microsoft’s vision, the primary means of navigation is through a tree control, in which all or part of the folder hierarchy can be collapsed or expanded with a click of the mouse. iPhoto uses the standard menu bar for an OS X app, which is always at the top of the window. That can be inconvenient on a very large monitor if the iPhoto window is anywhere other than at the top of the screen. But most Mac users long ago adapted to this convention.
You’ll notice the ribbon isn’t visible in the screen for Photo Gallery above. That’s because I made a simple customization. It’s a feature included specifically to address the concerns of those who think the ribbon is cluttered, ugly, and messy. Double-click any tab heading to collapse the ribbon so that it looks indistinguishable from a traditional menu bar. You can think of each tab on the ribbon as the equivalent of a pull-down menu. But an old-school menu is really just a flat list of commands, with cascading menus listing additional commands for some options. Using the ribbon, the choices on each tab are similar, except they’re arranged from side to side, in groups using a mix of icons and text. Some unique visual controls are mixed in as well, like this list of themes for slide shows. Both programs offer a selection of common commands in an always-visible toolbar at the bottom of the program window. For Windows Live Photo Gallery, these include two Rotate commands (counterclockwise and clockwise), as well as a Zoom slider. iPhoto offers a Search command (click the magnifying glass to reveal a search box) and a Zoom slider on the left, a Slideshow command (not shown) in the center, and five buttons on the right that expose different parts of the iPhoto interface. Comparison by ZDNet.
Now, we all know that iPhoto came much before Windows Live Photo Gallery (and the UI was almost the same), and we can again say that Microsoft copied Apple.
5.2. The Browsers
The rabbit was Chrome 15, by Google, and Opera 11 came runners-up, and Safari came third. After Safari was Internet Explorer 9, and the tortoise was Mozilla Firefox 8. Yes, I know that Safari did not perform very well too, but it was at least better than IE. Google Chrome won, a browser that is based on Webkit, Apple's engine, so, again, Apple's the winner (at least from Microsoft).
6. Microsoft's Stolen Patents
- Burst.com claims that Microsoft stole Burst's patented technology for delivering high speed streaming sound and video content on the internet. Also at issue in the case is a 35-week period of missing emails in the evidence Microsoft handed over to Burst which was discovered by Burst.com's lawyers. Burst accuses Microsoft of crafting a 30 day email deletion policy specifically to cover up illegal activity. Microsoft settled with the company for $60 million in exchange for an agreement to license some of the company's technologies.
- Eolas and University of California, which accused Microsoft of using some of its software patents in their web browser, won $521 million in court.
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