Microsoft: We Copied Mac OS X, or Maybe Not

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There seems to be some debate at Microsoft about where the look and feel of Windows 7 came from. If you ask Simon Aldous, Microsoft's partner group manager, Windows 7 took its look from Mac OS X. Brandon LeBlanc, Microsoft's Windows Live blog manager, the design inspiration was all in house.

"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," Mr. Aldous said in a PCR interview. "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."

He added "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." 

Mr. LeBlanc, however, claimed Mr. Aldous got it wrong. "I hate to say this about one of our own, but his comments were inaccurate and uninformed."

To back up his statement, Mr. LeBlanc pointed to a Wall Street Journal article that recounts the three-year process Microsoft went through to breath life into Windows 7. According to that article, Windows 7 was shaped from the efforts of thousands of people inside the company and at computer manufacturers such as HP.

Mr. LeBlanc added that Mr. Aldous's comments "Came from a Microsoft employee who was not involved in any aspect of designing Windows 7."

Since Mr. Aldous is the company's partner group manager, it's very likely that he had no involvement with the development of Windows 7. Assuming his comments came from the perspective of a Windows end user, he may have simply hit on something many other people have already noticed: Windows 7 looks a lot like Mac OS X.

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The Heights

I thought that the redesign of Windows 7 was “my idea”.

Jeff Gamet

I’m thinking Mr. Aldous assumed Microsoft took its inspiration from Apple simply because Windows 7 mimics a lot from Mac OS X. The fact that a Microsoft employee could assume that says quite a bit. “Redmond, start your photocopiers” indeed.


I have a hard time believing that the MSFT employees involved in the UI redesign existed in a complete bubble, isolated from any influence or exposure to OS X. For three years? Not likely.


Jeff:  Well at least we now know the response Redmond gave to that declaration.  “Ok! *whirr of photocopier*”


?Redmond, start your photocopiers? indeed.

True dat. smile


“I hate to say this about one of our own, but his comments were inaccurate and uninformed.”
True dat!
“’s built on that very stable core Vista technology”


Mr. Aldous said in a PCR interview.  “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.?

How anyone could say that with a straight face is unbelievable. Vista is a nightmare of biblical proportions. Most of our systems around here are running XP but we have a few newer Vista laptops, their own that we support. Systems and apps freezing, incompatibilities with printers, BlackBerries, other accessories, WinExplorer freezing and restarting, IE freezing and expiring. They are a disaster. I spent much of last week repairing a system (“No I haven’t backed it up ever but the data is critical so just fix it without losing anything” Grrrrr). That one is now running W7. After that my boss and I discussed it and he decided that these users have three options: Let us reformat and install XP. Let us upgrade them to W7. Lastly they could stay with Vista but “If they do that they have to understand they are on their own. We won’t help them with anything, not even a printer. The only message we will respond to from them is if they decide to go with one of the other two options.”

Compare this to the Mac systems I’ve been running, Two 10.6 and one 10.4 that haven’t missed a beat. Prior to that a PowerBook and iBook that were equally solid going all the way back to 10.1.


I agree with some of the other posters.  The true inaccuracy of the original interview is that he claimed Vista to be more stable than Mac OS X.  Right, and you’ve got land in Florida to sell me, right?  Ever since we upgraded to Vista at work, problems have been devastating and consistent.  I am astonished that the interviewer didn’t challenge the assertion that Vista is more stable than OS X!


Arrived at the “Mac-like” feel independently? Were the developers kept in a closet when not on the clock?

The man probably believes in convergent evolution.

I won’t even touch the “more stable than the current Mac” comment.

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