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Microsoft Admits Mac OS X Influence in Windows 7

Gordon Kelly


Microsoft Admits Mac OS X Influence in Windows 7

It might be a case of tell-us-something-we-don't-know, but Microsoft has officially admitted it took inspiration from Apple Mac OS X when it was designing Windows 7. This surprisingly candid statement came from Microsoft partner group manager Simon Aldous in an interview with PCR.

Microsoft "tried to listen to what customers want in terms of a much slicker user interface and the ability to engage with it far more intuitively," said Aldous. "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."

And there it is in black and white. To be fair to Microsoft, it has not only taken influence from/ripped off the Mac OS X dock it has also significantly improved the functionality thanks to Taskbar Peek and programme specific context menus or 'Jumplists'.

"We've taken everything that's good about Vista, along with the core infrastructure of the operating system, and we've made it faster and slimmed down the code to make it more effective," added Aldous. "We've also tried to listen to what customers want in terms of a much slicker user interface and the ability to engage with it far more intuitively. That's the product that we're delivering."

Marketing speak? For sure, but Microsoft gets a torrent of abuse each year and with Windows 7 it deserves a big pat on the back. Faster load times, a more responsive UI, better stability and clever additions such as snap and support for multi-touch gesture control suggest the smug grin long plastered onto OS X users should be starting to fade.

I'm not going to dodge it: Windows 7 or Snow Leopard? For me it is now Windows 7 and by a considerable margin.

Update as might be expected Microsoft has come out and dismissed this news. Interestingly it hasn't rubbished the quotes, but rather it has rubbished Simon Aldous. The ubiquitous Brandon LeBlanc has used the Windows 7 blog to declare:

"An inaccurate quote has been floating around the Internet today about the design origins of Windows 7 and whether its look and feel was "borrowed" from Mac OS X. Unfortunately this came from a Microsoft employee who was not involved in any aspect of designing Windows 7. I hate to say this about one of our own, but his comments were inaccurate and uninformed."

So the case of tell-us-something-we-don't-know has evolved into admit-telling-us-something-we-already-know-but-deny-it's-true. Make up your own minds...


via PCR


November 12, 2009, 5:18 am

Just for fun, this is the 'taskbar' in Windows 2.0 (1988): http://the-oliver.com/wp-co...

That actually has quite some similarities between the Windows 7 taskbar :P.


November 12, 2009, 12:50 pm

"I'm not going to dodge it: Windows 7 or Snow Leopard? For me it is now Windows 7 and by a considerable margin."

Ooooo you had to do it, didn't you ? Wait for the fireworks.....

Nice to see MS owning up (although its nothing new, Mr Bates used to say "more like a mac" when Win95 was being developed).

For me OSX still has the edge, but Win7 is a great improvement, my Mac has both on it and I can't wait until my work desktop is moved to Win7.


November 12, 2009, 1:42 pm

Well, it may look similar, nevertheless these are just icons of minimised applications laying on the desktop. It looks like a taskbar only because of the white window overlapping the rest of the desktop above them.


November 12, 2009, 2:25 pm

Now if only Apple fesses up that it uses innovations developed by their competitors (chicklet keyboard on a notebook, accelerometer in phones, tab UI in mobile OS, threaded SMS) whilst trying to pass them off as theirs.


November 12, 2009, 2:34 pm

You may want to take a read of this (and I'm not saying they aren't back tracking) which states that this was not the case:



November 12, 2009, 2:35 pm

The only reason I still use Windows XP is to play games. For everything else I use a Mac.

I installed the Windows 7 RC but couldn't find any compelling reason for me to upgrade my gaming machine from XP. Especially as Windows 7 Pro is not particularly cheap. Perhaps if Microsoft had just one SKU and charged £89 for it, I'd be tempted.


November 12, 2009, 3:18 pm

Awww, wook at da cute widdle icons and colours :D.

Sorry, I get too excited about computers...


November 12, 2009, 4:46 pm


Your gaming comp should move to Win 7 as soon as you upgrade it with a video card that can handle handle Direct X 11. Until then, you might just as well stick with XP.

But you certainly don't need anything more expensive than the OEM version of Home Premium, which is close to the price you mentioned.

Doc. Caliban

November 12, 2009, 5:58 pm

I worked at MS from WFW 3.11 through XP; Make it look however you want, it's still Windows. That's not necessarily bad; however, the appeal of OS X for me (I switched a year and a half ago after 20 years of Windows) is much deeper than the interface, as anyone who's actually used it for a decent period of time will know.

I have a Vista 64 box for gaming, and while I would consider upgrading it to 7, I'm probably going to sell it due to the pathetic state of the PC game market. (The image of the console market with it's arm up the bum of the dead husk of the PC game market and trying to make it speak like a sock puppet, 'I'm still alive, kids!' comes to mind.)

But i digress.

I have an XP VM in the MBP that I use on the rarest occasions, so it's unlikely I'll be updating that to 7.



November 12, 2009, 5:59 pm

However, the official line from the Windows 7 Team Blog is that the manager in question was talking cr&p. From the blog, "...I hate to say this about one of our own, but his comments were inaccurate and uninformed...".


Moral of the story: managers talk nonsense (and sales people are even worse ;-).


November 12, 2009, 6:05 pm

Story updated all. Thanks for beating me to the punch ;)


November 12, 2009, 6:27 pm

I am dying to install mac os x on my netbook and see how it goes... find win7 bit slow after about 3month use


November 12, 2009, 6:47 pm

@xbrumster - if you think Windows 7 is slow on a netbook... !!


November 12, 2009, 7:38 pm

@xbrumster: you won't get very far with Snow Leopard if it's an Atom based netbook, as it won't work. Not sure about older versions of Mac OS X though. And Gordon's probably right, I doubt Mac OS X is faster than Windows 7 on a netbook. Although he's probably not factoring in how clunky and inconsistent Windows applications are from a usability standpoint. Ho ho ho!


November 12, 2009, 7:57 pm

What's brilliant about Brandon LeBlanc's suggested reading on the design process of Windows 7 is this quote from the AP article:

"Given Microsoft's history, Ms. Larson-Green's plan seems downright revolutionary: Build an operating system that doesn't require people to take computer classes or master thick manuals."

This has been Apple's philisophy since 1984! I used to hate the fact that Mac users, on the whole, understood nothing about computers, as they were completely clueless when it came to computers. What I subsequently realised is that, there are more computer-illiterate users than there are geeks/nerds and making computers easier to use for those people is not easy to accomplish and something to strive for. While Apple may have copied Xerox originally they have at least done better to innovate on top of that, whereas the general consensus is that this is far less the case with Microsoft.


November 12, 2009, 8:30 pm

@Mikael: you're right of course, at some point I'll have to upgrade to Windows 7 to play the latest DirectX 11 games. And potentially Microsoft could kill off security patches before then and I'd be foolish not to upgrade at that point. For the time being though L4D2 will work just fine, so I'll be deferring the upgrade for as as long as I can, much as I did with moving from Win2K to XP. And who knows, maybe gaming will come to Google Chrome OS via Native Client?


November 12, 2009, 9:37 pm

"significantly improved the functionality thanks to Taskbar Peek and programme specific context menus or 'Jumplists'."

I'd still take expose over Taskbar peek anytime. And Jumplists are nothing new, as they've been in OS X for some considerable time (just not called Jumplists).

As to Windows 7 or Snow Leopard - the gap's narrowed since Vista, but I still prefer Snow Leopard with Windows 7 used for gaming. In fact it's helped that Windows 7 is more Mac-like, as it's easier to switch between the two OSs now.


November 12, 2009, 9:54 pm


You do know that upgrading is generally a good thing, right? :) It's not as if Windows 7 will cost much less a few months/years from now as it does today, so it's not like you'll be saving a fortune by delaying it. And yes, the cheaper Home Premium version should be everything a gamer needs.

I think you fit under the 'Rebel' category...


November 12, 2009, 9:58 pm

Here is a nice article explaining the origin and goals of the Windows 7 taskbar: http://blogs.msdn.com/e7/ar...

I wonder though, is it even possible for Apple and Microsoft to improve their software without doing any copying from each other?


November 12, 2009, 10:04 pm

I'm not at all surprised this is confirmed as nonsense. Mind you, considering how similar the two operating systems are to begin with I don't see how you could have influence without direct copying.

@Bobafett: Apple apps aren't clunky and inconsistant? PC gaming is dying? I'm sorry, but a lot of what you're saying sounds like nonsense to me.


November 12, 2009, 10:20 pm

mac os isnt alone in holding the design remit of being 'slick' and 'intuitive' for the user. the unix desktops of gnome and kde also share similar notions. the dock is hardly a mac creation either being as it was brought in after apples acquisition of next computers and the ensuing merger of their two operating system

the icon based taksbar seems a natural solution the common problem in previous versions of windows of having a crowded taskbar and difficult to find application windows. microsoft should be congratulated for finally treading on a path of their own with not only windows 7 but the ribbon interface too

@doc caliban: you seem to digress to the point of not discussing the article at all an instead drone on about why you prefer macs to pc.

@BobaFett: windows applications may very well be clunky and poorly designed but at least there are some


November 13, 2009, 6:03 pm

I too find Windows 7 to be the superior OS. I've been running it on my Macbook for the last couple of weeks and it's great. Since it also runs more - actually all - of the software I use it's kind of a no brainer for me. I intend to reformat the Boot Camp partition this weekend to squeeze Snow Leopard as much as possible and reformat the rest for Windows 7.


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