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Windows 7: A Microsoft Innovation or an Apple Inspiration?

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Interviewee promptly chastised in company statement.

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That sound you hear is the roar of laughter erupting from Cupertino, California.

The folks at Apple (AAPL) are most likely tickled to hear of a recent gaffe made by a Microsoft (MSFT) executive during an interview with UK-based PCR -- a slip-up that required the company to deny both the claim and the employee's involvement.

Microsoft's partner group manager Simon Aldous spoke with PCR in regards to the company's involvement in a partner conference taking place at Wembley stadium. When asked "Is Windows 7 really a much more agile operating system, in terms of the specific uses it can be molded to?" Aldous had this to say:

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.


After hearing this jaw-dropping response, PCR's Andrew Wooden was quick to clarify. "So you've taken the style of the Mac platform and built it on the more solid foundations of Vista?" he asked. But Aldous, perhaps realizing his mistake, then only pointed to Vista as inspiration for Windows 7.

Once the interview was posted, news writers and tech bloggers were dumbfounded at such a foolish comment. Microsoft was forced to play damage control immediately -- if not for the sake of saving face, but also for any potential legal fiasco that could result from the mess.

On Microsoft's official company blog, communication manager Brandon LeBlanc posted an entry that denies the Apple connection and chastises Aldous:

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. If you're interested in learning more about the design of Windows 7, I suggest reading this AP story with Julie Larson-Green as well as these Wall Street Journal (membership required) and Fast Company articles. And here is one of many blog posts on the E7 blog discussing the design process of Windows 7.


While LeBlanc's blog post has an air of finality, this may actually not be the last of Microsoft's responses given the magnitude of Aldous's comment.

For decades, the Redmond company has been forced to deny that it ever adopted the look and feel of Apple's user interface for Windows. The similarity between Windows 2.0 and key elements in the Lisa and Macintosh's operating systems prompted Apple to file a lawsuit in 1988. Apple may have lost the case -- except for the trash can and file folder icons which were deemed infringing -- but the allegations have survived.

In 2004, Apple hung banners at the Worldwide Developers Conference where it introduced its Tiger OS. The banners read "Redmond, start your photocopiers."

Cupertino's best copywriters are probably firing up some pithy slogans for 2010.
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