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Windows 7: Does Microsoft Have a Big Idea?

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on May 28, 2008

What is going to give Windows 7, which Microsoft insists will be out in early 2010, its wow?

At the D: All Things Digital Conference last night, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave a brief glimpse at the the user interface of Windows 7. The demo mostly showed off a multitouch interface that allows users to use their hands to manipulate objects on the screen, as is done on th eApple iPhone and Microsoft’s own Surface. It also gave a glimpse, perhaps unintentional, of a reworked Windows taskbar that bears more than a passing resemblence to the Dock in Apple OS X.

Both are excellent ideas, but they raise a huge question: What’s the dramatic new feature in Windows 7 that doesn’t look, fairly or not, like it was copied from Apple?

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Reader Comments


May 28, 2008 03:24 PM

The answer is... nothing!!!


May 28, 2008 03:38 PM

Windows is hoping to look as flashy as osx in hopes that people wont see the benefits of switching. It makes sense. And its sad how threatened they must feel from an almost non competitor.

Vlad Mayzel

May 28, 2008 03:39 PM

I just truly hope it will not be another Vista!


May 28, 2008 03:41 PM

Seems like they want to touch back with the whole Microsoft Surface plan and turn it into a mobile masterpiece, though no one wants to believe that. People will assume that it's just a copy of the Apple iPhone, but really, Apple's new products and success have kicked MS into gear.

Steve K

May 28, 2008 03:54 PM

Hopefully, the big new idea is that it's not Vista, and it will not be as insanely wasteful of computing resources as Vista is. How about making it smaller and more efficient than XP? How about NOT changing all the UIs so people who have been using XP and XP Office for years don't have to relearn everything? How about making it cheaper? MS is not losing customers to Apple because of the UI. It's just disgust.

Philip Ferreira

May 28, 2008 03:56 PM

How about this... What of apple's doesn't look like it was taken from Xerox? Mmkk? Who cares if people take from Apple ideas, Apple didn't care that they took from a lot of other ideas... Don't sit there and spin this as "poor apple, their wonderful ideas have been taken", live by the sword...


May 28, 2008 03:56 PM

First MS copies the Foxfire browser with the tab feature, now it is trying to copy APPLE...what next? Maybe they can just build a better OS that is cross platform friendly for all ,,,consider that...


May 28, 2008 04:01 PM

It's simple, apple innovates and microsoft imitates.

We all have seen this on the iPhone and iPod touch, a year ago!


May 28, 2008 04:13 PM

And everything Apple has in terms of interface design was taken from the Xerox Star. The question isnt why Microsoft copies good ideas, or even why it has so few of its own. The question is whether users have the patience to put up with Microsoft's antics until Windows 7 is finally released, or whether they will jump ship to more attractive (Linux, OS/X) alternatives.

Robert Johnson

May 28, 2008 04:20 PM

Isn't borrowing features from Apple how Microsoft has always implemented new features? Let's face it, both companies steal ideas. Take a look at pirates of silicon valley for a quick glimpse...


May 28, 2008 04:25 PM

MicroSoft has no shame. Copy, copy, copy. Why innovate when you can just allow other companies to invent great stuff and then play catch up. Saves on R&D expenses.


May 28, 2008 04:31 PM

It is doubtful that Microsoft will ever come out with any software that it didn't come up with first, it started with windows 3.1 and will continue. Maybe they should just give up an focus on the other hundreds of things Mirosoft has its fingers in.


May 28, 2008 04:43 PM

microsoft should focus more on generating new ideas rather than adapting apple's. they've been a step behind for the past decade... or two.

Ron Wells

May 28, 2008 05:04 PM

Window's has always been steps behind and has always..unless forced,and that is only make improvements or changes..let alone a stable dependable system..
Sorry for being mean...just tired of junk...

Nacho Copy

May 28, 2008 05:16 PM

The problem for MS is, Apple is too big to quietly "buy out" with a large hammer.

The problem for Apple is, it takes a major stinky POS like Vista to noticeably gain new customers.

The problem for consumers is we have to put up with them (or maybe we don't. shhhh).


May 28, 2008 05:22 PM

It is true that Apple first introduced this in a commercial product such as IPhone but that does not mean that Microsoft copied the idea. Microsoft is working on its Surface platform for a long time now....and who started it first? I think it doesn't matter to much.


May 28, 2008 05:30 PM

That's funny, they seem to be doing pretty well 'catching up' haha.

Ralph Weinsheink

May 28, 2008 05:35 PM


TIP: Go long on the common stock of the parent company that produces WINDEX.

Thanks for this opportunity to comment.
TTFN, from WW2, and our British Allies, TA TA FOR NOW!


May 28, 2008 05:38 PM

Stop beating the Xerox horse, that was once and quite a while ago.
The thing is while Apple started creating fresh ideas instead of continuing to steal, Microsoft did quite the opposite by blatantly stealing everything and maintaining so to this day.

J. P. D.

May 28, 2008 05:51 PM

Hardly surprising that the first glimpses of Win 7 generated unenthusiastic responses...

Copy or not, seems that the main question is how come they end up with disappointing operating systems. Why they fail to attain the stability of Linux systems, fail to come up with a solid GUI, comparable to that found in Linux, or OSX for that matter, fail to provide a comprehensive set of solid maintenance and productivity tools etc etc...

A superficial inspection may lead one to think that they're inherently stupid or utterly blind. In my humble opinion, neither conjecture is true.

It seems that MS's preoccupation with profitability and sustainability has gotten them on a trajectory that defies common sense. In the longer run however, common sense is fated to win and if MS's decision makers continue along that route, they'll find themselves on a declining slope - gradually losing ground in the OS market... Perhaps they'll get to their senses in time.


May 28, 2008 05:52 PM

I appear to be in the minority (I guess I like to 'think different') but I feel that Vista is a slammin good os. I have never liked using Mac (oh, how unkool) and XP is solid but old and annoying. Vista has fixed most of the XP annoyances and shines in alot of areas. Yes it needs 1 gig of ram to run well, but if you are using less than that on your computer I dont really know what to say to you. Hardly any modern apps will run well on less than 1G of ram. Give Vista a chance. If you don't like microsoft and you really want to "think different" try a Linux distro like Ubuntu or Fedora, you will look like a genius to the Mac Zombies. You just won't be able to nearly as much as you would with a windows machine. Kinda like Mac.

max spenser

May 28, 2008 06:06 PM

Lets hope its a step in the direction from Vista back to XP. What a waste Vista was, investing billions in a counterproductive, partner and developer - unfriendly product. Beginning of the end of windows line, I think.


May 28, 2008 07:06 PM

Gates has been beating the voice-driven UI horse for at least a decade now, apparently in the belief that, like a broken clock, he's bound to eventually be right. Fact is it's a stupid idea, and trying to adapt a tactile interface to a vertical display is almost as bad. Win 7 at this stage is nothing but a classic exercise in Gatesian vaporware, designed to keep the herd from straying out of the Vista paddock with the promise of an OS that will, finally, get it right.


May 28, 2008 10:27 PM

Philip Ferreira, Apple bought GUI from Xerox unlike Microsoft who stole it.


May 28, 2008 11:36 PM

Here comes the XEROX reference again from the naive. Or from people who thought the movie was factual. Go here and learn something please.

That way you wont look so silly posting this Apple copied XEROX or Jobs stole XEROX junk.


May 29, 2008 05:17 AM

I wonder if these boys can figure this out.


May 29, 2008 10:14 AM

..."You just won't be able to nearly as much as you would with a windows machine. Kinda like Mac."

Not do nearly as much? Macs can do ANYTHING a windows machine can do...because Macs also run windows.

Wake up to reality and quit exposing blind prejudice.


May 29, 2008 11:30 AM

The new battleground is handheld touch screen devices, not PCs. The text entry methods are ancient QWERTY based. Lousy input method.


May 29, 2008 11:34 AM

Does anybody really believe that Microsoft is capable of creating an operating system that can compete with OSX or Linux?

I've worked with computers for a very long time and it's been decades since Microsoft created anything good. XP was acceptable, but everything since (Zune, Vista, etc.) has been junk.

Wake up people--how can you expect anything good from the team that brought you Vista?


May 29, 2008 11:37 AM

Hummmmmmm, looks like Ballmer selling snake oil again.


May 29, 2008 11:46 AM

I know there are a lot of haters of Vista... I held off from moving from XP to Vista as long as possible, but I wanted a new laptop and was forced into it. I gotta say that I was actually impressed with it and have had no problems besides a few new things to learn. I am not sure what the challenge is for some of these pc users? Maybe they're just not as technically skilled as some? I also like OSX, but for what I use computers for I am PC all the way (especially since they cost about half the price for the same hardware as a Mac). If money where no object maybe I'd switch to a Mac.

As for the new OS by Windows I expect something solid... if its not then please just keep working on it until it is... thx.


May 29, 2008 11:47 AM

What I want in an OS is 1) small, 2) fast, 3) reliable to the extreme - no bugs, 4) unhackable, 5) doesn't obsolete my peripherals, 6) stops SPAM and viruses cold. So what is microsoft inventing - more unreliable touchy-feely that obsoletes everything prior to it. I think I'll go back to sleep - my dreams were more fun.

Pissed at Ignorance

May 29, 2008 12:03 PM

Looks like OS X? that taskbar looked nothing like Apple's dock. It looked more like the current Vista taskbar, but larger to accommodate for touch. It will be resizable. The features of WIndows 7 will make it less Apple like than ever.

Most of the features in Vista that people call Mac like were actually either inventions of the Linux community that both Mac and WIndows ripped off from or were apart of Vista builds as far back as 2002.

Like widgets and gadgets. Yahoo did that first.

Search in the menu? Or Spotlight in mac? Linux has been doing that for years.

Animations in the window? Again Linux did that first.

Transparencies? Too bad Apple did that a year after Microsoft, and only with the taskbar. Other OS's have had that for years in some form.

May 29, 2008 11:34 AM
Does anybody really believe that Microsoft is capable of creating an operating system that can compete with OSX or Linux?"

What do you mean by 'compete?'

Linux was aybe installed on less than 10 million machines this year. OS X is projected to sell a record 10 million copies.

However, Vista will sell over 300 million copies this year.

I dont think Microsoft has to worry.

Without Microsoft, Apple wouldnt be around. Microsoft pured money into Apple in the late 90's to keep it afloat, and make a lot of money off of Apple customers who buy Office.

The problem with Vista is that it was evolutionary. It works like a dream on computer that have a little more than the recommended. I have a computer that is right at that mark, and yes its slow form time to time, but at least it doesn't crash, have system files go missing, and other weird quirks happen like my computer did with XP SP2. They changed the kernel, and that is why there was compatibility issues
. Apple does this all the time, changing and being progressive. Its just its users are use to this and they accept it.

Windows 7 will have the same kernel from Vista and Server 2008. It will be lighter, and will run faster, but will use the same driver model. It will be better.

Funny thing is is that Vista had a better first year launch, and more upgrades than any other OS in computing history.


May 29, 2008 12:05 PM

When I bought new Dell last year, it came with Vista. I thought I would at least try it out and see what was up.

First off, I could not use "Aero" because the Matrox quad head display isn't up to the task (but it works great for everything else). I am not a gamer, I build webpages.

Number two, tupon booting, Vista made my machine sound like a washing machine-constant drive activity for the first ten minutes or so. That would be the built in indexing that cannot be disabled! Strike two.

File sharing- I could not share to save my life! Three other machines on a network could not get in or out of the Vista box. I had to read a post elsewhere on how to change "File Sharing permissions".

In the end I went back to XP Pro, whcih flys!!!!!!!!!!

If Macs weren't so expensive, I'd consider that an option. But to replace 4 machines with new macs,in my dreams!

I will say this for Macs- if you need to run Windows apps, try "crossover" or its less powerful freebie app "Wine". Wine runs on both Linux & Mac. It allows apps written for Windows to be run under Linux or Mac, two different versions.

I truly wish MS would come out with a smaller version of XP, or, a "modifyable" version of Windows PE. They could still have the glorius Vista, and make a tight little OS for the power users (non-ADD adults of all ages who want performance over glitz).

PE is actually the base for Vista, without all the chrome, just a barebones OS with no frills.


May 29, 2008 12:35 PM

Odd that things that would just be consider design trends in other industries are characterized as shameless mimickry when it comes to software companies. Should GM have kept using old sealed beam headlights for fear of appearing to copy Daimler Benz? No, they went with superior design because it was a.) better and, b.) desired by customers.

So MS takes the best elements of Apple's OS. It's a trend, just like the "glass" look that has now become ubiquitous. Big deal.

Let me know when there's some news to read.


May 29, 2008 12:39 PM

UI designs are not innovations just bells and whistles. Apple knows how to utilize existing technology to put some cool interfaces out there but they don't innovate at all most of the technological advanced come from IBM, Microsoft, Intel, and other organizations with researchers working for them (not marketing people). Good interface design is not innovation if they use existing technology (my palm treo had a touch screens years ago; granted the Iphone is way cooler but the same technology at the end).

tom lembcke

May 29, 2008 12:41 PM

My excitement with WinX died with Windows Millenium-ME (Love 2000 and XP)
Vista schmissta...
I have a feeling a lot (lot-lot-lot) of people will/should stay with XP and SP3..
Personally-I will....


May 29, 2008 12:51 PM

Typical Microsoft dis-information. Announce that they are "working" on something. Give me a company like Apple any day over this. When Apple makes an announcment it ends with, "And you can buy it on our website and in our stores right now." Who cares what you might sell some time in the future. Microsoft ALWAYS messes up any good ideas they have.

Donald J. Graham

May 29, 2008 12:53 PM

If it works like Vista. Will they pull it and refund money like bad hamburger and drugs, toys etc.

Tom Lembcke

May 29, 2008 01:11 PM

Donald T_T
since when has anyone ever gotten a refund on Software Tiltles???
15 Years ago (maybe:)


May 29, 2008 01:44 PM

Apple is using the touch interface where it makes sense--on handheld devices and notebook trackpads.

Microsoft wants to use it where it makes no sense--on desktop and notebook screens.

The ergonomics of using touch on a large vertical surface are terrible. Leave it to Microsoft to copy a good idea and screw it up.


May 29, 2008 02:57 PM

microsoft will always copy apple and never again have an idea of their own


May 29, 2008 03:10 PM

Xerox received Apple stock IN EXCHANGE for a chance for the Apple team to take a look at the GUI developed at Xerox PARC. Even then, the Apple iteration of the concept was a vast improvement over what they saw.

Charles-A. Rovira

May 29, 2008 03:35 PM

Lets hope M$ isn't going 'skin deep' once again.

As for the fervent bashing from all the fanboys of every stripe; get your facts straight.

I haven't read such wong-headed BS if a long time...

If you don't have anything useful to say why not try just to STFU?


May 29, 2008 04:01 PM

This only proves that Apple stinks... by Date&detail=medium


May 29, 2008 04:29 PM

Microsoft is and always has been innovative in areas where it faces real competition. Consider servers and business applications. Since the beginning, Microsoft's server lines have been under pressure from Apache and Linux. I don't want to get into which is better, but suffice it to say that Microsoft working hard to stay ahead of the game to survive in this market. Pressure from Mac will likely do the same in the coming years for Microsoft's consumer operating systems.


May 29, 2008 04:32 PM

Reading most of these comments, it seems like people are just lining up behind their horse and spouting off who's team is going to 'win'.

Let step back and reassess. Increasing technological horsepower should be used to make our lives easier and simpler, not more complex. That should be our demand as consumers

The goal of any computer interface, regardless of who makes is should be directed towards that end. I believe touch interfaces, regardless of who implements it or perfects it, is working toward that end. That is why I love the iPhone, its user interface is so intuitive that my mother, a technophobe, was able to use it right away. I don't care who invented it and neither should you. I would have bought it if Taco Bell had invented it.

The ultimate goal is for interfaces to become so seamless with our daily environment that they disappear into the background (like electrical motors did 50 years ago). They are a means to an end, nothing more.

Also, I really like Vista. I have it on my home PC and my Dell tablet and have way fewer issues with it than with XP.

Also, if you still run XP, you can get the benefit of the famous apple OSX "dock" by installing a free app from stardock (google it). My wife has it on her XP laptop and has turned off (or hidden) the windows start menu at the bottom as a result. It’s a more intuitive interface for her (see the theme).

Lighten up people. We want better products period. Let's not worry about rooting for which billionaire will get a piece of our disposable income.

Oh, and the MS office 2007 ribbon menu system is the best way I've ever seen so many options intuitively made available. Most people are just creatures of habit and don't give it a proper chance.

Teoh Yi Chie

May 30, 2008 06:24 AM

Technology's an enabler. It's supposed to help people save time and money. Using that as the criteria for comparison, it's pretty clear which is the OS consumers will prefer.


December 26, 2008 04:05 PM

Microsoft needs to stop working on this kind of crap, and work on actually improving their operating system. How about making backwards and forwards compatible drivers? If you're dumb enough to need this shit, you shouldn't be using a computer.


June 23, 2009 05:47 PM

I am going with Just! Does Microsoft ever think of their OWN ideas? Probably not! Microsoft has been stealing ideas from Apple for YEARS, and I wouldn't be suprised if their going to keep stealing as long as they can. Microsoft needs to think original and stop being a thief! The Mac Is way better anyways, there's only TWO advantages of Windows: Number One: It's more compatible with software/games
Number Two: IT STINKS (oops my bad I mean well, I don't wanna LIE!)
Number TWO: This really isn't even an advantage, but most people have it, the real advantage is that it's a cheaper price but it's crap!

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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