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Did Microsoft really rip off the GUI from Apple?

Many people here say that Microsoft ripped off the GUI idea from Apple.

Well, they did, in a way!


But then, look around you: I am willing to bet that, if we use that definition of "rip", more than 90% of the products you use have been ripped.

For example, maybe you drive a Ford, or even a Mercedes.

Ford and Mercedes ripped off the concept of the car from other companies, because they weren't the ones who invented the car!

Now, you see how this logic applies to probably more than 95% of the products around you?


So, yes, Microsoft took the idea of the GUI from Apple, who in turn took it from Xerox.

What would have happened if Microsoft didn't take the idea from Apple?

It's very simple: another company would have taken the idea and made a GUI for the PC.

Then, the people blaming now Microsoft would be simply blaming another company.


But what would have happened if this kind of taking of ideas was prohibited by law?

Then, I belive we would still be in middle ages.


So - if Microsoft ripped the GUI from Apple, then 98% of every product you use, own or is produced is a ripped product. Every company has ripped ideas and principles from another company.

Not a native English speaker
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I think early on Microsoft hired one of the guys from Xerox Parc who was one of the leaders of the GUI project there. I forget his name.

Matthew Lock
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Interesting information about who invented cars:

http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blcar.htm

Mercedes - yes, it's not a good product - they ripped the concept of the car off!

Not a native English speaker
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Well, Mathew, I remember reading that Apple also hired one of the people from Xerox PARC.

Not a native English speaker
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

By the way you don't need to guess about the early history of MS, it's all well documented in books like Hard Drive: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0887306292/002-1327585-9300864?v=glance

Matthew Lock
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

> Well, Mathew, I remember reading that Apple also hired one > of the people from Xerox PARC

Exactly. So it would be hard to say that MS ripped the GUI idea off Apple.

Matthew Lock
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

...because ripping the idea off from *Xerox* is okay.

C'mon - who cares? There are two distinct tasks of value:
1) Inventing something
2) Causing public acceptance of something

Those two are *often* done by different people. Each should get the recognition they deserve. And IMHO arguing over "who stole what from whom" is a serious waste of time and focus when we should all be putting our effort into figuring out how to get miniskirts enforced as mandatory attire for casual Fridays.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

its the best argument Ive heard yet against software patents.  If Xerox (or apple, or MS) had successfully patented the idea of a GUI, the computer industry would be 10000% worse off.

FullNameRequired
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

"we should all be putting our effort into figuring out how to get miniskirts enforced as mandatory attire for casual Fridays."

I dont really have the legs for it......perhaps an exception could be made for men with knobbly knees?

FullNameRequired
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

frankly, I think we'd get a much higher entertainment level on fridays if we went for nothing but tennis shoes and a light coat of olive oil. ;-)

not puttin' my name to this one...
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Given my co-workers I vote for fully clothed! :)

Leave 'em on!
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Apple engineers got a couple tours of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center *and* the privilege to replicate what they saw there in exchange for a sizable number of pre-IPO Apple shares.  In other words, it was a transaction.  Apple didn't "rip off" anything.

Microsoft, on the other hand, took a lot from Apple, particularly while they were developing their original Macintosh applications like Word and Excel.

There's a paper called "Inventing the Lisa Interface" that describes the evolution of the interface on the Lisa (the Mac's immediate predecessor) from the Smalltalk interface Apple people were shown at Xerox.  They're *substantially* different, and many of the innovations were either original to Apple or the combinations were.

Chris Hanson
Thursday, September 18, 2003

The most amazing thing about the GUI on PCs was that Windows never really had any competition. Apple would have slaughtered MS if they'd have ported their GUI to PCs anytime before Windows 3.0.

Matthew Lock
Thursday, September 18, 2003

<quote>
The most amazing thing about the GUI on PCs was that Windows never really had any competition.
</quote>

Except for GEOS and OS/2. Not that either of them lasted long. ;-)

Seeya

Matthew
Thursday, September 18, 2003


> Microsoft, on the other hand, took a lot from
> Apple, particularly while they were developing
> their original Macintosh applications like Word
> and Excel.

What you may not know, but is true, is that Microsoft had a deal with Apple. Apple allowed Microsoft to use some Apple-specific user interface features in their programs. They did this especially in order to be able to develop Excel (which came first) and Word.

Also, Excel practically saved the Apple company. There was a time when Macs didn't sell because they had a very high cost.

The Microsoft came up with Excel for Macs (which was the first Excel), and the Apple sales made a jump.

The spreadsheet was the killer app of that era.


> The most amazing thing about the GUI on PCs
> was that Windows never really had any competition.

This is not true. In the times of Windows 1.0, a lot of vendors tried to make GUIs for PCs:

- Digital Research GEM (Graphical Environment Manager)

- VisiCorp VisiOn

- IBM TopView

- Microsoft Windows 1.0

And you know what happened? They discovered that people didn't bui GUIs, because the PCs of that era were too slow.

Then, Microsoft thought that if they had a killer product for Windows, they will be the dominant vendor of GUIs for the PC.

So, instead of waiting for others to develop an app, they worked very hard and released Excel for Windows.

This drove the acceptation of Windows up, even if Windows and Excel needed a powerful computer.

Now, is Microsoft to blame for doing this? No. In my opinion, we should praise MS for doing this. Any competitor could have done it (especially VisiCorp, who had the VisiCalc spreadsheet that was a huge hit, in those years), yet only Microsoft did it.


Here are some interesting links about the history of the PC GUI:

http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_GUI

http://members.fortunecity.com/pcmuseum/vision.htm

http://www.sitepoint.com/article/511/7

http://www.sayle.iofm.net/tma03/history.html

Not a native English speaker
Thursday, September 18, 2003

As an aside, the book Dealers of Lightning, which tells the story of Xerox Parc, is really an excellent read for those interested in this sort of history.

Mike Treit
Thursday, September 18, 2003

>This is not true. In the times of Windows 1.0, a lot of vendors >tried to make GUIs for PCs:
>
> Digital Research GEM (Graphical Environment Manager)
>
>- VisiCorp VisiOn
>
>- IBM TopView

But these were no competition for MS Windows.  Most competing GUIs at the time were either vaporware or had no applications written for them. Windows has been the only GUI for the PC that ever really had any applications at all.

Matthew Lock
Thursday, September 18, 2003

Not a native English speaker -

At the risk of a thread hijack, I am compelled to point out that Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz, founders of Daimler-Benz (now Daimler Chrysler), the company which owns the Mercedes-Benz trademark, do have a reasonably legitimate claim to the invention of the automobile.

Devil's Advocate
Thursday, September 18, 2003

http://www.kare.com/articles/icon_book.html

read-only mode disabled
Thursday, September 18, 2003

I believe one of the PARC guys who came to Microsoft early on was Charles Simonyi (of Hungarian notation fame.)  At PARC he wrote Bravo, which became Microsoft Word.

I was a history undergrad in college in the mid 80s writing tons of papers.  A Mac with Word and a laser printer was so much nicer than a PC with DOS and Word Perfect or whatever.

Like a previous poster said, the Mac was slow to catch on mostly becuase of a lack of software.  Word was the only reason I spent the extra money for a Mac back then.  So maybe the Microsoft-owes-Apple people have it backwards. 

Scott McKissock
Thursday, September 18, 2003

In History, there has been a big difference between the following:

1. Invention ("How about a tart citrus fruit?")
2. Innovation ("Add sugar and water...")
3. Monopolization ("Beat it kid, this is my corner for lemonade stands")

Companies make the most money on #3, less on #2, and almost never on #1.

In GUIs, perhaps Xerox was #1, Apple #2, and Microsoft #3

Don't hold your breath for this to change any time soon. The marketplace does not reward invention, and it barely compensates innovation.

Richard P. Gabriel, in "Money Through Innovation Reconsidered" http://www.dreamsongs.com/NewFiles/Innovation.pdf puts it thus:

"Invention, radical innovation, and great leaps forward do
not produce revenue commensurate with the required effort in the software industry, and invention usually doesn’t work in any industry."

http://www.braithwaite-lee.com/

Reginald Braithwaite-Lee
Thursday, September 18, 2003

It has also been documented that Bill Gates wrote a letter to Apple URGING THEM TO PORT MACOS TO THE PC!  Never forget, Apple has always worked extremely hard at making sure their products don't become too successful.

I'm hoping that changes with iPod and iTunes Music Store.

Jim Rankin
Thursday, September 18, 2003

It amazes me that Xerox didn't have more foresight to get sweeter deals than they did for all of the technology they invented.

At PARC, they invented:

- The mouse
- Window-based computing environment
- Ethernet
- Laser printer

..and much more I'm probably not familiar with off the top of my head.

At least some folks at PARC were wary--when Steve Jobs and the rest of the crew was scheduled to come down and see what they were doing, the leader of the group objected to upper management very strongly, feeling that they would get the short end of the stick.

Dave
Thursday, September 18, 2003

Douglas Engelbart invented the mouse.

Xerox also had object-oriented programming (Smalltalk), although strictly speaking that was around before i.e. Simula 67. Steve Jobs apparently said that he was so blown away by the GUI that he didn't even notice Ethernet and OOP!

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Thursday, September 18, 2003

> A Mac with Word and a laser printer was so much nicer than a PC with DOS and Word Perfect or whatever.

I agree in the 1980's Macs were pretty, and applications on them were much nicer than clumsy DOS applications.

The mistake Apple made was in bunging too high a margin on the machines. That restricted their appeal as a target for software developers, and the rest is history.

JM
Thursday, September 18, 2003

There was an entire family of applications that ran on Gem, most of them written by DR, but not all.    Ventura, the first real desktop publisher depended upon Gem.

The same Gem interface was using in FlexOS, DR's real time OS and as such was the only windowing interface for a real time OS at the time.

Windows at the time of the Look and Feel dispute with Apple was really no more than a program switcher, and when Apple did start swinging its weight about Xerox reminded them that they had the fundamental work and prior art.

The main outcome was that Windows no longer used a tiled window interface, but an overlaid one.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, September 18, 2003

Toastytech.com has a "GUI timeline" featuring screenshots of PC graphical user interfaces from 1973 to the present: 

  http://toastytech.com/guis/

Marc Evelyn
Thursday, September 18, 2003

"Did Microsoft really rip off the GUI from Apple?"

Yes.

pb
Thursday, September 18, 2003

The way I remember it PC's realy realy sucked as far as interface was concerned all through the eighties and early nineties. Macs were where the only choice if you cared about that sort of thing. It came at a steep price markup compared to a MS/Intel solution, but definetly worth it.
However, Apple seemed to have gotten in a sort of advantage lul. They could not get a new OS core of the ground for decades (the old one was scheduled for retirement after version 6, remember), and basically everything grinded to a halt in the process. When Windows 95 hit the scene, all advantages had disapeared and there was no real basis for the steep Mac markup left. Furthermore the change in processor architecture for Apple in the same timeframe, while nescessary gave it a double whammy since execution was poor and initialy performance was abysmall, leaving Apple with slow, expensive machines facing a competition that was significantly more economic and comparable. The came the NT line for business, with no "serious" OS transition from Apple in sight. The rest as they say ...

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, September 18, 2003

That GUI timeline site has some interesting screen shots. It's a shame it's spoilt with drivel like this: http://toastytech.com/evil/billsucks.html

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Thursday, September 18, 2003

As Dave said, Xerox invented many technologies and concept in common use today. I think the blame game shouldn't be focused on who had it first, but rather why the first guy did nothing with it. Xerox is a great case study on R&D > ROI.

m
Thursday, September 18, 2003

The main reason Xerox didn't do anything with the work at PARC was cost.

They worked out how much a computer that could use their GUI would cost, and found out that nobody would be able to buy it, and so development was dropped. Of course Moore's law applied, and so it didn't take many years before sufficiently powerful and cheap computers became feasible, but by that time the PAR team had been disbanded.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, September 18, 2003

I don't know for a fact that Xerox did the calculation on the cost of the machine, but it's clear from the first Mac model that they were right. The first Macs had 128K (not meg) of Ram and no hard disk. They were slow and relatively unreliable. The little bomb showed up on the screen all to frequently. PCs of the same era were not much better, but with a much simpler OS they weren't bogged down.

Having said all that, two years later with twice the memory, a hard disc, and considerable application software the Mac was completely usable.

pdq
Friday, September 19, 2003

I'll bring up the mini-skirt suggestion at my next meeting. Good idea Philo

me
Friday, September 19, 2003

I inturned at Adobe back in the '95-'96 time frame.  I remember Apple's new OS was due to ship at any time.  This was a big deal for Adobe as most of their users were still on the Mac.  The failure of Apple to get a new OS into the market under Scully was a huge failing.  Combined with the premium price that was to be paid for what following Windows95 was becoming a sub-premium product pretty much doomed Apple.  Jobs had the brillance to come up with the iMac, but it was probably to late. 

christopher baus
Friday, September 19, 2003

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