Microsoft exec says Win7 borrows from OS X, Microsoft disagrees


— 2:34 PM on November 12, 2009

Sometimes, you just can't help sticking your foot in your mouth. In an interview with British site PCR yesterday, Microsoft Partners Group Manager Simon Aldous did just that by saying the Windows team had taken cues from Apple's Mac OS X when designing Windows 7. He went so far as to say Microsoft tried to "create a Mac look and feel in terms of graphics."

Aldous made that claim when asked whether Windows 7 really was a "more agile operating system." Here's his complete response:

The interesting thing is, it's basically the next version of Vista. Vista was a totally redesigned operating system from XP. We've improved upon Vista in that way. We've stripped out a lot of the code, we've made a lot of it much more efficient, it sits on a smaller footprint, it operates far more quickly, it's far more agile and effective in terms of the calls it makes. I saw an article recently that described it as ‘Vista on steroids', and in some ways you can absolutely relate to that.

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.

The Windows team was not amused, to say the least. Brandon LeBlanc of the Windows Team Blog discredited Aldous' statement the same day, saying the executive "was not involved in any aspect of designing Windows 7" and calling his comments "inaccurate and uninformed."

Today, PCR received a more official response from Microsoft, which says Aldous "was incorrect" and "subsequent headlines claiming that the Mac OS inspired Windows 7 are totally inaccurate." The response adds:

Over nine out of ten computer users choose Windows. Over the years, hundreds of millions of Windows users have given us great feedback and we have derived great insight about User Interface (UI) design. The Windows 7 UI was designed to make computers simpler to use and to take advantage of new and innovative technologies Microsoft is bringing to market. One example of this is the multi-touch support in Windows 7, which is not supported by the Mac OS.

Windows 7 and the latest version of Mac OS so have many differences, of course. There's the multi-touch support, the Libraries feature, Aero Peek, for example, which have no direct equivalents on the Mac side for now. Windows Explorer also behaves in fundamentally different ways from the OS X Finder, exposing more features and options to the end user.

The two operating system still have a number of similarities, though. One prime example: the Windows 7 taskbar, which looks and behaves not unlike the Snow Leopard Dock, providing an avenue both to launch programs and to get an overview of their windows through big, friendly-looking icons without labels. As we noted in our Windows 7 review, Microsoft has also included more robust backup features in the consumer-oriented Home Premium edition of Win7, possibly to counter OS X's Time Machine feature.

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