(Repost from subjectivemorality.com, my personal website.)
This is a response to an article in Win7 News, which you can read in its entirety here. The author, Deb Shinder, is a Windows/Microsoft fan. I am decidedly more in the Apple camp. In her article, Shinder talks about the popular perception that Microsoft copied aspects of OS X’s user interface for Windows 7, and then goes on to explain how various examples of said copying aren’t really good examples. After this, she then goes on to a larger thesis: that it doesn’t matter if Windows copies OS X or if Linux copies OS X or Windows, because they all descended from the first GUI developed by Xerox. I don’t really care about that last thesis; I don’t have any qualms with it. I would just like to address some of the more ridiculous points in the article.
Point 1: “I’m writing this on a Windows 7 computer, and I have a Mac running Snow Leopard sitting right across the room. Do they look alike? Not really. Are there similarities? Sure – they both have taskbars (which Apple calls a dock), they both have desktop icons, they both have “pretty” interfaces. The Windows 7 taskbar is far more functional, though: if I hover over a dock icon on the Mac, I get nothing but a pop-up of the application’s or folder’s name. If I hover over a taskbar icon in Win7, I get a preview of every instance of that app that’s open.”
I have to dispute that the Windows 7 taskbar is more functional. This is just my thing, but I hate having to take two steps to get what I want when one would do just fine.1 If I have IE open with multiple tabs and I click on its icon in the taskbar, I get presented with all the open tabs. No, clicking on IE doesn’t switch me to my last open tab, it asks me which tab I’d like to switch to, which gets really, really annoying after awhile. The main function of the taskbar should be to, um, switch tasks, not ask me which task I’d like to switch to, which requires more thought and time.
Point 2: “Some say the ability to pin apps to the taskbar in Windows 7 is a case of copying the dock. But we have been able to put apps on the taskbar since Windows 95, in the form of the Quick Launch bar. There’s nothing new about that.”
Oh, sure, Windows users2 have been able to pin apps to the taskbar for a long time with Quick Launch, but with Windows 7, the two jobs of task managing and app launching have been combined in the new taskbar. How is there “nothing new” about that?
Point 3: “How about desktop gadgets? Did Microsoft copy Mac’s widgets? Not really. Leaving aside the fact that gadgets were introduced in Vista, not Windows 7, they don’t work the same way as the Mac widgets. Although both are small applications that provide information (clocks, weather, stock market info, etc.), there’s a fundamental difference in the way they’re implemented. On the Mac, the widgets reside on the “Dashboard.” When you have the Dashboard displayed, you can’t do anything with your other applications. When you click on an application window, the Dashboard disappears. I can’t find a way to be able to work on a document and see my widgets at the same time, as I can so easily do with Windows gadgets.”
Who said gadgets were introduced with Windows 7? No one. Spotty rhetoric, this. It’s a totally moot point anyway, as Konfabulator (now known as Yahoo! Widgets) was the first widget application, dating back to 2003.
Point 4: “What else? The Start button? The Mac puts its Apple button on a whole different taskbar, across the top of the screen. It contains some of the same things as the Windows Start menu: recent items, the options to sleep, restart, shutdown or log off. But it’s not nearly as flexible; the Windows Start menu displays your favorite applications in the top left section, most recently used apps in the bottom left section, and links to commonly accessed folders and tools (documents, pictures, music, downloads, the computer, the network, devices and printers, Control Panel) in the right section. Windows 7 also places the Search box here, whereas the Mac’s search tool is at the far right of the top taskbar.”
First, that thing at the top of the Mac’s screen? Yeah, that’s a menubar, not a taskbar, you know, because a menubar has, like, menus and stuff, whereas a taskbar has, like, tasks. Second, WTF? Why are we even talking about the Start Menu? I’ve never once heard anyone say that Microsoft copied the Start Menu from Apple. Only Microsoft could come up with something as unpolished and overcomplicated as the Start Menu. And third, Spotlight pwns Windows Desktop Search.
Point 5: “As I’ve mentioned before, Apple has “borrowed” or “adapted” just as many ideas from Windows as the other way around. They’re just now getting around to releasing a 64 bit desktop OS, they’ve “copied” Exchange support from Windows, Leopard introduced “stacks” for combining items in the dock (emulating the “groups” that did the same, years before, in Windows). Apple’s Quick Look for viewing documents in the Finder without opening them seemed a whole lot like Vista’s Explorer preview pane, which came first. I could go on, but here’s my point: just because two operating systems have a similar look, or even have similar features, that doesn’t mean that one is a “copy” of the other. And if Apple folks think it’s such an outrage for Microsoft’s operating systems to adopt features that are similar to their own, why don’t they feel the same sort of outrage about all the new graphical interfaces for Linux that look so much like Mac and Windows? Heck, if Microsoft were really out to “copy” OS X, wouldn’t they have ripped off my very favorite thing about the Mac interface: the genie effect?”
What are you smoking? How did Apple copy Windows by making OS X 64-bit? Was 64-bit technology invented by Microsoft? I don’t think so. Exchange support? How is Apple supposed to have exchange support before Microsoft does? Exchange is a Microsoft product! You’re comparing Stacks to task grouping? Seriously? And don’t even get me started on the differences between Quick Look and that useless chunk of space called the Preview Pane.
Listen, all of these points? They don’t matter, because the fundamental difference between Apple and Microsoft is that Apple innovates. When’s the last time Microsoft’s done anything radically different? Windows is still using technologies from twenty years ago. Apple completely rebuilt Mac OS from the ground up only 9 years ago. Just look at the Zune: why did Microsoft want a piece of the PMP market? Because of Apple’s iPod. What is the Zune HD if not a less functional iPod Touch? The Zune HD even has a message on its side that says, “hello from seattle” (sic). Sound familiar? What about Windows Mobile? When’s the last time Microsoft released an update for Windows Mobile that wasn’t just a shoddy paint job? ‘Sbeen awhile, it has.
So, I think the output of our innovation is great. We have a culture of self-improvement. I know we can continue to improve. There is no issue. But at the same time, our absolute level of output is fantastic.
” Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO
- I find myself doing two steps to accomplish something simple in Windows a lot. For instance, minimizing with the keyboard: in OS X, it’s just Cmd+M; in Windows, it’s Alt+Space and then N.
- Notice how Shinder uses â€œweâ€ to refer to Windows users. Very reminiscent of the Borg.