In the tech world yesterday, there was a big stink about a Microsoft group manager saying that Windows 7 was partially inspired by Mac's operation system. Obviously, such a comment is sure to make Mac lovers snicker. A Microsoft spokesperson subsequently denied the validity of that manager's statement. I can't help but wonder, is there really any doubt that Microsoft considered Mac in its operating system redesign -- and can anyone really fault it for doing so?
I don't want to rehash all the details here, because others have already done a good job with that, like this post on a ZDNet blog by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes. But to summarize, that Microsoft manager, Simon Aldous, said that Microsoft designers liked Mac's graphical interface, and sought to emulate it in Windows 7. Microsoft responded saying that his comment was "inaccurate and uninformed."
After explaining the situation, Kingsley-Hughes concludes:
Personally, unless someone wants to go to court over patent infringement, this whole "who copied who" debate is little more than fanboys howling at the moon. Does it really matter? I don't think so.
I completely agree, but I'd go even further. I think Microsoft would be right to look at Mac for inspiration -- just like it would be smart to consider the positive aspects of all other operating systems out there. While it's nice to imagine that there's such a thing as creativity in a vacuum, the innovation process should include thinking about what things are currently done well by others and trying to combine those various successes in your own product while building on them. In a similar way, whatever's done poorly by others should be improved upon.
Frankly, Microsoft would be doing its new operating system a disservice not to consider what its competitors are doing well. I'd be shocked if it didn't. As a result, while I understand Microsoft's fear that Aldous' comment could give consumers the wrong idea that the Windows 7 simply attempts to copy Mac, the reality is that people should be impressed with his comment. It shows that Microsoft is humble and open-minded enough to realize that its competitors do things well too and hopes to learn from its failings.