It’s not like this sort of thing has never happened to someone at Microsoft before: a moment of clarity and candidness which may actually be close to, if not exactly, the truth, but which is nevertheless “off message.” During a recent reseller’s conference, a Microsoft marketing manager named Simon Aldous representing the Worldwide Partner Group gave credit to Apple for creating an operating system that folks in a Microsoft study appreciated. But then, according to PCR Online, a publication for computer and software resellers, Aldous went one step further and said Microsoft took that inspiration and, then with Windows 7, “create a Mac look and feel in terms of graphics.”
It was exactly the phraseology that blogs throughout the Internet were looking for, and Aldous’ comment became the latest water cooler conversation topic…even though the publication was incorrect in one very important respect: Aldous was not a “Microsoft exec,” and therefore was not speaking on behalf of the company. The fact that the publication got Aldous’ position wrong created suspicion in at least one person residing on planet Earth that perhaps it had gotten the quote wrong as well. Nonetheless, the headline “Windows 7 was inspired by Apple OS” rocketed throughout the Web.
The entire incident might have ended there, except for the fact that one of Microsoft’s chief online evangelists, Brandon LeBlanc, publicly excoriated Aldous for having made the comment…rather than cast doubt on its authenticity.
“Unfortunately this came from a Microsoft employee who was not involved in any aspect of designing Windows 7,” LeBlanc wrote this morning. “I hate to say this about one of our own, but his comments were inaccurate and uninformed.”
There is indeed one element of Windows 7 whose differences from Vista were probably inspired by Mac OS: the revised taskbar. When it was unveiled last year at PDC, Microsoft representatives were extremely careful not to characterize it as Mac-inspired. Staying on-message at the time, Microsoft design manager Samuel Moreau coined the term “delighter” to refer to visual elements derived from extensive examination of test results obtained from the opinions of people using Vista while being videotaped. The new taskbar was designed to be a staging area, he said, for several of these delighters.
But neither Moreau nor anyone at Microsoft at that time steered completely clear of the other “M” word, acknowledging the design impetus of Mac OS even when folks in the audience asked questions to the effect of, “You realize this is more like the Mac Dock, right?” No one said, however, that the taskbar had a “Mac look and feel.”