by Shane O'Neill

Windows 7 Based on Mac Design: A Gaffe for the Ages

Nov 12, 2009
Data Center

True or not, a Microsoft exec's comment that Windows 7's design is Mac-influenced is an epic blunder and also a betrayal.

Let’s play “Simon Says.” Simon says Windows 7’s design was based on the Mac OS. Ooops.

The Simon in question is Microsoft’s partner group manager Simon Aldous, who in an interview with tech news site PCR said that the graphical interface of Windows 7 was influenced by the Mac.

“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.”

Does this guy work for Microsoft or Apple?

Looks like Steve Ballmer has some competition in the foot-in-mouth department.

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Of course, others have said this before about Windows 7. The design of the new Windows 7 taskbar has been compared to the Mac OS X Dock since the first Windows 7 public beta. But those comments came from journalists and reviewers, whose job it is to make such observations.

In some ways it’s refreshing for a Microsoft exec to be, you know, honest. I think Aldous had a momentary lapse of reason, and should get a slap on the wrist. He’s human.

[ For complete coverage on Microsoft’s new Windows 7 operating system — including hands-on reviews, video tutorials and advice on enterprise rollouts — see’s Windows 7 Bible. ]

But still, Aldous’s comments carry a lot of weight. He’s admitted something that Microsoft has been denying throughout the development of Windows 7. This is a Mac lover’s delight if I ever saw one.

Unfortunately for Aldous, his comments are spreading like wildfire around the Internet.

But is it true? Microsoft says no. The company quickly jumped into damage control mode and rebuked Aldous’s comments on its Windows 7 blog.

Microsoft spokesperson and blogger Brandon LeBlanc writes: “Unfortunately this came from a Microsoft employee who was not involved in any aspect of designing Windows 7. I hate to say this about one of our own, but his comments were inaccurate and uninformed.”

Sounds genuine, but the cat is already out of the bag. Whether or not the Aldous comments are true doesn’t really matter now. There’s a fine line between “being influenced by” and “stealing.” The fact that he said it is all the ammunition the Apple faithful needs to confidently call Microsoft copy cats for years to come.

It’s rare for a Microsoft soldier to slip like this. In my experience, they are all extremely circumspect and choose their words carefully. This is the way you have to be at any corporation, not just Microsoft. I’ve tried repeatedly to get someone from Microsoft to admit that Vista was a failure, and well … good luck with that.

Aldous did, however, dismiss Apple in the interview (maybe to cover his tracks?), by saying, “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.”

But that’s too little too late. As the Microsoft blog post alludes to, Aldous is on the business side. He’s not a design guy and was not involved in the creation and interface design of Windows 7. He’s not in a position to say what he said.

Maybe Aldous’s worst crime is that he betrayed his colleagues who architected Windows 7. If they did indeed lift features from the Mac OS, then he has exposed his own as thieves. If they did not, then he has falsely accused the innocent.

Either way, Simon Aldous should have just stuck to the script.

Shane O’Neill is a senior writer at Follow him on Twitter at Follow everything from on Twitter at