Did MS Invent Anything?

Saturday October 17th, 1998

George Giannukos writes in with a link to an interesting article at PCWeek regarding Microsoft. George writes, "This is the first computer site telling it how it is! Finally, a computer site that is brave enough to bash Microsoft for all its illegal, anti-competitive practices..."

We've all known this for a while, but George is right - this is the first time I've seen this detailed in a major industry magazine.

On a side note, since the MS antitrust case directly affects this community, we'll be doing sporadic updates on the state of the case. Since most industry news sites don't have a talkback feature, we'll be linking to major updates from this site so we have a forum to talk.

#1 Re:Did MS Invent Anything?

by Jason Kersey

Sunday October 18th, 1998 11:36 AM

The article keeps talking about never making anything on their own. It is simply not true. What about Microsoft Bob? They made that....

#2 Re:Did MS Invent Anything?

by Jim Li

Sunday October 18th, 1998 1:03 PM

I don't think the argument is that MS has never innovted anything on its own. However, if you look at the major software innovations throughout the past two decades, such as the word processor, spreadsheet, web browser, etc., the majority of innovations do not come from MS. Moreover, its innovations can be seen as major improvements or refinements to the technology and not as a major breakthroughs.

In some cases, such as MS Office, I think they've done a fabulous job with it, but it still does not change the fundamental point that MS, as the article says, is a follower and not a leader in terms of innovation.

One MS person said that if you define innovation in these terms, there have been very few in recent years. If we did take this definition of innovation, it still would not alter the perspective PC Week's article gives about MS innovations. The innovations may be far and few in between, but the major ones have not been from the big giant in Redmond.

#3 Re:Did MS Invent Anything?

by Jim Li

Sunday October 18th, 1998 1:04 PM

By the way, what was MS Bob?

#4 Re:Did MS Invent Anything?

by Jason

Sunday October 18th, 1998 2:28 PM

Our good friend Bill Gates put it best: "Microsoft Bob was a product a couple of years ago that used on-screen cartoon characters to carry out tasks for people. Unfortunately, the software demanded more performance than typical computer hardware could deliver at the time and there wasn’t an adequately large market. Bob died."

Basically, It was that office helper from Office97 but for Windows 3.x that needed hardware up in the 64 meg/P200 range.

#5 Re:Did MS Invent Anything?

by George Giannukos

Sunday October 18th, 1998 5:27 PM

Bill Gates says that the computer industry has lots of competition. Bill says, "processors, video cards, sound cards, ect... have all dropped in price" Generally, lower prices and better products means thare is competition. Atlest Bill Gates think so. Well, Windows costs the same it did 10 years ago and they are still fixing the BUGS! Microsoft says Win98 fixed 3000 bugs!

If you ask me, the product still sucks and the price hasn't lowered!

What do you think? Sounds like a monopoly to me!

#6 Re:Did MS Invent Anything?

by arielb

Sunday October 18th, 1998 9:50 PM

I think Microsoft came up with alt-tab switching and the use of keyboard shortcuts so you could do everything without a mouse. I also think that without Microsoft, we wouldn't have affordable computers today because they decided to do operating systems only instead of a OS/hardware solution (such as Apple,IBM,Commodore,Atari,Sun,etc). That way you could choose from hundreds of pc makers and everything would work because they all used the same OS. That's a big innovation and even today, Apple refuses to let go. Times have changed and MS Windows isn't the only OS that's not tied to a specific hardware solution.

#7 Re:Did MS Invent Anything?

by Chris Nelson

Sunday October 18th, 1998 11:12 PM


Did Microsoft execute the first OS solution not tied to a particular hardware implementation?

#8 Re:Did MS Invent Anything?

by george giannukos

Sunday October 18th, 1998 11:35 PM

arielb, i will agree Microsoft did do one thing good for the computer industry...they license the OS to other computer OEMs.

but this still doesn't make up for the fact, that Microsoft doesn't play fairly and they are a monopoly.

#9 Re:Did MS Invent Anything?

by Jim Li

Monday October 19th, 1998 12:02 AM

arielb - If you can remember way back when, there was no GUI interface. Even DOS programs like WP 5.1, for instance, had most of their commands executed through keyboard shortcuts (though they were accessible by using the mouse). Not an innovation but an adaptation.

Still, their focus on software in the computer industry does not make them innovators in their field. Rather, they offered an alternative to IBM's OS, much like Linux is an alternative OS to Win98. (Btw, Apple refuses to let go of its OS-hardware tie, but look how many times MacOS 8.x crashes compared to Win95 or 98.)

Times really have changed, and now MS commands an enormous amount of leverage in the computer industry. It says that consumers have a choice, using the most prominent example, in deciding which web browser to use. But as an average computer user, how many would go to the trouble of downloading Netscape Navigator or Communicator, up to 15 MB, over a modem connection when you already have a web browser included with your OS and is sitting there on your desktop?

#10 Re:Did MS Invent Anything?

by george

Monday October 19th, 1998 3:17 PM

well, I think IE is only winning in the consumer space is because of Microsoft hard ball tactics...

In the corporate space Netscape is winning...Netscape actually rose 5%.

All of Microsoft hard-ball tactics don't influence business as much as it does the consumer...,4,27584,00.html

Netscape is winning in the corparete market, because Microsoft isn't using its bullshit practices....When communicator is given a fair chance it looks like people are choosing Netscape, not IE! I think this just goes to show, that people will pick Netscape if the playing field is level...

and that's the whole point of the Microsoft trail. Is to give other companies a fair chance against Microsoft..

#11 Re:Did MS Invent Anything?

by Chris Nelson

Monday October 19th, 1998 5:00 PM

I think Netscape's rise in the corporate market has more to do with the fact that the people in charge or implementing corporate IT strategies are realizing the folly of locking themselves into MS products. In the long run, Netscape's the safer bet -- especially now that the source code has been released.

#12 Re:Did MS Invent Anything?

by arielb

Tuesday October 20th, 1998 4:40 PM

Jim, when I said keyboard shortcuts, I meant within a GUI implementation where it's easy to get caught up doing everything with a mouse. On the other hand, I think that CP/M wasn't tied to one computer so Microsoft doesn't have any real innovation there. I also read in the paper that MS wanted to buy off palm OS? What-CE isn't good enough?

#13 Re:Did MS Invent Anything?

by Jim

Tuesday October 20th, 1998 11:24 PM

I would agree with Chris on the reason Netscape's growth in the business market. Just look at the tremendous growth in the number of Linux users. It's currently the fastest growing OS out there and is Win95/98/NT's greatest threat right now.

airel - btw, what is CP/M anyway?

#14 Re:Did MS Invent Anything?

by David Landgren

Wednesday October 21st, 1998 10:03 AM

There is a page devoted to this very issue. Check out <a href="">The Hall of Innovation</a> on the <a href="">Boycott Microsoft</a> site.

#15 Re:Did MS Invent Anything?

by David Landgren

Wednesday October 21st, 1998 10:04 AM

Hmmm... Too bad we can't use HTML here. Sorry about that.

#16 Re:Did MS Invent Anything?

by Zontar

Thursday October 22nd, 1998 7:28 PM

Shux, MS didn't even invent product tying... altho to give credit where it's due, they've certainly elevated it to a high art form...

#17 CP/M

by David

Monday October 26th, 1998 6:20 AM

How old are you? CP/M stands for Control Program for Microcomputers. It was a simple OS for managing microcomputers prior to the introduction of the IBM-PC. Written by Gary Kildall.

#18 CP/M

by Victor Bogado

Monday October 26th, 1998 1:55 PM

By the way DOS was clearly based on CP/M.

#19 Re: NGLayout

by John Lenz

Thursday October 29th, 1998 1:59 PM

"The Mozilla Project has been feverishly working on a new layout engine which they hope will reach v 1.0"

Which company did Netscape purchase to get the benefit of NGlayout?

Just wondering

#20 Re:Microsoft innovations Did MS Invent Anything?

by Tim Maroney

Wednesday November 4th, 1998 12:13 PM

Three remarkable claims here with which I must disagree:

1. Microsoft never created anything good by itself.

2. Microsoft created the idea of an OS licensed to various HW makers.

3. Microsoft created GUI keyboard shortcuts.

My responses are:

1. Microsoft is generally an imitative company. IN the last few years, however, they have created three good user interface innovations.

1a. Background spelling checking with underlines and contextual menus. This is one of the best UI features I've seen, actually, and it is a Microsoft innovation.

1b. The Windows task bar. It largely obviates the need for a Windows menu, is passive and non-intrusive while handy, and also includes the useful alt-tab switching function. A Microsoft innovation with which Mac OS has yet to really catch up (8.5's app switcher is lame).

1c. Wizards. They're overused now but for some things they're excellent -- they provide self-documenting behavior and task walk-through. Mac OS has imitated them in its assistants.

2. UNIX was licensed on multiple hardware vendors' platforms for years before DOS even existed. For Gates to claim this was a Microsoft innovation is amazing.

3. GUI keyboard shortcuts were part of the original Mac UI standards in 1984, long before Windows even existed. I don't know who said Microsoft invented them but I wouldn't buy any stock in that person's company....

So to summarize, Microsoft has innovated, and innovated well, but not in the ways that Gates and others have claimed.

Tim Maroney,