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Friday, 13 November 2015 11:56

Microsoft does copying very well Featured

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Microsoft is now 40 years old but its habits have not changed much. Especially when it comes to new ideas. Or, one should perhaps say its implementation of what are new ideas for itself, but old ones to others.

The company is very good at taking ideas from other people and then rolling out its own implementations. The store which opened in Sydney on Thursday is but the latest example.

Whatever one thinks of Apple — and I don't think very highly of them — the truth has to be told about its stores. There's one in my suburb, in fact a pretty big one, and it's a big drawcard in the shopping centre where it's located.

There are lots of people there every time I pass by and many emerge clutching what look like new purchases. Like many of its products, the stores have been a big success for Apple.

And so Microsoft decided to copy it. No, let's be kind to poor old William Gates III aka Trey, adapt it, remodel it... whatever.

Microsoft has been copying other people's ideas for most of its existence. Very little of what it has done is original. Its very first operating system — which it had told IBM it was working on (an outright lie) — was bought from one Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer Products for US$50,000. Paterson called it QDOS – quick and dirty operating system. Microsoft tweaked it, renamed it MS-DOS and licensed it to IBM. And the rest is history as many of us know.

When it implemented graphical interfaces, Microsoft's efforts were far too similar to those of Apple (who, by the way, had done a bit of their own borrowing from Xerox's Palo Alto Research Centre) and a lawsuit resulted. The companies finally settled out of court.

When Microsoft came up with Word, it was an attempt to copy WordPerfect, a Novell product, and one which at the time had nearly 80 per cent of the marketshare for word processing software. Due to stupidity on Novell's part — it did not bother to produce a version for Windows 95 — Microsoft was able to corner the market, but even then only on its third attempt.

The same went for Excel which overtook Lotus 1-2-3 because of a similar attitude as Novell.

Competition is something that Microsoft takes very seriously – to the extent where it does things outside the law. Remember, the company has been convicted of monopolistic trade practices in the 1990s.

The Microsoft store, when it comes to Melbourne too, will be a "success" because it will be defined by the number of people drifting in and out. Despite claims to being busy all the time, a vast section of the populace has nothing to do each day and is desperately looking to fill in time. Nothing wrong with that, life itself is a process of filling in time until the arrival of death or Santa Claus, whichever is earlier.

Technology is all the rage these days and the brighter and shinier the better. So people will wander in to see the new Surface Book — which is in many ways a copy of the MacBook with better specs — and marvel at what it can do. After all, to those who do not know what lies underneath, even a three-card trick is something to marvel at.

But Microsoft should not delude itself that there is any innovation involved here. It is just mindless copying which the masses accept because they do not know better.

Photo: Courtesy Microsoft

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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