Did Microsoft really steal all thier software from other developers???

So I hear a lot of really bad stuff about Microsoft and B.Gates. Mostly about how he stole the C++ operating system (whatever that is) and different software/products that he and his mega-company have re-hashed (which are “obviously” inferior to the originals) and sold at more trim costs.

But isn’t this just the talk of the pathetic losers who couldn’t make a buck from thier own innovations - and so have to accuse poor old William of some Grand Theft Electrico?

I mean seriously, how the heck do people know that he actually stole the stuff and didn’t come up with the design independantly?
Even if he “copied” some elements… isn’t that known as “inspiration”? Or am I being too level-headed about this?

I know the business world is a cut-throat, faceless, heartless organisation praying on consumer greed (and the need for chip sticks among other things, I remind you) but honestly, isn’t it just a case of sour grapes?

I was intrigued by the stirring up of anti-Microsoft sentiment (well, one poster just gave what seemed more like an honest opinion - well in fact, they all seemed like brutally honest assessments) in one of my other threads, and now I’ve been hooked on the Microsoft bug (I hear their own systems have this problem).

Seriously, this is IMHO. Sling it all out; anti-Microsoft, pro-Microsoft - it don’t matter. What are your honest opinions about the way Microsoft has become the most powerful business organisation in the world (could be second powerful - I claim in ignorance here)?

Why would Microsoft steal it when they can just buy it?

Barbarians Led By Bill Gates is an interesting book by a former Microsoft employee. He talks about how Microsoft leadership is non-existent and how it was usually just easier to buy software from some little developer and put the Microsoft logo on it.

Don’t know just how accurate the book is, but the guy seems to know what he’s talking about.

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Much of the time, yes. Sometimes Microsoft stole stuff from their business partners, breaking “no sharing of proprietary information” contracts when needed. And sometimes they simply bought out the competitor and rebranded their stuff as a Microsoft product.

Nope. That’s the myth perpetuated by Microsoft so you end up wondering why they’re getting sued for antitrust violations. “Oh, it’s just the pathetic losers trying to squeeze money from po’ ol’ Billy!” :rolleyes:

some things are good ideas, if someone puts the close button in the top corner… if its a good idea its doubtfull it will be the end of the time before someone else does something similar.

It’s a pity they never realised how good the custard pie in Bills face looked.

C++ is a computer programming language, not an operating system. One might choose to develop an operating system in C++, or a variety of other languages. One might also use C++ to develop a word processor, or a game, or a virus, or most any other program. In any case, C++ is definitely not a Microsoft creation, nor is it used exclusively on their platform.

I don’t know whether they are sold at more “trim” costs, but certainly, Microsoft has done a lot of product re-hashing.

Because the invention of almost everything in the personal computer industry has scads of documentation on its history. These things are pretty well known.

Among Microsoft’s “achievements without effort”:
[li]They did not develop DOS, the operating system that launched them into financial outer space. They bought it in toto from Tim Paterson of Seattle Computers for $50K, modified it to work on the new IBM PC, and slapped the Microsoft brand on it. Of course, after that, all later improvements to DOS were theirs.[/li]
This can’t be called “stealing”. They bought DOS fair and square. But they certainly didn’t come up with it themselves.

[li]They largely copied the Macintosh graphical user interface without Apple’s permission, the internals of which they learned while developing their Macintosh applications. Apple of course had copied Xerox’s GUI from even earlier, though they did it with a Xerox license.[/li]
This can be argued as some pretty blatant theft, or as simply following obvious industry trends, depending on one’s attitude.

On second thought I’ve changed my mind. It’s theft, straight up.

[li]The Windows NT kernel and hardware abstraction layer are very similar to Digital’s VMS. Not surprising, since the chief designer of NT (Dave Cutler) also helped design VMS before he worked at Microsoft.[/li]
[li]The TCP/IP networking layer used by Windows NT (and all later versions?) is taken from BSD Unix. The code is under a BSD license, meaning essentially that you can use the code as long as you give conspicuous credit to the copyright holders.[/li]
I assume Microsoft gives proper credit somewhere in their user manuals, but I can’t speak to this one way or the other.

[li]They didn’t develop the Web or the first Web browser. To be fair, they don’t claim to have. But there are certainly lots of people thinking that, so I’ll take a moment here to correct that impression, regardless.[/li]
The HTTP protocol that makes the Web possible was developed on a NeXT workstation at CERN by Tim Berners-Lee. The first Web browser to gain prominence was Mosaic, written by students at the University of Illinois. The first commercially successful browser was Netscape, written by some of the same people who wrote Mosaic.

Personally I wouldn’t accuse Microsoft of stealing their way to the top. That’s far too extreme (and libelous) a view. But what is true and defensible I think, or at least endlessly arguable, is that Microsoft has rarely innovated — despite their habitual use of the word “innovation” in their self-promotion.

Probably sometimes, but not always. Remember Microsoft was found, in a U.S. federal court, to be guilty of unfair and monopolistic practices. These charges were not fabricated out of whole cloth; they have a basis in fact. Microsoft has done things — like demanding computer makers pay for a Windows license per every machine sold, regardless of whether Windows is installed on the machine — that are considered hostile to fair competition. Even if these acts weren’t illegal by themselves (and I’m not a lawyer who could speak to that issue), Microsoft’s overall behavior was ruled illegal, an abuse of monopoly power. Not that that ruling has had any effect since.

To be sure, Microsoft owes its phenomenal success to a large amount of intelligence and business savvy among their leaders and developers. But they also owe it to:
[li]the QWERTY syndrome: the pressure in technology to adopt a standard, almost any standard, even if its not a very good one.[/li]
[li]riding IBM’s coattails, in the early days. If IBM had shipped a Commodore operating system with the first PCs instead of DOS, then Microsoft would probably be bankrupt and long forgotten by now. (Hey, there’s a bizarre alternate history to ponder.)[/li]
[li]squeezing out the competition by bundling software — like Internet Explorer— with the OS.[/li][/ul]

Some good books on this general subject are Fire in the Valley: The Making of The Personal Computer and Accidental Empires, though neither focus on Microsoft exclusively.

(Excellent analysis Mr. Bytegeist.)

WOW, talk about a blast from the past. This fellow (Dave Cutler) also developed a lot of the kernel for DEC’s RSX PDP-11 systems. Talk about a legend, my hat comes off every time I hear his name. I never met Dave in person, but he is one of a handful of people in this world that I would bow to in total respect.

I did my fair share of kernel programming years ago on DEC systems. Another legend out there was John Hammersmith. He never worked for DEC that I know of, but he was famous for documenting DEC’s kernels and explaining how to add enhancements to those kernels. Like how to write and debug device drivers and ACP’s (level just above the device driver). John’s on my bow-in-respect list also. Cutler and Hammersmith are right up there with Thompson and Ritchie in my book.


But anyway, getting back to MS and Mr. Bill. MS seems to have mastered the fine art of copying other people’s ideas and then selling them as their own. Where Mr. Bill is a genius, is the fact he can get away with his pillaging because he understands the software industry so well, and knows the loopholes. A person that becomes rich and famous by hoodwinking his competition rather than designing and developing a better product, will never be on my list of admirable people.

Well you can see why I don’t do kernel development anymore. The legend’s name was Ralph Stammerjohn, not John Hammersmith.

I’m sure he’s thinking of CPM, the thinking being BG stole it to make Dos. I have no position on the matter, just clarifying.

Either that, or he saw my post from a couple days ago about how MS basically stole Borland’s C++ development environment. Can’t find the post to link to, but basically I just ranted about MS being a bully.

Ccwaterback, thanks for the kind words.

Ah well then, that would make more sense.

MS-DOS 1.0 was itself an imitation of CP/M — though it was Tim Paterson who had done the job, not Gates and company. Gary Kildall, author of CP/M, was not flattered by the imitation when he discovered it. Offhand I don’t remember whether he went to court over the matter.

Incidentally, CP/M was also sold for the original IBM PC, right beside MS-DOS on the store shelves. In the beginning it was not clear which one would “win”; IBM didn’t push its customers toward either operating system. But since CP/M cost several hundred dollars, whereas DOS cost only $99, the choice was clear for most people.

Microsoft also has an unfortunate track record for buying up software that was meeting a need and doing its stuff well, and then letting it languish and die. Do a google for “FoxBase” and “FoxPro” and then look into whether or not you should buy a shrinkwrap box of the latest version of Microsoft FoxPro.

We’re hoping VirtualPC, an excellent package of software which Microsoft just snapped up from Connectix, does not meet a similar fate.


Just to pre-emptively address this, before someone replies with a “copying an idea isn’t stealing” defense – IIRC, it is alleged that the way Microsoft breached their contract with Apple (to protect Apple’s IP on windowing mechanisms) was by signing a contract to develop Mac applications, assigning several engineers to learn how to write Mac applications, then reassign those engineers to work with the team that was developing Windows. It wasn’t just a “copy the idea” breach, it was a full-blown violation of confidentiality agreements.

(And Apple paid Xerox for the right to use their GUI technologies, so it’s hardly “stealing” :wink: )

I recommend The Microsoft File by Wendy Goldman Rohm if you want a book devoted to Microsoft’s dirty tricks and cutthroat business practices – it makes Barbarians Led By Bill Gates look tepid by comparison. I also enjoyed U.S. vs. Microsoft by John Brinkley and Steve Lohr, though that’s primarily a collection of their New York Times articles regarding the Microsoft anti-trust suit.

Saying that Microsoft has stolen is like saying GM stole the idea to have four tires on a car from Ford.

How many different companies manufacture can openers out there? They didn’t all steal it from the same unfortunate inventor. The fact that one can opener manufacturer isn’t going around buying up all of the other can opener manufacturers is the only reason that we don’t have a monopoly on can openers in this country.

Everything stated above, and in all of the other anti-Microsoft thread has boiled down to two things: Sour grapes, and common business practices that Microsoft’s competitors also engage in.


In the 1970’s, Xerox spent millions of dollars on a new experimental prototype “office of the future”. What their engineers produced was a fully functional office that looked just like the office of today: networked computers and printers, email messaging, etc. When the board of directors saw the product, they immediately scrapped it saying, “Xerox is a copier company.” Those engineers split up and went on to work for Microsoft, Apple, etc. The project was liquidized. All of those patents and hardware and software were sold off. The vultures picked the bones clean.

Apple got the mouse. The price tag was 5,000 dollars. That’s it.

It has now taken us 20 years to get back to that spot that Xerox was at. If anything, we are behind the curve because of Xerox’s failure to see the future properly.

Since all of our personal computing products have all been influenced by the same original group of engineers from Xerox, it is no wonder they all have similarities.

Destroying a widespread fallacy: The first lines of code for Internet Explorer were written even before Netscape was a company. (How The Web Was Won)

Every piece of software or hardware that Microsoft has bought has gone into the larger picture, making the final product that much better.

It’s better than Apple, a computer you cannot build or upgrade, and you have to buy a brand new one every few years, not just a new operating system or components.

Bundling software with their operating system? It’s called “adding services” and “adding competition”. When Microsoft did this practice, instead of complaining, why didn’t the competitors strive to make their product better or market in better like Microsoft had?

Not to worry - they are actually in my group and I can assure you they are alive and well.

As for the rest of the thread, I’d rather not comment b/c I’m obviously biased. I’m no lackey - I disagree with lots of our business practices - but to say we have not innovated anything is rather extreme. Several of my coworkers and I hold various patents for our efforts, and we didn’t “steal” anything.


Glad to hear it. You passed up my earlier bait :slight_smile:

Ok fair enough. Let’s list the software / technology that MS innovated, that some other company picked up and called it theirs, and went on to make millions of dollars on that technology. Then lets make a list in the opposite direction.

I dunno, signing a contract with a partner that you’re going to preserve their secrets when you work with them, then turn around and swipe those secrets, doesn’t sound like mere copying to me. There are laws against this sort of stuff.

Apple got the mouse, the overlapping windows, the icons, and the rest of the kit 'n kaboodle for $1 million in stocks (which Xerox eventually sold for a nice profit). Apple then refined the GUI, introducing some now-everyday GUI conventions that Xerox didn’t (such as drop-down menus and double-clicking), and unveiled their first product with the Lisa.

Needless to say, the rest of your “example” is similarly inaccurate.

Someone’s been drinking the Kool-Aid, I see. :wink:

As a counter-example to the claims of brilliance from Microsoft, consider this – in the first edition of Bill Gates’ book The Road Ahead, the internet is only briefly mentioned and quickly dismissed as a peripheral fad. It wasn’t until the world-wide web had taken off that Microsoft scrambled to reorient all of their efforts to exploit it, and Gates quickly pounded out a revision of his book to show how “insightful” he had been in predicting the darn thing.

Standard MS policy:

  • wait until some other company comes out with a good idea.
  • release their own rotton version of same.
  • price it so that the other orginal company can’t sell theirs.
  • wait until other company is on the brink.
  • buy up the other company.
  • Either let the original version die or take all the good bits and put it in their rotton version so it’s a hideous frankenstien mixture.

Sometimes they don’t even bother with their own version, just leaking news that they’re making one has the desired effect.

rotton ? Don’t know where that rotten spelling came from!