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History of Microsoft Windows Part II

Getting the Bugs Out

Start Part One The History of Microsoft Windows

Windows 1.0 was considered buggy, crude and slow. This rough start was made worse by a threatened lawsuit from Apple Computer. In September 1985, Apple lawyers warned Microsoft that they felt Windows 1.0 infringed on Apple copyrights and patents, and that Microsoft might have stolen Apple trade secrets. (Windows had similar drop-down menus, tiled windows and mouse support.)

Bill Gates and Microsoft's head counsel, Bill Neukom, decided to make an offer to license Apple's operating-system features. Apple agreed, and a contract was drawn up. Here's the clincher: Microsoft wrote the licensing agreement to include use of Apple features in Windows 1.0 and all future Microsoft software programs. As it turned out, this move by Bill Gates was as brilliant as his decision to buy QDOS from Seattle Computer Products and his convincing IBM to let Microsoft keep the licensing rights to MS-DOS. (You can read all about those smooth moves in our feature on MS-DOS.)

Windows 1.0 floundered on the market until January 1987, when a Windows-compatible program called Aldus PageMaker 1.0 was released. PageMaker was the first WYSIWYG desktop-publishing program for the PC. Later that year, Microsoft released a Windows-compatible spreadsheet called Excel. Other popular and useful software like Microsoft Word and Corel Draw helped promote Windows, but Microsoft realized the product still needed further development.

On December 9, 1987, Microsoft released a much-improved Windows 2.0 that made a PC look a bit more like a MacIntosh computer. Windows 2.0 had icons to represent programs and files, improved support for expanded-memory hardware and windows that could overlap. Apple Computer saw a resemblance and filed a 1988 lawsuit against Microsoft, alleging that Microsoft had broken the 1985 licensing agreement.

In their defense, Microsoft claimed that the licensing agreement actually gave them the right to use Apple features. After a four-year court case, Microsoft won. Apple claimed that Microsoft had infringed on 170 of their copyrights. The courts said that the licensing agreement gave Microsoft the rights to use all but nine of the copyrights, and Microsoft later convinced the courts that the remaining copyrights should not be covered by copyright law. Bill Gates claimed that Apple had taken some of its ideas from the graphical user interface developed by Xerox for Xerox's Alto and Star computers.

6/1/93: Microsoft announces that Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the U.S. District Court of Northern California ruled today in Microsoft's favor in the Apple vs. Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard copyright suit. The judge granted Microsoft's and Hewlett-Packard's motions to dismiss the last remaining copyright infringement claims against Microsoft Windows 2.03 and 3.0, as well as, the HP NewWave. -From the Microsoft Timeline

What would have happened if Microsoft had lost the lawsuit? Microsoft Windows might never have become the dominant operating system that it is today.

"Microsoft become the top software vendor in 1988 and never looked back..." - Microsoft
Continue with >> Windows 3.0 to Windows 2000

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