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« Mac & PDA Tidbits | Main | Remembering Special Gifts »
Wednesday
Oct292003

Mac OS X Influencing MS Longhorn? Inconceivable! :-)

This morning I came across an interesting story at the Register about Longhorn (set to be released somewhere about 2006), discussing what it might include. OS X or Longhorn?But what caught my eye were screenshots that had apparently leaked out early. I thought these shots of Longhorn's Explorer were intriguing because its brushed metal, gradated appearance reminded me so much of Mac OS X!

As you can see by the sample above, I've taken a key part of a Longhorn screenshot and stacked it above an iTunes window. Quite interesting how the round 3D icons look similar to the play button of iTunes, and how closely the highlight on the Longhorn Explorer window's surface perfectly matches the brushed metal look of the iTunes window. Coincidence? Maybe the ol' Microsoft User Interface engineers have installed copies of iTunes for Windows? It sure seems to be influencing their design thinking.

Now, you might argue that Longhorn is still 2 years off, so these screenshots could conceivably change by 2006... probably to mimic whatever user interface Mac OS X happens to have by then I suppose.

So, the next time someone tries to claim Microsoft doesn't copy other people's work... well, I'll just smile and say to myself, "Yeah, right." :-)

Update 03 November 2003

On Saturday, I popped over to Shaun McGill's PDA 24/7 site while I was at the local Apple store and saw that he had posted an email from David, someone who had read this post last week and had some comments. I thought to clarify my post and respond to David's comments, I would post my email to Shaun here, for the record.

First, here is David's comment from PDA 24/7 in its entirety:

Topic: History of the Mac?
Date: 1/11/2003 (13:12)

David sent me an interesting email re rohdesign's recent Mac article- "I  dunno -- I left Mike a note about this. I don't know what your platform affiliations might be (other than Palm OS, of course), but I've worked with everything from Apple DOS (beginning in 1981), through PC and MSDOS, GEM (remember that?), Desqview and Windows on the PC platform. I'm a professional photographer and graphic designer (my wife is also a graphic designer) and have worked with Macs since about 1996. In 1993 I started working with Irix (SGI machines) while I was trying to learn 3D animation (never did get very good at it) and in 1994 started with Linux. The current machines run Win2000, MacOS and Linux.
 
Mike's lack of history with anything but MacOS is typical of a lot of Mac users, seemslike. It's as if computers weren't invented until they bought their first G4.  As a result, there's amazement over iCal (which has been in every distribution of Linux since the beginning, I think), which Apple users seem to think was invented by Apple. Same with almost every old Unix tool being slowly added to the OS X platform. Latest include some old XWindows things (updated slightly) in Panther. Jobs, of course, knows better -- he was using a Unix Mach 3 kernel years ago in his NeXt machines, and the Apple GUI was essentially shown to him full-blown by Xerox at the Palo Alto Research Center, running on networked Unix computers nearly a year before the Apple Lisa and "tombstone" Macs hit the streets.
 
The business of the "brushed metal" look as a theme showing up in both Panther and Longhorn screen shots at the same time being touted as "influence" is just silly. Linux (and other versions of *nix) have had multiple window managers available for years, and just one of the fun things about those window managers (in addition to being able to customize the way they work) is the wide number of themes that have been posted for them on the net -- literally thousands, including probably 100 or more that feature "brushed metal" and a couple that featured the "Aqua" Mac OS look before Apple actually made it available.
 
I love that the Mac is an Unix machine now. It's finally come full circle to embrace the core operating system from which it has filched bits and pieces to layer over a hackneyed single-tasking single-threading single-user antique operating system over too long a time. But it would be nice if Mac users, particularly those who maintaining widely read blogs, had some sense of history <G>..."

If you have an opinion on this post it here. When you post please be polite and constructive- I think David has a point but can see others differing a bit:)

Now, here is my email response to David's comments, sent to Shaun:

Shaun,

Well, what an ironic morning! I was at the local mall today, visiting the Apple store and checking out Safari on the new G5 when on PDA 24/7, I see a post from David, giving me a bit of a hard time on my recent weblog post from Oct 29. That was quite a surprise.

I guess I'm a bit befuddled, because I really believe David and I agree on nearly every point he makes -- except that I have no sense of computing history and that I only see Macs as a true platform.

David says:

"Mike's lack of history with anything but MacOS is typical of a lot of Mac users, seems like. It's as if computers weren't invented until they bought their first G4."

Wow, I have a lack of history? I can only see Macs? Nope. I grew up trying to program a ZX81, used a Commodore 64 for years, wrote many term papers on a Leading Edge PC clone running DOS with an amber screen and worked with paint programs on early Windows machines in college.

Actually, I didn't become a full-time Mac user until about 1990, in my design firm days. So, I feel I'm reasonably aware of general computer history. I might I have less deep knowledge about Unix/Linux, but I certainly do not believe computing starts and ends with Mac OS.

I have experiences with other platforms, and while I tend to give Windows stuff a hard time on my weblog, I certainly do believe those machines are useful and do the job. I just prefer a Mac for many reasons, and that's my choice. Because I love my Mac, I try to show its benefits to others, but by no means do I believe those other computing platforms are somehow complete junk. Hey, Windows PCs are 90-something percent of the computing world, so they must be doing something right. And as for Unix and Linux, OS X is a close cousin to those established OSes, so I feel more akin to them as a Mac user than distant from them.

"As a result, there's amazement over iCal (which has been in every distribution of Linux since the beginning, I think), which Apple users seem to think was invented by Apple. Same with almost every old Unix tool being slowly added to the OS X platform."

I'm not amazed by iCal. I tried it and felt it was okay, but way too slow, and decided not to run it. I don't know where David's iCal reference relative to me is from, because I have never mentioned it, let alone being fond of it. Neither have I suggested it was invented by Apple. :-)

As for Unix tools being added to OS X, I think that's great and generally am aware that they are ports or refinements to existing tools from the *nix platform. If I am not aware of where they are from I am always happy to know their histories. I've no fear of that -- I welcome it!

"Jobs, of course, knows better -- he was using a Unix Mach 3 kernel years ago in his NeXt machines, and the Apple GUI was essentially shown to him full-blown by Xerox at the Palo Alto Research Center, running on networked Unix computers nearly a year before the Apple Lisa and "tombstone" Macs hit the streets."

Of course Jobs does know better. But he's trying to sell an OS and hardware and I am not. He might neglect to mention that his new tools are based on old tools, but I'm not him and never have suggested otherwise. ;-)

I know that the new OS X is essentially a refined version NeXT OS, which was based on BSD. I know that Jobs saw the old Xerox idea of windows and all that other stuff, which he copied and turned into Macintosh. I'm a Mac fan and I know the history of the Mac reasonably well... never have argued that he hadn't, and have never claimed otherwise.

Now if the argument was that Apple copied Xerox and other *nix stuff (re my post) I agree! All of the technology we have now has been built on the shoulders of technology before it. Unix came because of experiences with mainframe and other older systems, so even it must claim influence from earlier technology.

I think David's key point is really this one:

"The business of the "brushed metal" look as a theme showing up in both Panther and Longhorn screen shots at the same time being touted as"influence" is just silly. Linux (and other versions of *nix) have hadmultiple window managers available for years, and just one of the fun thingsabout those window managers (in addition to being able to customize the waythey work) is the wide number of themes that have been posted for them onthe net -- literally thousands, including probably 100 or more that feature"brushed metal" and a couple that featured the "Aqua" Mac OS look before Apple actually made it available."

He seems bugged that I've not mentioned these brushed metal and Aqua-like skins have been available for *nix a long time, and therefore Apple or Microsoft have both been influenced. Got me there. My apologies for the lack of the mention.

However... right now (and for a few years now) those specific UI elements have been a standard and are specifically well-known as parts of OS X. Metal and Aqua may have been available as add-ons 'skins' for *nix boxes -- but as far as I know, they haven't been a default theme in any standard *nix distributions. Please correct me if I am wrong.

This is the key point of what I was getting at: OS X is well known for Aqua and brushed metal as the default theme, not as an add-on skin. Of course, the Longhorn UI guys may have been influenced by old *nix skins directly at some point... We'll never know. However, the close overall similarity between Longhorn's default UI and OS X's default UI seemed almost too coincidental to me, so I commented on it. I still think it was a fair observation to make.

"But it would be nice if Mac users, particularly those who maintaining widely read blogs, had some sense of history <G>..."

Wow, widely-read... Is he really talking about me here? :-)

I feel I have a reasonable sense of computing history, but not exhaustive, and I have never claimed it was. Who really does? I simply commented on what I saw as a close similarity between Longhorn and OS X, and feel it was a fair opinion to voice, and I stand by it.

I'm still not sure where David and I really differ much, other than his suggestion that I have no sense of computing history, I see only Macs and nothing else. I think I've defended myself pretty well there.

In the end, I'm glad for David's comments, because it gives me an opportunity to explain myself in this area. It also makes for interesting discussion. Hopefully David feels the same way. :-)

I just wanted to set the record straight on my thoughts about this post -- hopefully this update will help do that for the curious out there.

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