1985 Microsoft Windows

Microsoft WindowsMicrosoft logo used with permission

"Microsoft become the top software vendor in 1988 and never looked back" - Microsoft Corporation

Apple Bytes Back

Microsoft Windows version 1.0 was considered buggy, crude, and slow. This rough start was made worse by a threatened lawsuit from Apple Computers. In September 1985, Apple lawyers warned Bill Gates that Windows 1.0 infringed on Apple copyrights and patents, and that his corporation stoled Apple's trade secrets. Microsoft Windows had similar drop-down menus, tiled windows and mouse support.

Deal of the Century

Bill Gates and his head counsel Bill Neukom, decided to make an offer to license features of Apple's operating system. Apple agreed and a contract was drawn up. Here's the clincher: Microsoft wrote the licensing agreement to include use of Apple features in Microsoft Windows version 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, however, Microsoft realized that Windows needed further development.

Microsoft Windows Version 2.0

On December 9, 1987, Microsoft released a much-improved Windows version 2.0 that made Windows based computers look more like a Mac. 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 they had broken the 1985 licensing agreement.

Copy This Will You

In their defense, Microsoft claimed that the licensing agreement actually gave them the rights 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 ideas from the graphical user interface developed by Xerox for Xerox's Alto and Star computers.

On June 1, 1993, Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the U.S. District Court of Northern California ruled in Microsoft's favor in the Apple vs. Microsoft & 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 versions 2.03 and 3.0, as well as HP NewWave.

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

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