Justice was blind in Microsoft-Apple lawsuit

A hearing is set for later this month on the piddling elements left in the Apple - Microsoft lawsuit. That's it, the end.

No more heart-stopping shifts as the Judge vacillates all over the legal spectrum. No more lavish analysis on exactly what the lawyers were smoking when they filed this disaster. Apple has lost.

But I think Apple should have won.

Of mice and Microsoft. In 1985, Apple saw Windows 1.0 just prior to its debut. As you could imagine, company execs had trouble with this sincerest form of flattery.

While Apple was giving Microsoft preferential treatment in its Mac application development, the Redmond company was secretly trying to port the Mac interface to DOS. As it turned out, Windows 1.0 wasn't a pixel for pixel port. After all, the company was saddled with the DOSasaurus, and it really believed tiled windows were cool.

Apple threatened to sue. Microsoft threatened to stop work on Mac software. Apparently Apple needed Word more than Microsoft needed what was half their yearly revenue at the time (don't ask me why), so Apple caved. The company gave Microsoft a license for certain elements of the Mac GUI for use in Windows 1.0.

Two years later, Apple saw Windows 2.0 and sued their formerly close friends in Redmond.

Enough SmallTalk. The rest has been extensively documented in an unending flow of articles. But what seems to have been forgotten is how much of the original playbook Microsoft took from Apple.

You can see it by looking at SmallTalk and Star, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center's (PARC) precursor to the Macintosh, the Finder and the evolution from Windows 1.0 to 3.0.

Actually, SmallTalk/Star shouldn't even be a bench warmer in this game. But, rumors of Apple stealing from PARC got published as fact. So first let's set the record straight.

SmallTalk has overlapping windows with tabs on the left-hand corners and pop-up menus. It's a vanilla yogurt GUI. There's no menu bar, no desktop applications, no dialog boxes, no icons, no "zoom". It looks like Macintosh if you can't see the big E on the eye chart.

Star is a tiled, shy sibling of SmallTalk which does include icons but otherwise bears little resemblance to the Mac interface.

One look at Windows 1.0 and you see a Finder wannabe, not something that grew out of SmallTalk/Star. In the Finder, when you click the mouse over a radio button or check box, a small circle or a check mark appears in the center. Surprise! It looks the same in Windows 1.0.

And what window would be properly dressed without a close box, title bar, scrollbars, and size box? The Finder has all these; Windows has all these. Star and SmallTalk don't.

So much for the argument that Windows grew out of SmallTalk/Star and not the Finder.

Windows 1.0 didn't score. So Microsoft spent the next seven years reglazing Windows, getting it even closer to the Mac experience. By 3.0 it was almost right. And the company reaped the rewards.

If you examine the history, the striking resemblance of Windows 3.0 and the Finder, you can't help but to conclude Apple got ripped off.

But that's how this game is played. One bad call and the playoffs slip from your grasp like an oily dream.

Microsoft should steal less and invent more; writers should invent less and know more. Otherwise, we read about a teenage Mac team stealing PARC secrets while on covert missions to the orthodontist.

I see a TV pilot here somewhere - Doogie Howser, Ph.D. Or has somebody already thought of that?

Courtesy of Marie D'Amico of MacWEEK.