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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Who Ripped Off Who?

Todd Bishop has a post about MSN Desktop Search and Apple Spotlight, asking "Which came first?" Eric Longstaff asserts that MSN Desktop Search is too similar to Spotlight to be a coincidence, but Todd refutes that. I agree with his and Paul Thurrott's claim that Google Desktop Search and Spotlight were developed as a response to WinFS. Both companies saw WinFS as what it was, a revolution in operating systems (the new Mac) and search engines (the new Google), but saw the endless delays as an opportunity to steal its thunder and make Microsoft look like a slow, lumbering dinosaur. Microsoft, realizing it needed to release something now, took people from the WinFS team and bought Lookout to scramble together a product that could compete in the intervening years. I'd say they did a pretty good job.

36 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are an MS twit, aren't you. Typically ignorant of the history of the development of search technologies and the Mac platform. And any Mac user would know it's "Who ripped of whom".

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

10:34 AM  
Blogger Kirk said...

Actually, Apple's Spotlight search feature harkens back to Copland's live search feature, which was part of the project that was supposed to be Mac OS 8 in 1996 but which imploded. So Apple's Spotlight intentions clearly predate anything in Longhorn (and really aren't even that similar).

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's amusing to think that Longstaff and Thurrott actually know what they're talking about. WinFS is a typical example of the Microsoft strategy of "bait and wait". They tout "We're gonna have these great features" but they only become available years and I mean YEARS (if ever) after they "announce" them and rarely have the features they claimed.

It's interesting to wonder why they would adopt this type of marketing? Afterall Microsoft code has, is, and always will be horrible. The threat of open source software (and the rate at which it develops and matures) forces them cut corners and compromise security. So I guess they use the "bait and wait" scam to say that they came up with the idea? Don't forget that this is the same company that "embraces and extends" other technologies. Hmmm the MacOS... let's embrace and extend that... Quicktime... lets embrace and extend that... iTunes Media Store... you get the picture. OMG please don't tell me these guys think they "Invented C#" before Java?!?! and the list goes on ad nausea.

So while a few Microsoft pundits may argue that others are "ripping them off", by thier own admission, Microsoft doesn't build the best software, they see what's out there and try to market their own version to supplant it regardless of how good it is. My guess is that they read some thesis or dissertation on how a theoretical desktop search engine should be written and said "We need to say that we came up with this before anyone else so we can't be blamed for copying someone this time!" The truth is, Microsoft is not a revolutionary company when it comes to software, thier real strength lies in the ability to keep their butts outta trouble when it comes to the "anti-competitive" practices.

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nobody is ripping off anybody until it ships! If I tell you about my companies new software that reads your mind and opens the applications you want while you just sit there and another company delivers on that, then that other company can hardly be called a copy cat! If you copy something that's out there that's one thing, but copying somebody's marketing claims is that companies marketing's problem.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Nathan Weinberg said...

Wow, I get one link on macsurfer and all of a sudden I've got a bunch of angry Mac users commenting. I never accused anyone of ripping off anyone. However, I did say that Spotlight was developed as the Mac alternative to WinFS. If you disagree with this, then answer one question: Why are we seeing so many desktop search tools at the same time? If anyone inspired this wave of search tools its Microsoft, not Apple. Can we agree on that point?

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Least everyone forget these are ideas. It doesn't matter who has the idea first, it matters who deploys non-beta software first. You can only patent applications, not ideas.

Anyway they're all ripping off BeOS. Apple hired most of the BeOS team a few years back to make Spotlight because they really liked (and so did users) the live search in iTunes.

As for WinFS it's been pushed back again, so when it comes out Apple will have released 10.5, and probably 10.6 putting it far ahead.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Nathan Weinberg said...

Oh, and "whom" is a bull word which has fallen out of the vernacular. It only has two uses:

1. To chastise those that don't use it.
2. To appear smart for using it.

I need to write a column on why the "whom" retort is the most useless form of criticism.

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, Cairo with its storage and retrieval features was announced in 1993, and Copland wasn't announced until 1994, so Microsoft was earlier than Apple.

Seeing how Microsoft's desktop search (not counting Lookout) and Spotlight aren't out of beta more than 10 years after those announcements, I don't see why defensive Mac users were puffing out their chests about it anyway.

-n00b

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yoy say:
> If anyone inspired this wave of search tools its Microsoft, not Apple. >Can we agree on that point?

Nope. Google is by far and away the _leader_ in online searching. They are on a tear and MS will not catch up for a long time, if ever. They have Soul, baby... MS has for the most part a lot of vapourware.
As for Spotlight (and Google), I agree with the others; you can't copy "musings in the night" .. . Who loves ya baby?

1:20 PM  
Blogger aplman said...

Apple with its new Tiger OS and spotlight search tool once again has made Microsoft have to go out and aquire technology that they could not build in house just to try and catch up. I have always been a loyal Macintosh user because of the total ownership concept that Apple has. Apple has control of both the hardware and the software so they can bring cool technologies to market faster than Microsoft. Microsoft has to worry about all of the hardware vendors and compatiblility with hardware. Apple does not. That is what makes Apple a magical company. I think if you were to look at the innovation coming out of Apple over the years you would find a much better ROI story at Apple than Microsoft ever dreamed of.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Considering MicroSoft's security track record, the last thing I would want is to have all my personal information nicely indexed and tagged for easy access by Malware. Just think, it may someday in the not too distant future become trivial to steal anyones credit card numbers and other identity information by doing a query on their system through an explorer security hole.

1:27 PM  
Blogger aplman said...

Considering Apples security track record I am just pleased as punch to have my information on a Mac... You should all invest in a Mac... Makes life much nicer and I don't care who came up with it first. Apple is delivering.. in the OS.

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the record, "whom" has not fallen out of the vernacular.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought Apple just had to patch 16 or 17 security holes in MacOS X earlier this month.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You geeks are hilarious! Who cares about this stuff??? Try not to get your panties in such a wad Micro$oft, everyone is getting there before you. I'm sure you can buy this market like you have so many others...

2:00 PM  
Blogger AppleMaster said...

>It's amusing to think that Longstaff and Thurrott actually know what they're talking about.

Umm, Longstaff said just the opposite of what Thurrott and Todd Bishop said.

If you're going to bash someone, at least get the names right.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nathan Weinberg asks a valid question, which I'll ask another way: did Microsoft's trumpeting of WinFS search features in Longhorn inspire Apple and others to work hard on improving search functionality in operating systems? No doubt about it.

The fact remains that search functions are fundamental to any OS, and to improve said search functions does not qualify as revolution. It's evolution. When Apple does it, though, it certainly seems like revolution; their ideas are nearly always so well-realized that the finished product seems completely natural, the way God intended it ... absurdly well-engineered and artful.

The fact is that since Apple went to a modular UNIX codebase, they've been much more agile than has MS. MS is tied to a monolithic operating system, and the fact that WinXP has been virtually unchanged since its release more than three years ago, while Apple has added many new, interesting and well-engineered features into OSX since the release of 10.1 in about the same timeframe.

To be fair, Microsoft has been focused on fixing the results of past really, really dunderheaded decisions that favored thin arguments of user-friendliness over serious and irrefutable arguments for security. The stupidity cascaded into a lot of other decisions, and ultimately resulted in a swisscheese model of copmuter insecurity. Fixing that has diverted resources from Longhorn projects. Theyll deliver good search in the OS eventually.

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sherlock, available on all Macs running OS X.x, can search the Internet

2:39 PM  
Blogger AppleMaster said...

...And the same technology behind Spotlight has already been available in iTunes and Mail for well over a year now.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Nathan Weinberg said...

Who uses "whom"? Really? In the real world, "whom" is used only slightly more than "hither", and, as I said, is only used by people who feel the need to prove their intellect by using the word. That's a dead word to me.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Typical from Apple: copying something (e.g. Xerox's GUI) then whining about that others copy it as well.

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Search is not an innovation. Search is a natural extension of information storage. Windows 3.1 had a search feature, limited though it was. Mac System 7 had multi-criteria metadeta search. AltaVista searched the internet many years before Google. Google merely showed everyone how powerful search could be. Nobody is really copying anything here, just extending and enhancing.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wrote a report for a company I worked for in 1998 describing technology like WinFS and the new Spotlight functionality not because I heard it was being developed by anyone but because it was patently obvious to me that was the way things were heading. My boss thought it was revolutionary and I decided he just had not thought the technology through to its logical course. These firms are reacting to each other, but to state that one had the innovation to come up with the idea in the first place is hard to prove.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for reference, Spotlight searches more than the file system. You can use it to find things in your User Interface (ie, use keywords to work out "which control panel do I fiddle this in"). And thats not just in Apple apps, its technology that can be implemented in every app.

As always, Apple is an order of magnitude more sophisticated than Microsoft.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WinFS did not inspire Apple's Spotlight. Apple has been pondering how to deal with filesystem metadata for nearly every day of MacOS's existance. Mac OS X brought Mac users better interoperability with the Internet by abandoning the rich metadata that was found in the HFS filesystem. Since then, Apple has been working on ways to bring those features back without isolating Mac files as some sort of special beast. Apple hired Dominic Giampaolo years ago to work on these sorts of features. Dominic was one of the primary architects of BeFS, which probably served as the biggest inspriation for WinFS. (Try a google search on that name.)

The story here isn't who got ideas from whom. It's that people proclaiming to be technology "journalists", or "pundits" can throw around their completely uninformed observations as speculative fact, and no one bothers to investigate and report on how things really happen.

6:35 PM  
Blogger veggiedude said...

"Typical from Apple: copying something (e.g. Xerox's GUI) then whining about that others copy it as well."

Only an ignorant person would write that!

For the record, Apple did not copy anything - they bought the rights after Xerox *invited* them to 'copy' the GUI - but what Apple came up with was light years apart from what Xerox had, which was impossible to bring to the public.

Apple also took several engineers from Xerox to work on the Mac project.

Microsoft was never invited, and never paid for the intellectual dishonesty. Plus they came up with something very inferior, and still plays the catch up game 20 years later.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Todd said...

Hey Nathan, thanks for linking to my post. Just to clarify, I was just presenting both sides, not taking one side or the other. The similarities are there between the Apple and Microsoft tools, but I don't think it's really worth any of us out here arguing over who came up with the idea first. In fact, it's clear that both companies have been headed in this general direction for a long time.

Basically, I just thought the posts by Eric and Paul made for a funny juxtaposition. I'm surprised people are taking it all so seriously.

11:24 PM  
Blogger Nathan Weinberg said...

Hey Todd, great seeing you here.

You know what they say about Mac users. They're very, um, "devoted".

12:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul Thurrott basically will run with any flismsy rumor and is first to proclaim anything that will get him a lot of google hits. He and Dvorak should retire and sell typewriters for all they know about tech.

MSN Desktop Search is clearly based on the Google Searchbar - since they had to rush it out otherwise Google will have 2 years headstart before Longhorn even gets out the gate.

To compare 25 lines of code to another OS update in year is a joke. Whether you use/like or run Mac OS - at least they have blocked spyware/malware & viruses AND can crank out an OS every year - what exactly are the 20,000 programmers doing at MS? To compete, you actually have to step ONTO THE FIELD and MS has been missing in action for YEARS. MS, the Ron Artet of software - quick to point fingers but not much between the stripes.

1:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Nathan,

Just a quick note. I'm from the UK. We do use the word "whom" regularly over here. It's part of the language, regarded as polite, and not intended to demean anybody. But hey, what do we know? We only invented the thing, after all!

...Or did Microsoft invent English too, and the UK merely copy them? ;-)

Digsa

4:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This idea of a search tool like this has been at Apple for over a decade... iTunes has had this very tool for a number of years already.

If anyone has put the spark into searching tools it's Google... not Microsoft.

5:57 AM  
Blogger Nathan Weinberg said...

Digsa:

Ha! Nice. At least someone here has a sense of humor.

Still, even though a word is used in the UK, it wouldn't be a legitimate criticism against me. After all, if you called me a "twit" and said "It's colour, not color!", you'd just be an idiot... much like the guy above who started this "whom" thing. Fact is, "whom" is never used in the U.S. except as a form of intellectual snobbery, and I'll have no part of it.

You wouldn't want me going around talking in a fake British accent, would you?

9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nathan Weinberg asks a valid question, which I'll ask another way: did Microsoft's trumpeting of WinFS search features in Longhorn inspire Apple and others to work hard on improving search functionality in operating systems? No doubt about it.

The fact remains that search functions are fundamental to any OS, and to improve said search functions does not qualify as revolution. It's evolution. When Apple does it, though, it certainly seems like revolution; their ideas are nearly always so well-realized that the finished product seems completely natural, the way God intended it ... absurdly well-engineered and artful.

The fact is that since Apple went to a modular UNIX codebase, they've been much more agile than has MS. MS is tied to a monolithic operating system, and the fact that WinXP has been virtually unchanged since its release more than three years ago, while Apple has added many new, interesting and well-engineered features into OSX since the release of 10.1 in about the same timeframe.

To be fair, Microsoft has been focused on fixing the results of past really, really dunderheaded decisions that favored thin arguments of user-friendliness over serious and irrefutable arguments for security. The stupidity cascaded into a lot of other decisions, and ultimately resulted in a swisscheese model of copmuter insecurity. Fixing that has diverted resources from Longhorn projects. Theyll deliver good search in the OS eventually.

1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who uses "whom"? Really? In the real world, "whom" is used only slightly more than "hither", and, as I said, is only used by people who feel the need to prove their intellect by using the word. That's a dead word to me.

A google search for the word "whom" brings up 71 billion pages. I'd say it's alive and well. Brush up your grammar.

2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WinFS is hardly revolutionary, it's just NTFS with indexing bolted on. You'll still have all the same old problems as with NTFS - drives will need defragging, no means of hard linking files, etc.

6:43 AM  

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