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Has Bill Gates invented anything?

 
 
Reply Mon 18 Oct, 2004 03:08 pm
This from a tangent of another thread in the Politics forum.

My Contention is that Bill Gates is a very savvy businessman. His success is from excellent marketing good deals with other company and the occasional slimey business move.

The hallmarks of Microsoft were all invented by other companies, swallowed by Microsoft and then marketed into dominance.. these include;

- DOS
- Financial software(Quicken),
- the mouse,
- the windows based operating system,
- spreadsheets,
- word processors,
- internet browsers,
- c compilers,
- the internet portal

Can anyone list any important advance that Microsoft (or Bill Gates) has made on their own?

(The possible exception is that they indirectly invented the Macro Virus.)
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ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Oct, 2004 03:12 pm
McGentrix posted this link on the other thread. It may be of interest here.

http://voteview.uh.edu/gates.htm

(But, I think it supports my position Wink )
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Dartagnan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Oct, 2004 04:24 pm
Having lived in Seattle over 20+ years, it's hard to ignore the impact Gates has had on the region. While I tend to deplore any entity that overwhelms its competition, Gates has done some good things of late, primarily by giving way large sums to support worthwhile charities. I realize there may be something self-serving in giving computers to schools, if they turn around and buy Microsoft software (and the kids learn to use a PC and want their folks to buy one at home). But he's also funded health-care efforts and built needed facilities at the UW, which he never attended.

I realize this is not quite the topic, ebrown_p, but I thought I'd flesh out the Gates image a bit...
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Mr Stillwater
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Oct, 2004 04:25 pm
Quote:
After signing a contract with IBM to write an operating system, Microsoft discovered and licensed a product, Quick and Dirty Operating System or QDOS, from a small Seattle company for $30,000, improved the software, gave it the internal name of MS-DOS, and delivered it to IBM
This product was released as IBM PC-DOS 1.0, running on the IBM PC, 1981:


http://www.people.virginia.edu/~dg6n/classes/0405.1.fall.mdst110/lectures/pictures/ibmpc.jpg
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Mr Stillwater
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Oct, 2004 04:27 pm
Gutenburg didn't invent reading, writing, paper, ink, the press, or moveable type either - he just sort of bought them together in the right combination. He didn't have to worry about copyright either.
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ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Oct, 2004 04:45 pm
Stillwater,

That isn't the point. There are many companies and people who championed and introduced bold new ideas into the world of computers in the past 50 years.

- Apple had the first commerical window system and the first computer that incorporated the mouse.
- NSCA invented the web browser and Netscape (with some of the same people) made it commerically viable.
- VisiCalc invented the spreadsheet.
- Quicken made the first commericial successful personal finance program.

These organizations (and many others) all made real contrubutions to the field of computing.

You are right that Microsoft "discovered and licensed" QDOS. They discovered and licensed or stole many things including the examples above.

There is no questioning Microsoft in their business savvy and marketing prowress.

The question is, can they claim to have invented anything significant on their own?
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Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Oct, 2004 05:53 pm
ebrown_p wrote:

- Apple had .... the first computer that incorporated the mouse.


Apple did not have the first computer that incorporated the mouse. The inventor of the mouse (see Mouse Patent # 3,541,541 issued 11/17/70 for X-Y Position Indicator For A Display System) was Douglas Engelbart. Apple merely popularized the concept with Macintosh.

Kinda like Microsoft does, improve and popularize things.

Quote:
NSCA invented the web browser and Netscape (with some of the same people) made it commerically viable.


NSCA did not invent the browser. Tim Berners-Lee did. NSCA invented the first read-only browser.

After that there was Mosaic. Which later became Netscape. Here you credit Netscape for making the browser "commercially viable".

That's odd, because that's not anything Microsoft can be said to have "discovered and licensed or stole" as Microsoft distributes their broswer for free.

Both companies you tout here "stood on the shoulders of giants" as well. You just don't rant about them because they don't move ideologues as much as Microsoft does.

Quote:
- VisiCalc invented the spreadsheet.


Perhaps you mean the computerized spreadsheet? Because spreadsheets existed prior to computers. Heck VisiCalc was inspired by a spreadsheet on a blackboard being written by the author's professor.

VisiCalc did not "invent the spreadsheet".

The computer spreadsheet was conceptually invented in a 1961 paper "Budgeting Models and System Simulation" by Richard Mattessich.

Pardo and Landau filed U.S. Patent no. 4,398,249 for the basic algorithms for this concept but had it rejected as being a purely mathematical invention, Pardo and Landau won a court case establishing that "something does not cease to become patentable merely because the point of novelty is in an algorithm." This case helped establish the viability of Software patents. (See Wikipedia, for this source).

Dan Bricklin realized the computer spreadsheet and named it VisiCalc. He dis so based on ideas and inspiration by others.

He too, is also clearly not as much of a lightning rod for ideologues.

Quote:
The question is, can they claim to have invented anything significant on their own?


Sure, and while it's less satisfying than an idelogically motivated rant you can look them up in The United States Patent and Trademark Office.
0 Replies
 
Mr Stillwater
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Oct, 2004 06:08 pm
He is/was a programmer.

http://image.pathfinder.com/time/gates/images/pix/invent1.gif
Gates and his pal Paul Allen produced two programs in the 8th grade: one played tic-tac-toe. Before long, they were moonlighting as adolescent computer consultants for a local corporation. In high school, Gates and his friends devised a program that analyzed traffic data for his hometown.
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Oct, 2004 06:29 pm
Friend, I would do thee no harm for the world, but the argument I standest behind is bulletproof.

First of all, the original argument was if Bill Gates should be revered as an inventor or even an engineer. I would be interested to see any evidence for this.

You are correct that idealogical rants are satisfying (and I thank you for allowing me to indulge) but I think this rant is particularly justified.

Look at the history of Apple and Netscape and Borland and even Sun and IBM (even recently) compared to that of Microsoft. I think there is a clear difference (besides the fact that one lost a lawsuit).

Most companies make their money by coming out with innovative products. Apple was the first company with a window system. Netscape was the first company with a browser, Sun was successful with Java-- a language that works cross-platform.

Microsoft has consistantly made money by shutting out, and overruning innovative products. They were convicted of unfair practices against Netscape. Their answer to the cross-platform Java was .NET which won't work on other platforms.

Some of Microsoft's success was due to Apple's proprietary idiocy which Microsoft rightly took advantage of.

But it is hard to argue against the fact that Microsoft has consistantly gained success through savvy business deals, slick marketing and leveraging its monopoly in a way that no other company has.

You can make the argument that the uniformity (i.e. lack of diversity) in the computuer world that came about because of Microsoft is a good thing. I would argue against this (this is my idealogical rant).

But compared to other companies in the field, Microsoft is one of the least innovative, and has often had the effect of stifling innovation.

I searched your site for Microsoft, and came up with a bunch of software patents (yuchh!), but nothing really interesting came up. I was wondering if you have any real examples of innovation on the level of Netscape or Intuit.
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Oct, 2004 12:13 am
ebrown_p wrote:
Friend, I would do thee no harm for the world, but the argument I standest behind is bulletproof.


I disagree. You've made several arguments, several of which range from factually incorrect to simply subjective feelings.

The prevaling theme seems to be an argument that Microsoft is inordinately lacking in innovation, which is something I again disagree with and will expound on.

Quote:
First of all, the original argument was if Bill Gates should be revered as an inventor or even an engineer. I would be interested to see any evidence for this.


This, is not an argument in which I had any participation, I think Bill Gates's career started as neither, but rather as a programmer and then a businessman, not too dissimilar from the way the heads of any of the entities you bring up as examples could be described.

Quote:
Look at the history of Apple and Netscape and Borland and even Sun and IBM (even recently) compared to that of Microsoft. I think there is a clear difference (besides the fact that one lost a lawsuit).


There are many clear differences between them. Not the least of which is financial success.

Quote:
Most companies make their money by coming out with innovative products.


This is a falsehood. Please support your assertion.

Quote:
Apple was the first company with a window system.


No, it was not.

Douglas C. Engelbart had the first mouse-driven GUI in the 1960s for SRI International.

The Xerox Corporation's Palo Alto Research Center aquired several people from SRI in the early 1970s and PARC created WIMP (windows, icons, menus and pointers).

This "Windows System" was used in the Xerox 8010 ('Star') system in 1981.

Apple Computer's work on a GUI included several members of the PARC team and the Macintosh was released in 1984.

You point to Apple as an example of a non-Microsoftesque innovative company, for their "Windows System" which was neither their idea nor were they the first to create it.

They were, however, the first commercially successful Windows System, and for this they deserve credit of the same nature that Microsoft is due for their successes.

Quote:
Netscape was the first company with a browser.


No, Netscape was not (kinda, see below).

The first broswer was invented by Tim Berners-Lee.

NCSA's Mosaic was the next big innovator in web broswer history.

Mosaic was a commercial browser (you earlier claimed Netscape was the first).

The Mosaic team leader, Marc Andreesen, started the company Mosaic Communications Corporation and later changed their name to Netscape due to trademark issues with NCSA.

Netscape neither invented the browser nor were they responsible for the first commercial browser.

They deserve credit for thier contributions in the same way that Microsoft deserves credit for theirs.

Netscape's Marc Andreessen lacked business saavy, and Netscape failed to realize that the money to be made with a browser is in web properties and recurring revenue from advertisements instead of browser sales.

Furthermore Andreessen was cocky and arrogant, and this is a fundamental reason for their demise. He targeted Windows thinking that Netscape would evantually evolve to become an operating system or reduce the windows operating system to "plug-ins under the browser."

He himself called this "irrational overenthusiasm".

I expound on Netscape's history because what brought them down was not an unfair war with no innovation from Microsoft. Microsoft's entry fueled innovation. By IE 3.0 Microsoft had matched all of Netscape 3.0's features and was being called a "white-hot Navigator-killer..." that "surpasses Navigator 3.0 in many ways..." (CNET, May 30, 1996).

Many like to blame Microsoft for Netscape's demise. But the truth is that the market for a free browser like IE made more sense than a commercial one like Netscape.

This was one of the main mistakes in foresight that spelled Netscape's doom.

Netscape's doom did not spell the end of innovation (though it did for IE, as Microsoft decided to end development of IE in favor of a new browser foundation that will be shipped in future Window's versions). The open source community has now outpaced IE, and browsers are free.

There is a greater range of viable, more advanced choices in broswers since Microsoft and Netscape started fighting, and the competition has not in any way slowed innovation.

There are new browser wars on the horison. Expect innovation to hit another flurry then. Competition is good, and competition was good for web browsers.

Quote:
Sun was successful with Java-- a language that works cross-platform.


Yet Java was not the first programming language that works cross-platform. Java was developed with the aim of combining the best features of some programming languages before it, some of which were cross platform.

Their innovations (compiling in the way they do, and virtual machines) and marketing (slogan "Write once, run anywhere") have, indeed, been successful.

But they did not invent cross-platform programming languages, they stood on the shoulders of giants before them. If their success alone, or their improvements on an existing concept merit your approval when they did not invent the concept then so should Microsoft.

Quote:
Microsoft has consistantly made money by shutting out, and overruning innovative products.


This was not done without innovation of their own. Their success in competition ("overruning") is not an inherent negative unless you simply favor the other side in the competition.

Quote:
They were convicted of unfair practices against Netscape.


This does not mean that they lacked innovation when competing with Netscape, in fact they came out ahead in comparisons late in the "browser war".

Here's a quote from Chris Houck, a founding engineer at Netscape.

"I think there were definitely instances that people could hold up and say, here's where Microsoft was playing unfair. And in each instance you could also make a strong argument that here's where the Netscape guys f***ed up. Given that, it's hard to take a moral stand on that one way or the other."

Quote:
Their answer to the cross-platform Java was .NET which won't work on other platforms.


This is incorrect. Their response to Java was their own Java Virtual machine, which they extended to try to leverage it for the Windows platform.

This was part of the "embrace and extend" for Java that was ended in court. .NET is a wholly different beast with wholly different goals related to futuristic web applications.

It never purported to be "cross-platform".

Quote:
But it is hard to argue against the fact that Microsoft has consistantly gained success through savvy business deals, slick marketing and leveraging its monopoly in a way that no other company has.


It is also hard to argue that Microsoft's history is without numerous innovations, unless you reduce the definition of innovation to exclude prior art, thusly ignoring the collaborative nature of computer science.

Quote:
You can make the argument that the uniformity (i.e. lack of diversity) in the computuer world that came about because of Microsoft is a good thing. I would argue against this (this is my idealogical rant).


I could, but that's a wholly different subject. Though it's clearly part of your bone to pick with Microsoft. Their overwhelming (to a fault) success.

Quote:
But compared to other companies in the field, Microsoft is one of the least innovative, and has often had the effect of stifling innovation.


Compared to what other companies in what field? Every company you listed stood on the shoulders of the giants before them. Not a single one of the "innovators' you praise invented what you praise them for. Every one of the companies you listed helped those before them fade away.

If your measuring stick is that Microsoft was not the originator of every single "killer app" of our lifetimes, then pray tell who are you comparing Microsoft to that was behind all these landmark innovations?

You are criticizing Microsoft for not being what nobody in history ever was. You are setting a standard that nobody has reached and faulting Microsoft for it.

You have set the doorknob too high. None of the companies you touted were the originators of any of the ideas you praise them for, but you fault Microsoft for not being the originator either?

I don't think your argument is bulletproof, I think it's ideologically and politically motivated at the cost of factual accuracy and objectivity. I think your distaste for Microsoft makes you lose sight of the nature of computer science and collaborative innovation. You fault Microsoft yet frequently praise open-source groups that copy far more (as a percentage) than Microsoft does.

It's just political ideology, which isn't bad per se, but I contend that it has caused a lack of objectivity and factual rigor.

But here's a fact you may enjoy:

Bush's website is powered by the "right" Microsoft/IIS. Kerry's website is powered by the "left" Linux/Apache.

Here's more politics, but that you may not like:

Netscape's Marc Andreessen criticized Democrat's opposition to the Iraq war and said "Bomb Away".

Furthermore, since I'm already into politics here, I'd like to expound on D'artagnan comments:

Bill gates at age 44 was the greatest philanthropist (read left ;-) ) in history.
0 Replies
 
jpowell
 
  1  
Reply Fri 22 Oct, 2004 02:49 am
Microsoft came up with BOB and Clippy. That is some cool tech.
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Sat 23 Oct, 2004 04:53 pm
And when it failed, tehy even turned Clippy into a marketing gig:

http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2001/apr01/04-11clippy.asp
0 Replies
 
 

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