Apple Sues Microsoft for Copyright Infringement

Apple v MicrosoftMarch 17, 1988

Apple Computer famously sues Microsoft Corporation for copyright infringement in its Windows operating system.

In November of 1985, after Apple’s board pushed out Steve Jobs, Microsoft released Windows 1.0 and Apple threatened to sue since they believed that Microsoft had stolen several design elements of the Macintosh operating system. Bill Gates took advantage of then Apple CEO John Scully’s lack of technology vision to get Apple to license certain parts of its Macintosh GUI to Microsoft. Scully did not foresee that the initial rudimentary version of Windows would be much of a threat of competing with the Macintosh operating system. The deal also ensured that Microsoft would continue to develop Word and Excel for Macintosh. However, when Microsoft released Windows 2.0 in December of 1997 and it had much more similarity to the look and feel of the Macintosh, Apple proceeded with a lawsuit.

What Apple’s lawyers failed to notice was that the license agreed to in 1985 covered all future Microsoft software and not just Windows 1.0. Therefore it was ruled that most of Apple’s copyright claims were covered by the license agreement. After a number of appeals, the legal battle ended when the Supreme Court denied Apple’s final appeal on February 21, 1995.

However, ongoing infringement questions regarding the graphical user interface were finally settled once and for all when Apple and Microsoft signed their famous cooperative agreement in August 1997. One reason that Microsoft agreed to the 1997 cross-licensing deal (in which it was rumored that Microsoft paid Apple up to $2 billion) was Apple’s increasingly large patent portfolio. Apple was allegedly preparing a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against Microsoft, in addition to their QuickTime patent infringement lawsuit filed in 1994. Apple began amassing their patent portfolio largely in response to their loss of this 1988 copyright infringement lawsuit, since they had not patented many of the original Macintosh operating system elements. This led to many other technology companies following suit and the technology patent “arms race” prevalent today.

Mac OS X Server 1.0 Released

March 16, 1999

Mac OS X Server 1.0 is released. This was the first version of Mac OS X available as the desktop version would not be released until just over a year later on March 24, 2001.

Derived from the NeXTSTEP technology that Apple acquired in its purchase of Steve Jobs’ company NeXT (which also brought back Jobs as an advisor and eventually CEO) Mac OS X Server 1.0 is important in history as the first shipping example of what would become the Mac OS X operating system (later OS X and then macOS), which was not only a major advancement for the Apple Macintosh platform but would also form the basis of Apple’s future iOS and iPadOS operating system. However, this original 1.0 release was fairly rough around the edges and was met with mixed reviews due to various technical limitations and interface oddities due to the not yet completed transition from the NeXTSTEP interface model.

Apple, IBM, Motorola form PowerOpen Association

March 9, 1993

Apple, IBM, and Motorola form the PowerOpen Association along with 4 other companies to promote and support the deployment of the PowerPC processor. The PowerPC would most famously be used for many generations of Apple Macintosh computers, but also found its way into use in video games consoles from Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. As a competitor to Intel’s x86 line of processors, the RISC-based PowerPC for a time boasted more powerful designs and influenced the development of RISC processing technology that has been incorporated into many modern processors. 

On The First Day …

Apple I AdMarch 1, 1976

Steve Wozniak completes the basic design for the circuit board of a (relatively) easy-to-use personal computer. The next day he shows it to the Homebrew Computer Club, which Steve Jobs attends. Jobs realizes the potential and convinces Wozniak not to give away the schematics but instead produce printed circuit boards to sell. The two Steves form a company, which they name Apple, and Wozniak’s design becomes the basis of the Apple I computer. The rest, as they say, is history.


Disney CEO Claims Apple Encourages Theft

Michael EisnerFebruary 28, 2002

Disney CEO Michael Eisner testifies at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on the protection of digital content from piracy. Eisner lobbies for sterner enforcement of copyright laws, claiming that Apple Computer advertisements for the iPod encourage copyright violations. “Rip. Mix. Burn. … they can create a theft if they buy this computer.”

A little over 3 years later, Eisner was later replaced as CEO by Robert Iger, who quickly arranged the buyout of Pixar Animation Studios, of which Steve Jobs was CEO. This move made Steve Jobs Disney’s largest shareholder and a member of Disney’s board. I guess it’s a small world after all!

Apple Discontinues the Newton

Apple Newton MessagePadFebruary 27, 1998

Apple Computer announces that it will discontinue development of the five year-old Newton Operating System and all of its Newton OS-based products, including the MessagePad series and EMate 300. Apple will focus on developing the Macintosh, which is once again left as Apple’s only computing platform … at least until the iPod, iPhone, and iPad come along.


Apple Sells 10 Billionth Song

iTunes LogoFebruary 25, 2010

Apple announces that its has sold its ten billionth song through its iTunes Store. The ten billionth song, “Guess Things Happen That Way” by Johnny Cash, was purchased by Louie Sulcer of Woodstock, Georgia, whom Apple awarded a US$10,000 iTunes Gift Card. It took Apple over five years to sell its first five billion songs but only a year and a half to sell its second five billion songs.


QuickTake 100 Launched

Apple QuickTake 100February 17, 1994

Apple launches their QuickTake 100 digital camera, one of the very first digital cameras aimed at the consumer market. Unfortunately for Apple, as was endemic for them at the time, they didn’t execute the marketing for this device very well, allowing other companies to take the lead in the digital camera market. Apple was out of the digital camera market by 1997.

Introduction of the Bandai Pippin

Bandai PippinFebruary 9, 1996

The Bandai Pippin is introduced. A little-known “multimedia device” using technology licensed from Apple Computer, it was an ill-fated attempt at a home video game console. It was 22nd on PC World’s list of the “25 Worst Tech Products of All Time”.

The Woz Leaves Apple

February 6, 1986

Steve WozniakSteve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple Computer, decides to leave to pursue other interests. Reportedly he was unhappy that the company was devoting most of its resources to the Macintosh at the expense of the Apple II. He remained a shareholder on the board and eventually come back as an advisor when Gil Amelio became CEO. He makes sporadic appearances at Apple events but still does not perform in any official capacity at Apple.