Trivia Tuesday: Which came first? Apple or Microsoft?

I thought I would start up a little section here on Neowin, where every Tuesday I will post some sort of (hopefully) interesting piece of tech trivia or fact. Check back here every week and hopefully you will learn something new about the technology world

This is perhaps one of the biggest tech rivalries in the world, but the question I’m exploring today is which company came first? Which was the first to release an operating system? The first to release a tablet PC or smartphone? The first to create a billionaire?

The question of when the companies were founded is a pretty easy one. Microsoft came first, founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico on April 4, 1975. Apple followed nearly exactly a year later on April 1, 1976 in Cupertino, California.

The interesting thing, though, is Apple was technically the first company out of the two to release an operating system that used a graphical user interface (GUI). On January 24, 1984, the guys behind Apple released “Mac System Software 1.0” on their original Macintosh commercial computer. This was almost two years before Microsoft released their extension of MS-DOS on November 20, 1985: Windows 1.0. It also wasn’t particularly successful.

However, it took both companies a considerable time to develop a major overhaul to their respective operating systems. Microsoft was the first company to release a major overhaul of their OS with Windows 95 on August 24, 1995, followed by Apple with Mac OS 8 on July 26, 1997. While OS 8 saw Apple sell a nice 3 million copies in six months, Microsoft sold a whopping 40 million copies in the first year on sale.

Also, for interests sake, Apple managed to slip in just months before Microsoft, releasing Mac OS X 10.0 “Cheetah” on March 24, 2001; Microsoft released the phenomenally successful Windows XP on October 25, 2001. Of course this didn’t stop Microsoft taking the vast majority of OS market share right up until today.

Moving on to other technologies, and as many people know, Apple’s iPad is hugely successful and is essentially the catalyst for the current popularity of the tablet form factor. Despite Apple delivering the (arguably) best consumer tablet product at the time with the iPad in 2010, Microsoft already had helped create Windows-powered tablet computers since 1991. Of course, they weren’t nearly as successful as the iPad.

Again, Apple was the first to deliver a major “everyday-Joe” oriented touchscreen smartphone to the market with the iPhone in June 2007; however it was not the first touchscreen smartphone. For example, Microsoft had developed Windows Mobile way back in the early 2000s, and products such as the HTC Wallaby/O2 XDA (the first HTC touchscreen device) were available in 2002.

Of course, technically Microsoft did not develop or release a smartphone or tablet, but they did contribute an OS to the development of such products.

Another interesting titbit is that despite Microsoft having released Windows Mobile many years before iOS, the platform lacked an app download service until October 6, 2009 with the Windows Marketplace for Mobile. As you might have guessed, this was a year after Apple opened the App Store on July 10, 2008.

Finally, due to Microsoft’s massive success starting in the 80s, the company has made chairman and co-founder Bill Gates one of the richest people alive. He surpassed US$100 billion net worth in 1999 and currently residing at US$59 billion according to Forbes. Current CEO Steve Ballmer and co-founder Paul Allen are both worth over $13 billion.

On the other side of the fence, Steve Jobs’ net worth was around US$7 billion when he passed away in October, despite running a company that generated a whopping US$25.9 billion in profit for financial year 2011. This was likely due to his low ($1) annual salary and comparatively low share amount in Apple; Bill Gates for example holds 6.4% of Microsoft’s common stock.

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28 Comments

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So no discussion of the vast array of Microsoft Server products? .NET, C#, Expression Studio, XAML, XNA Framework, F#, TellME, XBox Live? The idea that Apple is somehow a superior technology company is patently false. Apple has superior marketing.

MASTER260 said,
Also, XP would have come out faster had it not been for 9/11... OSX would have still been 1st, though.

Huh?? XP was RTM'd on August 24, 2001, over two weeks before 9/11. It went on sale two months later on October 25th. That is pretty normal (especially at that time).

It's all about leapfrog. The OS that is better is the one you prefer, and the one that gets the things done that you need to do. The fuel that feeds the fire of the Mac Vs Pc debate can be attributed to to Apple who, being SO SO SO jealous of the supposed "inferior" success of Windows, felt compelled to create commercials to try and tear the competition down instead of making themselves look superior.

I'm just doing my part here, tongue in cheek jabbing to fuel this debate. I'm actually about ready to start getting along here, but I am dying to see how long this thread goes. It's still early in the morning!

I would like some clarification here:
"Microsoft" came first because the company created the first assembler then Apple came with the first home computer then because other companies wanted to release their own computers they "asked" "Microsoft" to provide them with an OS, MS-DoS particularly in which "Microsoft" bought it from some programmers and extended it.
I refer to Microsoft as "Microsoft" because at that time the team had not decided on an name yet, they were just inviduals programmers/developers.
To cut a story short:
"Microsoft" released the first Assembler
Apple released the first home computer with an OS
IBM with Microsoft released PCs with MS-DOS

Am I right?

MariosX said,
Am I right?

1975: Paul Allen + Bill Gates in Albuquerque
- January: presentation of the Altair 8800 by MITS
- April: official foundation of Micro-Soft
1976: Steve Wozniak + Steve Jobs + Ronald Wayne in Los Altos
- don't know their stuff^^

Yeah MS' R&D paves the way for alot of great technology but more often than not the tech giant has failed to consumerise it or move quickly enough when technology itself has changed.

Windows Mobile could never be a mass consumer device as up until 2006/7 the technology in the devices meant their price tag was often =>$1000. When the technology became more mass producable and affordable MS' OEM partners tried to paste a consumer OS over the top of Windows Mobile with some limited success (HTC Touch). But Apple certainly saw the changes and the possibility of caputuring the consumer market where Windows Mobile was largely in the realm of business users alone for most of its life.

Same with the contemporary Tablets, Origami MIDs, UMPC's...price and technology held them back as did the lack of a consumer oritentated OS. Pen and Ink is still great to use with some devices but Apple definitiely reignited the consumer interest in the tech with the ipad. Maybe MS can steal back some thunder with ARM Win8 tablets which will hopefully go where windows tabs havent before and thats all day battery life, consumer affordability and a great smooth touch experience.

Ricardo Dawkins said,
Apple released a game console way before than Microsoft...but nobody remembers it. LOL.

Xbox 360 FTW!!!


pfft XBOX black brick FTW!

Ricardo Dawkins said,
Apple released a game console way before than Microsoft...but nobody remembers it. LOL.

Xbox 360 FTW!!!


pfft XBOX black brick FTW!

Ricardo Dawkins said,
Apple released a game console way before than Microsoft...but nobody remembers it. LOL.

Xbox 360 FTW!!!


Apple... and Bandai. Not just Apple.

^ I can also heartily recommend "Micro Men", a BBC production about the birth of the home computer, particularly in Britain. Just be advised there's a fair bit of swearing in it!

It was a golden age back then for software. Nothing had been invented yet and everything was up for grabs. You could spend a month making an operating system and find hardware partners to sell it, now an undertaking like that would take years if done from scratch.

If anyone wants to see a bit more story about Apple and Microsoft check out the movie The Pirates of Silicon Valley it's an entertaining portrayal of Apple and Microsoft in the early years up until the late 90's

Oh, and to clarify another point in that paragraph: Windows 1.0-3.11 were not technically operating systems, but a GUI layer on top of DOS, which was the actual OS. Microsoft's first true GUI OS was Windows NT 3.1.

roadwarrior said,
Oh, and to clarify another point in that paragraph: Windows 1.0-3.11 were not technically operating systems, but a GUI layer on top of DOS, which was the actual OS. Microsoft's first true GUI OS was Windows NT 3.1.

Well… one could argue that the combination of the "DOS Kernel", various extensions like the virtual memory management and the "Windows Shell" were an operating system…
It vastly depends on what you mean by "Windows 1.0-3.11", do you only mean the UI or the "distribution" as a whole…

Kirkburn said,
I would think that if an OS has a GUI, that means it is an OS with a GUI. Why does it matter what the GUI is built on?

The difference is in what part handles file operations and system calls, etc. There's also the issue that any given version of Windows (before Windows NT or Windows 95) could be installed on multiple different versions of DOS (even those that were made by other companies besides Microsoft), and DOS itself could operate independent of Windows. That is the distinction between an actual operating system and a GUI sitting on top of an OS. Linux distros with a GUI actually fall into the same category as those old versions of DOS/Windows since the underlying OS and the GUI layer are independent of each other.

MFH said,

It vastly depends on what you mean by "Windows 1.0-3.11", do you only mean the UI or the "distribution" as a whole…

Windows and DOS were always sold at retail as separate products. They were only ever sold together through OEM channels.

Not a bad article. I'll definitely be checking to see what future "Trivia Tuesday" brings.

I'm particularly impressed with the way the article isn't intentionally slanted towards one over the other. Something that's unusual for tech, let alone Neowin. Good job.

majortom1981 said,
You should have also pointed out microsoft did release a tablet os in 1991 called windows for pen computing.

Dammnit, you beat me to it!

majortom1981 said,
You should have also pointed out microsoft did release a tablet os in 1991 called windows for pen computing.

Yep, missed that. Thanks for info and I've updated the article