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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