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Wednesday, November 11, 2009, 11:45 am PT (02:45 pm ET)

Microsoft official admits Windows 7 design inspired by Mac OS X

When it looked to redesign its dominant operating system after the struggles of Windows Vista, Microsoft reportedly turned to Apple's Mac OS X for the "look and feel" of Windows 7.

Simon Aldous, partner group manager with Microsoft, told PCR that the graphical style of Windows 7 — which he calls "Vista on steroids" — was inspired by the look of Apple's Mac OS X. The new Windows operating system launched in October.

"One of the things that people say an awful lot about the Apple Mac is that the OS is fantastic, that it's very graphical and easy to use," Aldous said. "What we’ve tried to do with Windows 7 — whether it's traditional format or in a touch format — is create a Mac look and feel in terms of graphics. We've significantly improved the graphical user interface, but it's built on that very stable core Vista technology, which is far more stable than the current Mac platform, for instance."

One of the more obvious similarities between Windows 7 and Mac OS X is the new taskbar. By default, the Windows 7 taskbar acts much like the dock that has been in OS X, combining program applications for both launching and accessing open windows, with only one icon per running application. And like Expose with the OS X dock, Windows 7 allows users to glimpse open windows on the taskbar before selecting them with Aero Peek.

The similarities between Windows 7 and Apple's latest operating system upgrade, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, were noted by The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg in his review of the Microsoft software. He said he believes that the Mac OS is still the superior operating system, but only slightly.

Snow Leopard had a head-start on Windows 7, launching in late August to positive reviews that praised the software's performance improvements and bargain $29 price. Consumers also responded positively to Mac OS X 10.6, with initial sales doubling that of its predecessor, Leopard, and coming in four times higher than Tiger.

For more comparing and contrasting Windows 7 with Snow Leopard, read the AppleInsider Windows 7 vs. Mac OS X Snow Leopard series.