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Technology (Apple) Microsoft Technology

Did Microsoft Invent The iPod? 540

nate.oo writes "If you think Apple Computer's Steve Jobs invented the technology behind the Apple iPod, don't bet your 60GB, 15,000-song model on it. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, patent applications that cover much of the technology associated with the iPod were submitted by Microsoft."
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Did Microsoft Invent The iPod?

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  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Saturday August 13, 2005 @12:37AM (#13309690)

    Of course Microsoft invented the iPod....just like they 'invented' the GUI (Apple), Active Directory (Novell), and the TCP-IP stack (BSD).
    You would be a fool and a communist to insinuate otherwise (apologies to Bill Hicks).

    From TFA:
    So far, Microsoft hasn't been able to dent the Apple iPod dominance
    Hey, if you can't beat 'em, litigate 'em to death, I guess...and people bitch and moan when I use the abbreviation M$...
    • Not like that. Both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates ripped off this idea from Xerox PARC guys,
      • by mr100percent ( 57156 ) * on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:02AM (#13309792) Homepage Journal
        It's not ripping it off if PARC gives it to you, like they allowed Apple engineers to come in and look, multiple times.
      • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @09:57AM (#13310964) Homepage Journal
        As others have pointed out, Xerox got a lot of Apple stock in exchange for the technology, so they weren't "ripped off" by any definition of the term.

        Additionally, Apple deserves some of the credit for turning a bundle of ideas at Xerox which, while implemented and eventually released as a commercial product, were far from "production ready". Apple invented the Desktop metaphor, spacial browsing and the iconic file management environment, overlapping windows, the double-click (for better or worse ;), dragging, and dragged drop-down menus (where you point at the menu, put the mouse button down, see the menu appear, move the mouse to point at the option, and release the mouse button)

        Some of these would probably still have been invented had Apple not done so. But Xerox didn't do it, Apple did, and Microsoft (and Digital Research and Commodore, and the GEOS people, and I guess the later groups who implemented what they did) for the most part did look at Apple's ideas, say, "Hey, that's cool! Let's use that!" and implemented their own versions of the same stuff.

        I refuse to use the words "ripped off" or "stole" or even "copied" for the most part when applied to independent implementations of the same idea because I feel it's inappropriate and liable to be confused with copy-infringment. Early versions of Windows used relatively few of Apple's concepts and were a serious attempt to create a GUI from the ground up. Those who saw the internals of AmigaOS and GEM know that there was little resemblance between those operating systems and Apple's beyond the superficial, particularly in the case of the former where, in many ways, AmigaOS was how MacOS should have worked but never did. Jay Miner et al and Metacomco built a GUI that integrated very well with an underlying multitasking OS, that included a "Desktop" because, well, Apple did a great job of showing the idea was the way forward, and overlapping windows etc because a multitasking OS ought to have them.

        All of which said, Apple genuinely innovated. It didn't "rip off" Xerox, and wouldn't have done so even if Xerox hadn't received a cent for Apple's work. Xerox built some nice prototypes. The concepts of icons and windows and pointing at things came from there. Apple used those concepts to build something fairly special. To use an analogy, Xerox built a weather-proof box out of bricks, wood, shingles, and drywall. Apple invented doors and windows and built the first house. A lot of people saw these "houses", and wanted to build their own, ones that fit them. Like Apple's, they included windows, doors, bathrooms, etc, but that didn't make them copies.

    • There is still a good deal of gray area as to who should own the technology. For once, I'd like to see Microsoft playing second fiddle. It doesn't have to dominate EVERYTHING.
    • When did 'Apple' invent the GUI?
      When did 'BSD' invent the TCP-IP stack?

      Last I checked, Apple was not the inventor of the GUI and BSD was not even from the right university for TCP-IP....

      You are the fool.
    • by man_of_mr_e ( 217855 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @03:20AM (#13310173)
      It's funny, but the article doesn't actually say anything about litigation. In fact, it doesn't even say Microsoft even commented on this, much less even threatened to sue about it.

      It appears to be a journalists "what if" scenario, saying what COULD happen. It's like all the bitching about MS suing Open Source providers for patent infringement, yet it never seems to happen.

      Methinks you're getting yourself worked up into a froth over fabrication.
  • by jsight ( 8987 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @12:37AM (#13309693) Homepage
    Somehow seems appropriate. It's too bad the Patent Office doesn't see things the same way with these applications...
  • by NekoXP ( 67564 )
    Isn't this pretty ancient? There was an article on ./ last week about an Apple patent being refused. In the end, the MP3 player was invented by Compaq anyway - yet another ./ article from a couple weeks before.

    This is worse than cable TV :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    And at the end of the day, that's all that matters.
  • Plagiarism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @12:39AM (#13309701) Homepage Journal
    nate.oo "writes" stuff that was just a rip of the top of the TechWeb article. Cute.
  • by Dubpal ( 860472 ) * on Saturday August 13, 2005 @12:39AM (#13309703) Homepage
    "If you think Apple Computer's Steve Jobs invented the technology behind the Apple iPod..."

    Contents of the article aside, such an assumption would be wrong, Steve Jobs didn't invent the iPod - Jeff Robin [] did.

  • Of Course! (Score:4, Funny)

    by nxtr ( 813179 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @12:39AM (#13309705)
    They also invented the Google start page! I'm too lazy to add a link. To understand joke, see Slashback from 1-2 days ago.
  • Invention.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @12:39AM (#13309707) Homepage
    Patenting != inventing.

    Hell, Microsoft's just trying to get whatever loose patent they can get so they can selectively use it to pressure their competitors.

    You can always tell if Microsoft is sweating because of you if they take out a patent on something you've built as soon as you issue the first press release.
    • Re:Invention.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fredistheking ( 464407 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @12:53AM (#13309765)
      Do you think Edision and Bell were the only ones who were working on the the lightbulb and the telephone? No, but they got the patents and history remembers them as the inventors. I'm not saying this is right but it is not new.
      • Re:Invention.. (Score:2, Insightful)

        I have no idea if this is true or not, but I had heard once that Edison employed several people just to dream up ideas for products. If he liked the idea, he'd go out and patent it as soon as possible.

        The more I hear about Edison, the less inspiring he appears to be. Wasn't he the one that electrocuted animals to disprove the theories of Nikola Tesla?
        • Re:Invention.. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:23AM (#13309854) Homepage Journal
          Edison was briliant, but yes, IIRC, he was also likely a jerk, a petty one at that.

          What I heard was that he wanted to discredit alternating current (AC) power, and electrocuting animals was his way of doing it. Edison favored direct current (DC) power. The problem is that given the technology of the time, and it is still largely true today, due to the physics involved, AC is generally a better long-distance electrical power transmission method.

          I'm not sure how stable Tesla was, but he was right about AC.
          • Re:Invention.. (Score:3, Interesting)

            by TapeCutter ( 624760 )
            It wasn't just animals, Edison invented the AC electric chair to "prove" AC was more dangerous than DC. He was spreading FUD to protect his investment in DC and in turn the gas companies spread FUD against his electric street lights.
          • Physics and You (Score:4, Informative)

            by poptones ( 653660 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @03:41AM (#13310209) Journal
            "The physics involved" haven't changed, only what was practical has changed. LOW VOLTAGE DC requires large conductors to avoid high losses and there was no efficient way of converting it from one level to another a century ago. AC has the huge advantage in being easily transformed via.. er, transformers.

            That's no longer exclusively true. And power loss is directly proportional to resistance but proportional to the square of the current, so doubling the voltage in a circuit cuts those losses much larger than half.

            Meanwhile, low frequency AC transmission has all sorts of losses over long hauls due to reactive coupling to earth and to the atmosphere, and these losses vary even depending on the weather.

            Rectifiers and inverters can be made very efficient these days, and long haul powerlines increasingly may carry 750KVDC or more on them... that's direct current, not alternating.

            The higher voltage DC transport is more efficient, you see... but now we have the technology to exploit it.
        • The more I hear about Edison, the less inspiring he appears to be. Wasn't he the one that electrocuted animals to disprove the theories of Nikola Tesla?

          This is true. wikipedia info including a video of the actual killing [].

          Also read about the AC vs DC [] battle. Edison even tried to coin his competitor's name as a verb meaning "electrocution". Quite the sicko.
        • Re:Invention.. (Score:5, Informative)

          by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:30AM (#13309873)

          Yes, Edison electrocuted many animals, but it wasn't to disprove Tesla's theories. Rather, it was to 'demonstrate' that AC electricity (Tesla's system), was more lethal than Edison's preferred DC. Edison put on elaborate shows in which he electrocuted horses, dogs, elephants, and just about any other animal he could get his hands on (he was also known for paying children 25 cents for each stray dog they could bring him). Edison claimed that while AC electricity was obviously lethal, DC was not (which is patently false).

          Interesting that Edison's name is synonomous with electricity even today, although the electricity we use in our homes is Tesla's alternating current.
        • Re:Invention.. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @03:22AM (#13310176) Homepage
          Edison had teams of people working for him. He basically industrialized inventing. Really he was more of a "brute force" inventor than posessing any real brilliance. One quote I really like from Tesla about Edison:

          If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search... I was a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.
    • Well, the dictionary disagrees with you:

      Pronunciation Key (ptnt)


      1. A grant made by a government that confers upon the creator of an invention the sole right to make, use, and sell that invention for a set period of time.
      2. Letters patent.
      3. An invention protected by such a grant.

      We can quibble about the US Patent system and how they grant patents to non-original inventions all day, and we can quibble about how this may be one of those cases, but ling
    • Re:Invention.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dlugar ( 124619 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:33AM (#13309882) Homepage
      Furthermore, inventing != inventing in a very important sense of the word. Not much of the technology in iPods was very novel or interesting--we'd seen all the technological pieces in other places before. Apple didn't "invent" the iPod in the sense that they came up with some new innovative way to play mp3s, or to fit that much player in such a small size, or even a great user interface. Those things had all been done in other places at other times to varying degrees of success.

      What Apple did was create a beautiful device, something that was more of a fashion accessory than a geek toy. That was the revolution; that was what Apple "invented"; and that's why even though you can buy a similar mp3 player with more functionality for less money, iPods remain king. Apple didn't invent any one piece of the technology--they brought together existing technology in a functionally beautiful way, and wrapped it all up in an aesthetically beautiful package.

    • Re:Invention.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dedazo ( 737510 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:35AM (#13309885) Journal
      Please provide some examples of Microsoft using patents to prssure their competitors. Other than the ASF case, which was hardly "pressure" and hardly a "competitor".


      • Re:Invention.. (Score:3, Informative)

        by MojoRilla ( 591502 )
        Microsoft did attempt to license the doubious "IP" of the FAT file system [].

        According to them, if you want to use long file names on flash media, you have to licence their IP. For $.25 a unit, up to $250,000 per licencee.

        Unfortunately for Microsoft, the patent [] seems to be invalid.

        Although this first attempt at patent extortion seems to have failed, I expect we will see Microsoft try again soon.
  • by Effugas ( 2378 ) * on Saturday August 13, 2005 @12:41AM (#13309716) Homepage
    You know, if I listen closely I can hear the laughter of thousands upon thousands of Korean engineers, and I'm in Seattle.
  • by millennial ( 830897 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @12:42AM (#13309717) Journal
    Why would they file a patent for it, but then allow Apple to develop, create, and market the device?

    Or am I misreading this? Did they file a patent for something that vaguely described a system of some sort used in the iPod? That wouldn't really surprise me, seeing how they've recently tried to patent a method for highlighting numerical data with a box.
  • getting really sick of all the patent-talk recently?

    I don't mean to troll here, but is any of this really that significant? It seems to me that all the 'who-did-it-first' business is all just loose speculation..

    Homer: You can't like... own a potato... it's one of God's creatures.

  • Bad Article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 13, 2005 @12:47AM (#13309743)
    The article mentions that Microsoft submitted a patent on a "portable, pocked-sized multimedia asset player" - i.e. a completely open-ended and substanceless junk patent. Or maybe the patent did have some merit, but who knows, since the article doesn't give more details. The one detail it does mention is in regards to a playlist feature that the iPod doesn't have.

    On the brighter side, the not so subtle combination of Microsoft, Apple, vague patents and the iPod should make for a orgiastic troll feeding frenzy in the comments. And Techweb got some more traffic and hopefully some ad revenue. Hooray.
  • Did Al Gore invent the Internet?
    • No, George W Bush did ;)
    • That depends...did he file for a patent before, or after the real inventor? :p
    • There's never a mod redundant around when you need one. Must EVERY patent article trot out the same lame jokes?
    • by Barlo_Mung_42 ( 411228 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:19AM (#13309839) Homepage
      I feel compelled to correct this misconception as a public service every time I see it.
      Gore never claimed to have invented the internet. He said he backed funding (repeatedly and against republican opposition) for the Arpanet which became the internet.

      He was misquoted deliberately (and repeatedly) by a group of right wing press until the lie became main stream. So now you can find many reasonable moderate people who believe he originally made the claim.

      • "I took the initiative in creating the Internet"

        I think that's pretty clear. Obviously, he was a greasy politician trying to take credit for the work of others. Maybe from where he was at, it made sense, but that just shows you how out-of-touch people in politics are.

      • The quote is (I'm typing as I listen):

        "...during my service in the United States (uh) Congress I took the initiative in creating the Internet..."

  • by Spacejock ( 727523 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @12:49AM (#13309751) Homepage
    ... run their database on MS software? If so, why does Microsoft bother applying for patents? They could just get in through a back door and insert retroactive patents on anything they like.

    (Yeah, my tinfoil hat just fell off.)
  • by Humorously_Inept ( 777630 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @12:51AM (#13309760) Homepage
    From the article:

    So far, Microsoft hasn't been able to dent the Apple iPod dominance...

    Exactly which devices would be doing the denting, or is this a reference to the music players that Microsoft has released in an alternate universe?
  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @12:55AM (#13309769)
    According to apple, the ipod was on store shelves before even M$ sumbitted the patent application.

    I remember too. My friend bought the absolute first gen ipod.. a klunky 5 gig job... back in late 2001.

    TFA can stick this FUD where it belongs, thank you very much.
  • From wikipedia...

    Tony Fadell first conceived of iPod outside Apple; he had difficulty finding funding for a MP3 player he had designed. When he demonstrated it to Apple, the company hired him as an independent contractor to bring his project to the market, putting him in charge of assembling the team that developed the first two generations of the device. --

    Of course, the argument stems from whether the time of invention is when the idea is conceived, when the product

  • What a moot point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Godai ( 104143 ) * on Saturday August 13, 2005 @12:56AM (#13309777)
    Did Microsoft invent the iPod? No. Did Apple? No. The idea that either company invented the mp3 is ludicrous -- both were years behind numerous companies.

    Unless Microsoft somehow patented the idea of a well designed stylish mp3 player their patent is so laughably easy to dismiss with prior art it stands as just another example of how lazy, inept & stupidty-riddled the US Patent Office is.

  • not again... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WreckingCru ( 764189 )
    i think /. is slowly becoming less of 'stuff that matters' and more of a popularity contestant. 'i know! let's publish articles that bash microsoft and make apple look like a victim/ can't fail!' 'yes! by jove, you got it!' EVERYONE who isn't busy following paris hilton is busy getting patents for anything they can. I remember, as a college senior, doing my senior design project, one week we were made to look thru the US Patent Office website and find possible 'patent infringements' for our de
  • Winamp + 486 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Allnighterking ( 74212 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:02AM (#13309794) Homepage
    Winamp + 486 Is actually less powerful than an iPod. and I've been playing sounds on a computer for ages. Man I wonder what Mr. Nakamura (apologies if I spell it wrong) thinks of the idea of M$ thinking they are first with portable sound. Of course years before the iPod was released a product named the Diamond RIO was fighting for it's life against companies like M$ (under the guise of the BSA) for it's portable MP3 players. (bought mine in 98 or 99)
  • by Lally Singh ( 3427 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:08AM (#13309818) Journal
    Microsoft invented the iPod.
    Saddam had WMDs he was going to give to Bin Laden.
    Big Brother Loves You.
  • The iPod is just a small computer with a catchy name and good marketing. How could anyone claim to have "invented" it?
  • Apple patents, Microsoft patents, IBM patents, Sun patents. They all claim they are only doing it for good, but then they all go around suing people.

    And the patents themselves are pretty iffy. If you only allow Microsoft's narrow claims, than Apple probably doesn't infringe and could trivially work around them. If you allow Microsoft's broadest claims, then they just patented finding other songs you like based on a bunch of examples--a trivial and obvious idea implemented by many people.

    Patents really on
  • by hunterx11 ( 778171 ) <hunterx11@gma i l . com> on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:24AM (#13309857) Homepage Journal
    Not only have they violated Microsoft's patents, but by copying from anyone at all they have violated /.'s patent on duplication of a pre-existing entity.
  • "If you think Apple Computer's Steve Jobs invented the technology behind the Apple iPod"

    He didn't. A team of engineers at another company did and sold the finished product to Apple. He just took the credit.
    • by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Saturday August 13, 2005 @03:58AM (#13310248) Journal
      A team of engineers at another company did and sold the finished product to Apple.

      Guess again.

      Tony Fadell brought the idea of a music player + a music store to Apple. He didn't bring a finished product. The design we know today was the result of a collaboration by Fadell, Jeff Robbin, Steve Jobs, Phil Schiller, Jon Ive, and many other people. Steve didn't "just take the credit", he made it happen.


  • The lightbulb [] is likely an essential device to modern living. (if someone disagress then more power to you :) It remains to be seen if the PDA and MP3 player follow suit. I believe the phone has already hit that point. And on the matter of points my point is anywhere from a 120 to 150 years ago the lightbulb was invented by numerous different people in various forms. I had always thought Diamond invented the MP3 player with the Rio,wiki [] says it was Eiger labs. However the minute MP3's became common eve
  • Correction (Score:3, Funny)

    by suwain_2 ( 260792 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @01:50AM (#13309925) Journal
    I think that line in the original post should read:
                   +------+  +--------+
    don't bet your | 60GB |, | 15,000 |-song model on it.
                   +------+  +--------+
  • "The documents describe a "portable, pocked-sized multimedia asset player" that can manipulate MP3 music files."

    yes, it would be very nice if the iPod could manipulate MP3s, not just play them. Or at least fast forward/rewind within a song/track, now that would be very nice for longer songs, think those BBC Beethoven tracks, and ebooks when it suddenly gets lound on the train/bus/where ever and you miss something. I'm yet to see a portable device that can do that, but I've only used the iPod mini Zaurus5500
  • They patented a "portable, pocked-sized multimedia asset player"...

    Oh boy will they feel stupid when I patent an "portable, pocked-sized multimedia asset player via a computer network"!
  • by v1 ( 525388 ) on Saturday August 13, 2005 @10:35AM (#13311097) Homepage Journal
    They just claim to have invented everything. Spoons, toasters, web commerce, you name it, they have filed or have tried to file a patent for it, blatantly months, years, or decades after the same idea has already been brought to market and would take a non-braindead patent clerk 2 minutes to find prior art on.

    Just look at all the slashdot articles. We see one about every 2 weeks for MS trying (succceeding?) to patent things there's blindingly obvious prior art for. Nothing new here. Tomorrow they'll try to patent the computer case, using about 850 words to describe "a metal box you put a computer in" in such complex verbage that the patent clerk will think "I have no idea what he's talking about and have never heard ANYTHING like that before so it MUST be original". *STAMP* ("Approved")

    Not that it counts for much, but I will at least say they don't spend all their time chasing down "patent infringers" for their thousands of silly patents. I think they do it more for defense than offense, unlike some we've seen here recently.
  • Oi! We have now had TWO completely wrong-assed stories about this same event in slashdot. #1 was some bumf about "Apple failing to get patents to the iPod" because of some vaguely related patent by some Microsoft spod. Now that's turned into Microsoft invented the iPod?

    Render unto us a grand holy rotating break, Taco. At least read your own damn articles before accepting a new one. Or at least apply some damn common sense when you get funky spin like these.

Evolution is a million line computer program falling into place by accident.