How Microsoft invented, or invisibly runs, almost everything

Microsoft was credited with inventing practically everything first, directly through innovation before its time, or indirectly and invisibly because everything runs on Microsoft software.

Well, it seems as if Microsoft is being credited with inventing almost everything.

We'll start with the post by TechRadar defending Microsoft and crediting the company with inventing practically everything, including the wheel - the mouse wheel. The did-you-know flavored list begins with Google TV, but pointed out that Microsoft did that first in 1997 by acquiring WebTV, then renaming it MSN TV, and eventually using the technology for Xbox and Xbox 360. WebTV was first to allow web access with a computer, but let's toss in the little-known fact that in 1996, before it became Microsoft's product, the U.S. government classified WebTV as "munitions (a military weapon)" due to its use of strong encryption. It was a change in law, not Microsoft touching the technology, that stopped the military weapon classification.

The TechRadar article goes on to credit Microsoft with being the first to invent its version of the iPad, dubbed the Tablet PC, which shipped in 2002, but were "too big, bulky and expensive." Facebook's walled garden was credited to Microsoft's 1995 version of MSN. The Redmond giant was first to market smart watches (Smart Personal Object Technology, or SPOT) which took advantage of mobile data. In 2000, the Redmond giant put out the first eReader; also in 2000, Microsoft invented the first smartphone, Microsoft's Pocket PC platform. In fact, TechRadar compared Microsoft Bob, released in 1995, to the earliest version of today's Siri and Google Now. The lack of success of Microsoft's many invented products was attributed to them coming before their time or having no killer apps.

But those examples of what Microsoft invented are just a drop in the bucket if you use the "invisible" supportive structures reasoning presented by Microsoft's Matt Wallaert, Behavioral Psychologist for Bing. Wallaert, who recently defended Microsoft's Bing it on challenge claims, mentioned that fight in his Forbes article, before describing the worst part about working at Microsoft. "Every time you take a pot shot at Microsoft just to be a jerk, you distract us from doing the work that makes the world better."

It is safe to say that most people reading this probably don't respect Microsoft very much. Asked to name the most innovative tech company, they'll say Apple or Google. And they'll do it with a straight face, while sitting in a chair made by Microsoft.

Wait, Microsoft makes chairs? No, not directly. But the part of that chair? Manufactured in facilities running on, you guess it, Microsoft software. Transported in trucks built by Microsoft software, on roads built by Microsoft software, sold by companies running Microsoft software.

Imagine you got out of that chair for a second. Walked across the street to get a cup of coffee. Got hit by a bus. The ambulance that picks you up? Microsoft. The hospital that saves you? Microsoft. The doctor? Trained at a school running Microsoft, using delicate instruments running Microsoft. If you prefer not getting hit by a bus, think about the role that Microsoft has had in making sure your baby was born healthy.

So there you have it; if you consider the "invisible" supportive structures, then, hey, Microsoft can be credited with inventing pretty much everything and we apparently underrate its value.

By the same token, if you consider the "invisible" argument of Microsoft software being behind all good things, would it also have to be behind all the bad? If you fell out of your computer chair -- because you didn't rest well the night before on the mattress manufactured in a factory running Microsoft software -- and decided to go across the street to fetch a cup of coffee, what caused the accident?

Your mobile phone rings as you step onto the street. It's your distressed non-techy mom describing how Windows crashed, so you close your eyes briefly and smother a curse word. The bus driver, who is busy texting on his Windows phone, doesn't see and therefore hits you; but no worries because a Microsoft-built ambulance picks you up and transports you to the hospital filled with doctors trained at schools running Microsoft. The delicate instruments running Microsoft software save you, despite running on an OS infected with malware. Your doctor, who is looking down at notes on his Surface tablet, greets you in the recovery room and tells you that your sex change operation went great. But before you can freak out, elsewhere Chinese Army hackers exploited a zero-day to break into government computers running Windows and stole classified codes to launch nukes. The world, running on Microsoft, ends.

Just kidding, but that's the problem with the "invisible" supportive structures argument; it can be used in far-out scenarios for good and for bad.

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