Little-Known Facts About Microsoft That Will Blow Your Mind

msfacts-microsoft-bob-iconIn the midst of all the recent heavy criticism Microsoft has received since around the year 2000, some people fail to realize that the company has made some heavy contributions that many believe actually come from other sources. In this piece, we will discuss things that Microsoft has done that hasn’t been brought up in many years, or recent things no one noticed about its accomplishments. Many of the things discussed here are concepts that Microsoft never became famous for, but actually did. Although there might be a lot of bashing of this article, it’s necessary to point out certain things about the company that makes some of its criticism unwarranted.

1. Microsoft Invents Tablet, Audience Indifferent

While everyone today is nuts about the iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, these aren’t the first tablets. These are simply ARM-based devices that have sprung up after a long silent period. That silent period came after Microsoft invented and debuted the tablet. The announcement came in 2001 when Microsoft demonstrated tablets running the Windows XP operating system. The only disadvantage of these tablets is that they could only run for about 2 hours, like a laptop.

The old tablets included a keyboard and a stylus, allowing you to type quickly and pin-point areas of your touchscreen with more precision. They thought about practically anything and ended up with a near-zero market share as a “thanks” for the introduction of this invention. It was one of Microsoft’s biggest blunders, and today the company still goes unnoticed in the tablet market. Despite the fact their tablets really aren’t that impressive, they should have been back in 2001.

Of course, we’re not really saying that Microsoft was the sole inventor of the tablet computer. Apple tried a similar stunt in a project that started in the 80s. It was known as the MessagePad 100, and looked like an over-sized PDA:


This is far from the modern idea Microsoft came up with, however, which had many more features and gave way to the tablets we use today.

But if you want to say that Apple was first, you’re also wrong. The first concept for a tablet was the teleautograph, patented in 1888.

2. Microsoft Creates “TellMe”, Siri Gets all The Attention

Everyone knows about Apple’s Siri, included in the iPhone as a part of the iOS operating system. However, not many people tell you that they would love to have a phone that includes Microsoft’s TellMe. Besides the obvious fact that Apple’s Siri is better than Microsoft’s TellMe, the latter of the two hasn’t been marketed so well, making the public less aware of its availability. Recently, I’ve watched as Siri beat TellMe in a comparison, yet many people seem to have no problems using TellMe to perform web searches, regardless of their accent. Here’s someone with a Hungarian accent using both systems:

If you notice, there were times when TellMe actually understood something Siri didn’t. Both are search-based, but Siri does a bit better with interpreting the results. The point is that Microsoft put the idea on the table long before Apple presented Siri. However, I think both are admirable and have their merits. Compare that test of TellMe to the marketed concept video that presented what it could do in the future:

Besides the obvious, it seems that MS is going in the right direction. Sure, it just pulls up web results most of the time, but we can only hope for a better version in Windows 8 Phone. Besides, Microsoft doesn’t look that far behind Apple when it comes to mobile computing. The problem is always in delivery, however. Apple just sits quiet and delivers lots of innovative material while Microsoft receives a bad rep because it markets a product that doesn’t exist yet, develops it below the expectations of the audience, then attempts to pick up the pieces while the catastrophe ensues. I still think that Microsoft is underestimated and over-criticized, though.

3. Microsoft Contributes to Linux And All We Hear Are Crickets

On April 3, 2012, Microsoft has been declared the #17 contributor to Linux. Despite being called a company that wants to obliterate free software and establish a monopoly over the computing industry, that same company gave Linux some of the drivers it just recently integrated into the operating system to help it operate more efficiently in virtualized and native environments. Microsoft doesn’t stand to profit from this as much as you think, and paid some of its best developers to come up with the driver software in Linux. This seems like a move of good faith.

Not only did the company also contribute drivers, but it turns out that MS has been helping the Linux project since the release of kernel version 2.6.36, contributing 688 of the accepted changes.

Granted, a significant amount of those changes have to do with its new Hyper-V virtualization technology, helping Linux become compatible with what the company’s about to roll out with. This new Hyper-V technology will allow users of Windows Server run Linux and Windows simultaneously more seamlessly than previously possible. This will effectively cut costs for data centers wanting to offer the best of both worlds, making it possible for them to run a server on both Windows and Linux, while simultaneously offering both types of hosting from one single unit.

4. Microsoft Bob – One of The Worst Tech Inventions in History

Declared as the 7th worst technological invention, Microsoft Bob was an interface that MS quickly took out of the market. It was meant to modify the Windows 95 graphical interface in a way that would be more easily navigable by a computer beginner. It attempted to accomplish this by making the Windows operating system into a house you can walk through, with icons around each “room”. You started out in the “family room”, where a companion would walk you through normal operation of Windows. There were reasons why it failed, even if the concept was very friendly for those who didn’t know how to properly operate a computer.


Here’s what might have caused the failure:

  • It required more system resources than were generally available at the time the software was released. Although you can run it today on even the most run-down computer, it doesn’t compare to how computers were pre-Windows 95.
  • If you wanted a computer that was easier to use, you could just opt for Apple’s Macintosh systems at the time. The same holds true today.
  • Bob sold for $100.
  • Windows 95 came out in the same year as Bob did, making the software slightly superfluous due to the introduction of Windows Explorer.

Anything Else?

That’s all we’ve got! If you think you have a fact about Microsoft that would interest people, leave it in the comments below!

Miguel Leiva-Gomez Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.


  1. MSFT did not “invent” TellMe. They acquired the company several years back. Get a clue before writing further mind blowing posts.

    1. Regardless, look at the details of what MS did after the acquisition. To buy a company doesn’t magically make the software or engine compatible with your software and engines. Plus, the engine also had to be revamped to include other features that would be more smartphone-friendly. That means that practically 60-70% of the software had to be changed anyway, even after acquisition. Microsoft bought the talent, not the product.

  2. Actually, Apple came up with a tablet like Go Corp’s before the company even dreamed up one. I’m not stressing that point. And if you “steal” an idea, your product has to look very similar to the product you stole from.

    Compare this (GO Corp):

    To This (Microsoft): 
    Stealing has to have a totally different definition for this to be true. I was addressing the modern tablet, not the old-school office toy that was then called a pen computer. GO Corp’s allegations were rather comic, since it was only involved in creating an operating system, and Microsoft simply slapped its own operating system into a tablet, something it learned uses too much power. Hence W8, which will work with ARM-based machines.Thanks for the entertaining allegation, though. It reminds me of why I’m often selected for big research projects.

    1. I’d define copy as patent upheld in court:

      So in the early 90s Microsoft made operating systems and so did Go Corp. Microsoft basically FUDed with a product that didn’t work and killed Go Corp in the market.

      Read Kaplan’s book:

  3. Actually the Bob wasn’t that bad. The problem was about the timing and execution. The idea was good. 
    MS Tablet were too early for the market as the tech were not there yet as well as the audience.

  4. “If you wanted a computer that was easier to use, you could just opt for Apple’s Macintosh systems at the time. The same holds true today.”
    Opinion. I thought this article was about ‘little known facts’ not widely held opinions with only subjective “evidence”.

    1. Well Macs are more user-friendly. Even Bill Gates admitted this on occasion. Is it such a crime for someone to laud Windows, and laud Apple a little too? I’m neutral to the whole debacle between Windows and Apple, but see bashing only when it comes to putting both head-to-head. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs weren’t exactly enemies :P

  5. Mind = NOT BLOWN Glenn, sounds like a sob story from an obvious Microsoft fanboy who didn’t even get his facts straight before publishing the article.

    1. Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m far from being a Microsoft fanboy. I’m simply an entertainer. I’m more of a cloud-based technology fanboy. I technically don’t care which rivals win the technology races going on as long as someone wins it and I’ve got the product in my hands. That’s about it. This isn’t sports. It’s technology.

  6. Microsoft is often undervalued. I’ll admit to being both a Microsoft fanboy and ”a cloud-based technology” fanboy, and lately Microsoft has been heavily investing in cloud computing, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are greatly evident of that, Google has also been doing this (Google Drive, and Android in general is pretty much ”1 big cloud”) and the same could be said for Apple (iCloud).

    I saw a video testing the new OS X Mountain Lion, and Safari included iCloud integration (as do the iPod, iPhone, iPad and Macintosh), but this idea existed with Internet Explorer 9 (the first I.E. that didn’t suck), and has further developed with Internet Explorer 10 (the I.E. that ROCKS). Microsoft has been investing in private cloud-computing (and personal) long before Apple and Google even knew it existed (aside from the cloud THAT IS INTERNET ITSELF). Microsoft had (sic: has) Windows Live Sync, Live Sync, Windows Live Mesh and the heavily integrated with Windows Phone 7(.8/.5 (Mango)) & Windows 8 + the future Xbox – Microsoft SkyDrive.

    When it comes to clouds I’ll proudly admit on being a Dropbox-Fanboy (”a hardcore one”) and I use Microsoft SkyDrive and Google Drive often, but I cannot use the iCloud ’cause I don’t own an Apple device (-_-).

    Before I used clouds I had hundreds upon hundreds of G.B. (several T.B. actually) in data and files I’ve saved since Windows 95, after I bought my Windows 8 P.C. (upgrading from Windows XP), I discovered Microsoft SkyDrive, unlike Apple, Microsoft makes ”the Cloud” appealing and attractive, and encourages more people to use it.

    2012 became ”the year of the Cloud” because Microsoft encouraged more people to use it, in 2013 we’ll see the last remnants of the internet hybrid’ing into the cloud, and Microsoft (or possibly Google) will be the leading force, of-course I must admit that Apple has already heavily contrubuted to it, and Microsoft SkyDrive does ”miss” a few features that the iCloud has, but the future looks bright for Microsoft & SkyDrive.

  7. What I meant to address above is that I now have several P.B. ”in the Cloud”, while I now only have less than 2 G.B. on my computer, this is due to the fact that I only upload the files that I need, when I need ’em. I am an extremely, and I mean EXTREMELY chaotic and disorganized person, but Cloud computing is so ordering and organizing that even the most chaotic person can easily access his/her files and upload/download ’em.

    Dropbox is King, but Microsoft SkyDrive isn’t too bad either, although when it comes to finding files in chaos Google Drive does best, but Google Docs is quite a useless file-format, I prefer Microsoft SkyDrive’s Microsoft Office web-apps.

    Apple truly doesn’t stand a chance, they are great if you want to host useless apps on useless and simple devices, but I have installed Dropbox on my XP, Vista, 7 AND 8 computers, and they all work perfectly, while Microsoft SkyDrive’s desktop application only works on Vista+, so it’s practically useless on my XP if I don’t have internet.

    Microsoft’s largest problem as a company is that it often doesn’t support backward compatibility despite doing this for EVERYONE else (-_-).
    Windows 8 is a perfect blend between ”traditional-windows” and Microsoft’s other cloud-based devices and the Xbox. Although some people call it ”Frankenstein’s monster”, I see it as a beautiful hybrid.

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