How Microsoft invented almost everything (including the wheel)

Ebook readers

Microsoft Reader

TV wasn't the only kind of media Microsoft was thinking about in 2000: its Microsoft Reader shipped that year, long before most people knew what ebooks even were. It ran on Windows, on Pocket PCs and on Windows Mobile, but despite ClearType the reading experience wasn't ideal, books were DRM protected and there was precious little available content. It wasn't until Amazon combined cheap e-ink and a huge selection that ebooks really took off, and even that took several generations.

iOS 7

Windows Phone

Yes, we're reaching a little bit here, but who went flat and minimalist first: Microsoft with Windows Phone, or Apple with iOS 7? Here's a clue: it wasn't Apple.

Online console gaming

Xbox games

Here's an unusual chain of events: when it comes to console gaming, Microsoft wasn't the inventor but the perfector. Sega tried online console gaming first with its Dreamcast, but that was in the dial-up era: Xbox Live was designed for broadband, and Microsoft did a superb job of it. Every time a ten-year-old calls you something unspeakable in an FPS, you can thank Microsoft.

Spotify and iTunes Radio


It was £9 per month, offered unlimited access to music on portable devices, PCs and games consoles, and it launched in 2008. No, not Spotify: that didn't launch in the US until 2011, and of course iTunes Radio didn't appear until 2013. Microsoft beat Spotify (and many others) in one crucial area: getting agreements with the big music labels to use their music. Zune Pass has now been renamed Xbox Music.

The wheel


No, not *that* wheel. We mean the mouse wheel. Microsoft's Eric Michelman wanted a way to speed up spreadsheet navigation, briefly considered a lever, and then landed on the idea of a wheel by discussing different options with Microsoft Hardware engineers. Michelman wanted the wheel to zoom, not scroll, but he was overruled. That decision turned out to be, ahem, wheely good.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.