Just got a chance to watch the video of Bill Gates‘ keynote from CES, where he previewed the upcoming Windows Vista OS, due “sometime before the end of 2006.” While it looked nice, it was all-too-reminiscent of the OS I now use: Mac OS X 10.4, which has been available since April 2005.

In fact, when Steve Jobs previewed 10.4 (a.k.a. Tiger) in late 2003 2004, he brashly said to Microsoft: “start your photocopiers.” And, true to his challenge, Microsoft seems to have risen to the challenge. Almost every feature of Vista that was showcased at CES already exists on the Mac.

I’m not the only one who thinks so, either. David Pogue, tech writer for the New York Times, had the following to say in his latest “Circuits” column:

“If I seem to be laying on the “stolen from Apple” language a bit thick, you’re darned right. Ordinarily, I’m careful about making accusations like this, because I know I’ll get hammered by Apple bashers. But in this case, there’s not a shred of doubt: most of the features Microsoft demonstrated last night were pure, unadulterated ripoffs from Mac OS X. I could hear actual whispers of recognition from the audience around me.”

However, even the mighty Pogue’s memory proved faulty. He noted a feature that Microsoft “apparently dreamed up all by itself” for Internet Explorer 7:

“…in the Vista browser, you can also view all your tabbed Web pages as window miniatures, so that you can jump to one according to what it looks like (rather than just its name). A great idea.”

It’s not only a great idea, but one that’s already available on the Mac! OmniWeb, which uses the browser engine that powers Apple’s svelte Safari browser – technically speaking, the most standards-compliant browser on any platform – can do the “tabs as mini windows” thing, and has been doing this for over a year (click here to see a screenshot of said feature).

But still, it’s nice to see that Microsoft is still in the business of shameless imitation, rather than real innovation. Vista will certainly be an improved OS from XP, but it’s still no Mac OS.