It’s the same argument; that Apple innovate and their competitors immitate. For the most part, I agree. Not only do Apple’s competitors seem to consistently pump out products with extraordinary similarities to Apple products, but they always seem to do so after Apple releases something. You’d think if it was all just a big coincidence then some of these designs would precede Apple’s no?
Anyway, what I wanted to highlight is that this is not an Apple-specific trend. Any commercial entity will do this to some degree. What we are talking about is businesses observing the activities of their competitors and seeing what their prospective customers are spending their money on. If any company sees that their target audience seem to be favouring a particular product or design, then of course that company is going to attempt to evolve in order to compete. This is a commendable strategy; it encourages competition and is good for consumers.
Here is why I believe the Apple vs world debate is more prominent:
1. This is a huge battle. Apple are enormously successful ($39.2b in revenues for the last quarter alone) and therefore this raises the profile of the argument. If a screwdriver maker copies the design of a competitor, it is not going to be front-page news.
2. The extent of the copying is in some cases shameless. It is beyond healthy competition because it involves no creativity or innovation. This is bad for the consumer because we end up saturated with similar products, none of which are as good as the one they’re trying to imitate.
3. Apple dominates so many different product lines. Personal music devices, laptops, desktops, mobile phones, tablets. When competitors start building entire product strategies around what Apple are doing, you’ve got a problem.
All in all, I encourage a good competitive landscape, but I don’t think that’s what we are seeing here. What we are seeing is simply companies trying to play catch-up, and in the worst possible way.
The innovators are still out there. Check out OnLive, Parrot, Windows Phone 7. Windows Phone is a really good example of how competition should work – Microsoft admitted that they built WP7 in response to the iPhone, but instead of copying it they innovated, and while they may still be lagging behind, they have respect in the industry and the potential to succeed under their own steam.