The obvious answer is – who cares? But Apple fan-boys seem to like to gloat that any smartphone design (or at least any design moderately successful – nobody is looking at Symbian) is a “rip off” from the iPhone, while Android fan-boys(1) point out may cases where iOS designers “shamelessly” “got inspired” by Android features such as the pull-down notifications, seamless multi-tasking, “share” functionality, personal Wi-Fi hotspot, untethered syncing (iCloud in Apple’s lingo) and more.
So everyone copies from everyone else – that’s how a market should behave: if one product comes up with a better idea, then it is only expected that other products can build on that idea – and sometimes do it better. And don’t get me started on the patent thing – patents allow an inventor to protect the technology and implementation of a specific idea, it does not give one a monopoly on ideas (even though many today try to use the patent system like that).
The question that, I think, is more interesting to ask is – who is more willing to play this game and who treats idea as their sole domain and exclusive property?
The answer, not coming as a surprise to anyone, can be found in Apple’s founder new biography: “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, as reported by AP review of the book set to be available tomorrow, here are some choice quotes (taken from AP’s review):
Jobs told Isaacson in an expletive-laced rant that Google’s actions amounted to “grand theft.”
“I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product.”
Jobs told Schmidt [Google's CEO at the time] … ” I want you to stop using our ideas in Android”
While I haven’t seen anyone from Google complaining about Apple “stealing ideas” from Android, apparently Steve Jobs really feels very strongly that no one is allowed to “steal” his ideas (while there is no problem for his devices to be inspired by others’ ideas – says the cynical Android fan-boy in me).
So it is clearly the case that while Android designers believe in an open arena where everyone is free to innovate without limitations, Apple believes in a one-way street style of innovation – ideas cannot be used without permission, unless they are not Apple’s ideas, in which case they are free for all.
BTW, as just another perfect example of how Apple treats other people’s innovations, compare this story about how Apple’s newly introduced Wi-Fi Sync feature “rips off” a third-party developer’s iOS application that was rejected from the Apple’s application store, up to and including the icon, while a third-party developer (working on iOS applications) is not allowed to use the string “todo” in its icon because Apple has a trademark on the word.
- Steve Jobs Was Willing To ‘Rip Off’ Everyone Else… But Was Pissed About Android Copying iPhone? (techdirt.com)
- Jobs vowed to ‘destroy’ Android (bbc.co.uk)
- Early View: iOS 5 vs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (techradar.com)
- of whom I am a card carrying member, I’ll admit [↩]