iOS 7 borrows heavily from its competition, but should we care?

June 11, 2013
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iOS 7

Apple: do what I say, not what I do

The reason I listed out some of the key features inspired from other operating systems wasn’t to say that iOS 7 was a complete copy-cat of the competition. It wasn’t even to point out that “Android has already done it”.

The real takeaway is that innovation isn’t just about creating new ideas. It is also about taking old ideas and turning them into something that is your own. Android has also done this with features it has borrowed over the years from Palm OS, Web OS, Windows Mobile and even iOS.

While much of what Apple introduced with iOS 7 wasn’t new, it does seem to feel distinctly Apple when compared to previous implementations. Did Apple do these features better? Apple fans will probably say yes, Android (and other platform) fans will likely say no. The answer is really one of opinion.

The big question is whether it is okay for Apple to borrow features in the first place.

Personally, I think that competition should be allowed to build upon existing ideas, as long as they bring something new to the table to set it apart from what’s already out there.

The problem is that Apple has gone to great lengths to stomp on competitors for doing the same thing, while also claiming its own ideas are brand new innovations. The most notable example is its long, drawn-out war with Samsung, but that’s far from the only instance where Apple used litigation to discourage competitors from “borrowing” their ideas.

Most of the folks up-in-arms over Apple’s iOS 7 aren’t necessarily mad at Apple taking ideas from existing apps and operating systems.

While I obviously can’t speak for everyone, I would wager that many of these individuals are mad because Apple patents everything in sight and then sues the hell out of its rivals for something as vague as rounded corners or sliding to unlock. Yet after all of this, they still have the gall to turn around and steal from these same rivals.

There are those that will instantly speak up saying, “Yah, but the features that Apple are borrowing aren’t patented. Apple’s features are”. That’s probably true, but it doesn’t make it right. Imagine where we would be at if fire or the wheel had been patented.

Even worse, many of these Apple patents have held back companies from innovating or creating unique products, and yet later have ended up invalidated.

Summing things up

Apple’s iOS 7 is a refreshing change of pace, and one that is sure to shake up the mobile world going forward. There are many changes that Jony Ive and team should be applauded for, fully original or not. They’ve taken an aging dinosaur and have given it wings.

I don’t fault the developers or designers at Apple. This was a good effort and is a clear improvement for iOS. My problem is with the higher-ups that are perfectly okay with taking “inspiration” from competing platforms/apps and yet feel the need to attack the competition over frivolous lawsuits regarding their own ‘unique’ ideas.

Protecting your IP is one thing, abusing patent law to hold back your rivals is another.

(As a disclaimer, I realize Apple is FAR from the only company to have ever brought forth a frivolous patent claim)

What do you think of iOS 7, are you bothered that many of the changes are nothing more than rehashes of features that have long existed on other platforms? Conversely, do you feel that Apple did absolutely nothing wrong here with taking existing ideas and simply expanding on them?

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