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Imitation is flattery in the IT world

Ross O. Storey | Sept. 7, 2009
Apple sets the standard for others to follow.

There is an old saying that imitation is the finest form of flattery and this certainly applies to the wonderful world of IT.

I like to wander through consumer IT stores in Singapore just to keep an eye on the latest gadgets, gizmos and serious computer equipment that is coming to the market and something interesting caught my eye on the weekend.

No one disputes that Apple has set a high design standard for the computing world, even though PCs still dominate the market. In one store I visited, SONY had two examples of its new VAIO desktop on display (VGC-JS25G/Q), and it was very obvious they had followed Apples lead in producing a very slick machine with everything built into the monitor, something Apple pioneered a few years ago. The look and feel of this fine Sony machine seemed to borrow much from Steve Jobs firm and the price was similar, if slightly lower.

The Sony machine is a beautiful device and I look forward to being able to road test it a bit more in my retail meanderings.

All-in-one design

Sonys adoption of the Apple form factor is certainly an acknowledgement of the ingenuity of the Apple all-in-one design approach and, lets face it, no good idea, once introduced to the commercial market, is going to remain with one brand, unless it is patented. Im not a patent lawyer but I doubt if the all-in-one approach is specific enough to warrant a patent application.

Of course, Apple also shocked and revolutionised the mobile phone world with the introduction of the iPhone, with its touch screen, totally intuitive controls and very handsome format. This prestige device has well and truly put mobile devices on the fashion scene.

The iPhone is such an icon that Ive noticed many users become totally infatuated with it. My anaesthetist little brother, for example, simply raves about the beauty and efficiency of his iPhone. He particularly loves the ability to expand a photo by stretching the image with your fingers.

Look how many other mobile phone producers have churned out models that look very similar to the Apple iPhone. Its become a new design standard, a benchmark for mobile phone usability, so why not copy a format thats successful? The Chinese are expert at this and some would argue they can even improve on some of the products that they illegitimately copy and sell.

Consumer benefit

In the intensely competitive world of IT innovation, companies fight hard to protect their ideas and products, but its generally the consumer who benefits when a successful format gets adopted by competing brands.

Standardisation is something of a dirty word among IT manufacturers, but having owned a range of different mobile phone models, I often wonder why they cant all get together and agree on a single charger system. That way, my cupboard would not be full of a vast range of different charging systems and cords from years past.


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