Here's Proof Of Apple's Downward Fall From Innovator To Imitator 

Imitation in the tech world is normal, even expected, but during Apple's developers conference yesterday, Tim Cook and company were in rare form. They didn't have much uniquely Apple to show off at all.

Instead, the company played some catch-up, packing in feature after feature of things we've already seen from Apple's rivals, and in some cases, have been around for years in other operating systems.

It's a known Apple-ism. Take a piece of technology that exists, perfect it, and sell it with massive marketing muscle. Until now, Apple's done well with that model with many even thinking they created the smartphone and mp3 player — only because it made them mainstream. But this year, nothing seemed like significant upgrades to existing apps and services, just replicas.

That's not to say Apple doesn't have plenty of original ideas worth stealing — they definitely do — but yesterday's conference didn't add to that impressive pool of innovation. Instead, it was all about imitation. At some point, it seems Apple made an important realisation that Google is figuring out the future of mobile and how we interact with our gadgets through contextual apps, deep linking and multitasking. Apple was behind on all counts.

The biggest, most glaring "me too" from Apple's parade of new features yesterday was "Proactive," which for the most part is a Google Now clone. Indeed, Proactive is really nothing more than a shadow of Google Now, especially after Google announced its new superpowered Now on Tap. But the similarities between the two are pretty apparent. Proactive lives left of the homescreen, just like Google Now on Nexus devices; it searches deep links into apps already on your smartphone like Google Now; and the entire service is contextually aware so it gives you the info you want when you want it….like Google Now.

Even when Apple was trying to knock Google for its privacy woes ("We don't keep any of your data unlike that other guy!"), they acknowledged that "yes, we know, this has been done before."

The catch-up game doesn't stop there. Apple gave a huge boost to Apple Maps by adding transit directions in the main app instead of linking to third-party apps like HopStop. This is, of course, something Google Maps has done for years and can do now with almost scary accuracy.

And how about that multitasking feature that Apple added to iPads — splitting two apps in a 1/2 or 2/3 ratio? Well, the most popular skin of Android, Samsung's TouchWiz, has had that as part of its OS for a while now, not to mention that it's also a pretty clear rip from Microsoft's multitasking work on Windows 8.

It even goes beyond Google and Microsoft. Spotify, Flipboard, Feedly — they're all there too. This isn't a one-way street by any means. During Google I/O, Android added fingerprint authentication and selective app permissions — both already found on iOS. Microsoft's also pulled influences from both in the past.

But Apple "innovation" has a tendency to induce amnesia. Will we forget the days when Apple had a Google Now competitor because Proactive gets so good that the alternative isn't worth remembering? Who knows, but early reaction from WWDC suggests that the fog is clearing and maybe Apple is no longer able to convince us that they are the world's greatest innovator.

Most likely, 2016 will see big changes across mobile and desktop operating systems for Apple, and more original ideas that made Apple the near trillion-dollar company that it is. But this year, Apple is taking some time to mime.

Video by Michael Hession; Words by Darren Orf



    Happens to every company, have a few great years of innovation and ideas then they dry up. I also don't think Apple have ever been the worlds greatest innovators, maybe worlds greatest marketers.

    Last edited 10/06/15 10:27 am

      How about the iPod? That scrollwheel was a mainstay for years. Also, they did make the first genuinely useful touch-controlled smartphone (I know there were smartphones before this, but I'd used several Windows phones and had a Palm device and they were terrible).

      In any case, someone else will lead the charge (probably Google) until the general view is that it has become boring too. Then maybe Microsoft. And the cycle will repeat.

        From what I understand the iPod click wheel was actually developed by a company called Synaptics. I assume Apple licensed it from them.

          correct, Synaptics invented the technology, as they are experts in their field E.G. every trackpad you ever touched on laptop was made by them.

          Later Apple would ditch Synaptics for an in-house solution for iPods.

        apple didnt invent the ipod. the idea was stolen....

      I have an awesome idea for Apple. Got the ceo's email?

        Just turn it into a startup that is highly popular with a moderate sized group of early adopters. Apple will buy you out in no time, rebrand it and call it their idea, and I guarantee that'll happen quicker than e-mail. apparently

    I don't really have an issue with taking ideas and trying to integrate them (steering clear of patent infringement of course), but then continuing to market them as "Innovation" (and have people believe them) quite literally makes me sick.

      I don't think they used the word innovation yesterday except sarcastically as a joke.

        Yeah I had a good chuckle when they made some of those jokes.

      That literally makes you sick?!

        Check out the 'informal' use and don't be "that guy"

          "In recent years an extended use of literally (and also literal) has become very common, where literally (or literal) is used deliberately in non-literal contexts... This use can lead to unintentional humorous effects (we were literally killing ourselves laughing) and is not acceptable in formal contexts, though it is widespread."

          Common usage does not imply correct usage.

          For example, Americans commonly say "I could care less", when they mean "I couldn't care less".

          Bless them though for coining and popularising the saying "Stupid is as stupid does".

            He used it in an informal manner so it is perfectly acceptable.

            Also if by recent years they mean 1769, sure, I guess that is recent......

              You must have missed the bit where they said it was common, and imagined the bit where they say that common is the same as acceptable.

                Correct, it isn't acceptable in formal contexts, do you really think a comments section on a website is formal? That is why it is listed as an informal use.

                Clearly no matter what is said, you will always think you are correct because according to you the english language is set in stone and can never change, no new words, or usage of words has ever been added to the dictionary.

    The problem with companies making things accessible, people tend to forget the original creator, Benz may have created the first automobile but Ford made it accessible, people who don't know better associate the Model T with being the first car.

    I've always said the same thing @ross_co said, Apple are great Marketers, nothing more.

    Last edited 10/06/15 10:09 am

      And subaru with the flat engine (they call it boxer)

      Love them or hate them you can't say they are nothing more than great marketers, they still make some pretty decent hardware whether they stole it or not. The touchpads on their laptops in 2008 where years ahead of the competition, companies like Asus, Acer, HP etc still have trouble making ones as good.

    This argument is useless. Technology can only go so far before it gets to the point of where it currently is. There is only so many ways software can go before it's seen as imitating on other. Everything has been invented and everything that is around now and in the future is an extension of that invention. Also the first video is privet and can't be watched.

      I kinda think you're right. We are waiting on the next big technology shift which is yet to come. So until then it's just refining what we have.

      I also think you'd be hard pressed to not see similar trends at the competitors. Googles developer conference last week made a big deal about Google Photos (iCloud Photos), Google Pay (Apple Pay) and their smart home ecosystem whose name evades me this very second (Homekit). I'm not sure their biggest competitor necessarily changed the world with their announcements either. I will admit their processing of images in Google Photos is impressive.

      Ultimately I don't mind good ideas being shared.

      Last edited 10/06/15 7:23 pm

    I think it's unfair to say that Apple is only imitating these days as there are clearly lots of areas they lead the game in. Apple has always been about refining existing ideas and that's mostly why I agree with much of what they spend their time and resources on. MP3 players existed before iPods, smartphones with downloadable third-party apps existed before iPhones and tablets existed way before iPads. There isn't a single category that Apple purely invented on their own. They have always been about taken existing ideas and refining them to make them worth using. iOS 9 and El Capitan are supposed to run better on existing hardware and that is something not a lot of other companies are doing. This, to me, shows long-term commitment to the user who is getting an OS upgrade on their almost 4-year-old iPhone 4S, and my Macbook from 2009 is going to be able to run El Capitan. (I don't consider rooting your Android phone and installing a custom ROM something the average customer is able to do so I'm not taking that into consideration here). Apple cops a lot of flak for making "underpowered" hardware, but by optimising their software, in real-world use, it doesn't matter much in the end. The new Macbook runs great on its "underpowered" Core M processor, and it will run even better on El Capitan. Again, I am speaking in terms of the average consumer who does some web browsing, social networking, document creating, and video watching on their machines, not video pros and graphic designers and photographers who obviously need more powerful computers.

    I love my iPhone because of the app experience, the stability of the OS, the simplicity (I'm what most of my peers call a 'nerd' or 'geek' but I don't have lots of time to tinker around with my phone to make it 'just right' - which is the whole appeal of Android). Also, Android is completely missing features like true low-latency audio (promised since Android Ice Cream Sandwich but they've always failed to deliver). I make and record music so this is a must for me. Also, if I'm out to buy a piece of hardware for making music, I know that something that is labeled as "works with iOS" will just work with my device, whereas with Android, I need to check if it will work specifically with my HTC One M8 running on Kit Kat, for example. There's no such thing as a simple "works with Android".

    These are just a few of the reasons I love my iPhone and why I don't see myself switching any time soon. The upgrades announced yesterday at WWDC will make the Apple devices I own and love much better, making this satisfied customer even more satisfied.

    Last edited 10/06/15 10:50 am

      Your upgrade to iOS 9 may make your 4s run faster, but the upgrade will make you have to enter a 6-digit passcode rather than a 4-digit one until you buy a new model with the fingerprint scanner! Enjoy!

        OMG! No!!! 2 more digits! I'm so doomed!!!

        Just another sneaky Apple tactic to make people upgrade their phones. The scoundrels!

        At least I have the choice of upgrading to the latest version, my 18 month old android still can't get last years software on it.

      They have always been about taken existing ideas and refining them to make them worth using.

      I've been using Aero Snap, happily and productively, since I upgraded to Win 7 more than five years ago. Apple's version of split screen multitasking in El Capitan replicates Aero Snap, but doesn't add any functionality beyond this. Similarly the split screen multitasking in iOS 9 adds nothing over implementations that have been around for years on Samsung Android devices and in the Surface and other Win 8 tablets. Nothing about these features is refined or more "worth using".

      This, to me, shows long-term commitment to the user who is getting an OS upgrade on their almost 4-year-old iPhone 4S...

      It remains to be seen which features you'll actually be getting on that 4S though. The 4S has already missed out on features like panorama mode from iOS 6, camera filters, and AirDrop from iOS 7, and the continuity features from iOS 8.

      One would also be hoping for a performance boost from iOS 9, after iOS 8 crippled performance on the 4S:

        I agree with you that many companies have come up with innovations first and have done them well and even better than Apple's latest and greatest, like Aero Snap and so on, and there's a laundry list of things that a Win8 tablet can do that an iPad cannot. When I said "refined and worth using" I didn't mean to point at specific features, but the products as a whole. It can reasonably be argued that Apple first made MP3 players and tablets worth using to the masses of average consumers.

        Fast forward to today, and the features that make iOS worth using to me are the low latency audio and hardware peripheral compatibility, app experience, and so on, which aren't yet matched by other platforms. These are the reasons I chose Apple over Windows and Android in the first place, and the new features announced yesterday just eliminated a bunch more reasons for me to potentially switch.

        A Microsoft Windows user commenting on Apple copying and not improving functionality.

        Lets just think about that for a bit.

          How did that court case go for Apple again? All claims dismissed except for one icon, from memory. Both Apple and Microsoft licensed their initial GUI offerings from Xerox, which is why they resembled each other. Except for the one icon, neither copied the other.

          This is a good example of the fictional mythos that Apple expertly create around who actually invented the things they're famous for.

            Or it could have been a reference to the origins of MS-DOS and other Microsoft products that were bought, not developed in-house. Microsoft's business was built on other people's innovation. They were just wayyyyyy better at seeing niches and marketing the crap out of their products, than were their competitors at the time.

            I'm not calling out Microsoft and ignoring what Apple does, just saying emperors with no clothes shouldn't criticise people getting naked in glass houses.

      Summed it up nicely - it's not about how many features you put in a product, it's how well you can use it everyday, that's why Apple has been so successful, especially with non-tech consumers.

      I always wonder how many android features actually ever get used by the general public?

      Adding new features that hardly anyone will use is not innovation - both Android and iOS are guilty of this.

    All of This Has Happened Before and Will Happen Again. It will take the fanbois a while to figure it out but it was inevitable, really.

      They evolve, they make it look and feel new, they even program us to think we need them, and they have a plan

    Software is peaking. All big os companies this year have been refining more then innovating.

      Totally agree... Software makers have realised this three years ago which is why the majority of them are introducing subscription models.

      Just look at the Adobe products. The majority of new releases have interesting new features but they generally are nice to haves not must haves.

      Last edited 10/06/15 11:30 am

        That's why I'm clutching on to My Master CS6 for as long as possible!

        I'd say that of every, single version of Creative Suite. Seriously, I could do all my work in Photoshop 5.5 and After Effects 4 if I had to and there are very few features I would miss. Adobe's progress is glacial because they have the market sown up.

      Right, let's completely ignore holographic computing, shall we? It seems to me that Microsoft are just getting warmed up. That said, if Windows 10 is any indication of how HoloLens is going to be, I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed, me included. W10 is such a massive disappointment.

    Innovator? Apple's biggest successes in the past 10 years have not been innovations? What brought them to where they are today is being second or third to market with product that are vastly better then their competitors. They did it overtime by taking existing ideas, simplifying them and removing all the obstacles.

    - Digital music: iPod (before the iPod digital music players were anything but user friendly)
    - Mobile phones: smart phones before the iPhone were clunky
    - Tablets: iPad focused on the basics rather than trying to be a PC for everything ala Windows Tablet around 2002
    - Max OSX: Windows XP was vastly superior to OS 9. With Mac OS X tiger running on Intel chips though Apple finally got it right. Microsoft's answer was Vista which was a disaster.

    None of the examples above are first to market products.

    “We don’t keep any of your data unlike that other guy!“

    Great one-liner, mocking Google for keeping data. Because losing iCloud data to hackers and having everyone's nude selfies leaked all over the internet is WAY better...

      Data mining and retention is an entirely different entity to lack of two-factor authentication for user-uploaded voluntary data. Come on, fanboyism isn't cool.

    Apple still make the nicest phones. See what I did there, its subjective. No facts, just opinion. End topic.

      So you were being subjective, like every Apple fanboi, but the itself article contains plenty of verifiable, objective data to back up the opinions expressed.

    "Proactive lives left of the homescreen.. bla bla bla"
    Apple had their spotlight there before... so why does putting something else there is copying?

    Isn't it a truism that it gets harder and harder for any company to innovate with any individual product as time passes? After all, with every innovation a company makes, that's one less innovation that can be made in the future.

    I am a Marketer and believe that Apple has the world's best marketing team.
    And i think this is nothing just the business circle, every company face the downfall during their business life and right now apple is facing.

    The article misses the point: If just 2% of Apple Match uses sign up they are bigger than Spotify. The day news launches they are 20x bigger than Feedly, Flipboard & the rest. Apple Pay is crushing the opposition & when Apple TV launches it will be bigger than Netflix. Its all in the eco-system, and Apple has just started (watch, health home kit etc). They are building a juggernaut and we need to be nervous...

    To be honest, I was most surprised by their blatant olagiarism of Pebble - giving the Watch OS a backward/forward in time function for quick access to info.

    I disagree, but not for the reason you think I will - Innovation always happens in what looks to be stops and starts because it takes time for everyone to absorb and make it part of their toolkit.
    For example, Google just announced that it will use the accelerometer to figure out when the phone is in light or deep sleep mode, and adjust sync and background activities - that's a great innovation this year, but the gestation period will be 2 years before it makes it into all platforms, and 3rd party apps.

    Once upon a time Apple was cool - it really was, but the last few years it has become the brand that your grandmother uses. It is certainly no longer a status symbol, or something that makes you look smart - it's just something that the average sheep will carry. It's way to locked up and closed minded... Time to move on.

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