The Illusion of Apple Innovation…

I was recently reading an article that I won’t justify with a link. In this article, the author was putting in a great deal of effort trying to say that all Google has done with Android is copy Apple, and that Apple is actually the true innovator. I’ve read this position time and time again. I’ve even seen it in Apple’s own marketing. I think what makes this so annoying is it’s complete lack of truth. Let’s look over some of Apple’s products, shall we?


Let’s start with the original Macintosh. What’s innovative about the Macintosh? Well, it’s an all in one personal computer with the first commercial GUI. All in one computers were nothing new when Apple made the first Macintosh. Commodore was making them in the 70s. The GUI? Well, that wasn’t an Apple innovation either. They copied the work from Xerox Parc. So, one of the greatest Apple innovations ever is just a combination of two things that other companies had already done? Yay for Apple. From there on, Apple has done nothing but build on this idea.


It almost turns my stomach to even include this category. The iMac is innovative? No, it’s really not. Again, Apple pulled out the all in one computer. The original Macintosh was an all in one computer, why is this innovative? Because it’s blue? Not exactly new. So what the heck is innovative and original about the iMac? Someone please educate me. Please?


The iPod is a music player. It’s a glorified Walkman. The only real difference is the fact that it plays digital music instead of from a CD or tape. It wasn’t even the first device to do that. I owned an MP3 player before Apple even hinted at the iPod. All Apple did is take an idea that had already been implemented by someone else, and made their own version of it.


Ah, the illustrious iPhone. True innovation at it’s best? Hardly. The iPhone interface is a blatant ripoff of the interface used by the Palm Pilot. Apple prettied it up a bit, but essentially the iPhone’s interface in 2007 is the same as the Palm Pilot’s interface in 1997.


Another one that nauseates me. This one for several reasons. The biggest? It’s just a giant iPhone/iPod. That’s what Apple did. They took the phone interface that they’d already copied from Palm, gave it a bigger screen, and called it something new. On top of that, this is not the first Tablet computer either. They’d been made by other companies for years. So, again, Apple took an idea that someone else had, added another idea that someone else had. That’s it!


Apple has been hailed as an innovative company for literally decades, while it seems like anybody and everybody that competes with Apple is only stealing their ideas. At least that is what I’ve seen the Apple faithful claim over and over again. They’ve done it with Microsoft. They’ve done it with Linux. They’ve done it with Google. Seriously, the Apple faithful can’t even come up with a new and innovative argument! Apple is not the end all be all innovator. Most of their ideas didn’t even originate at Apple! Please, can we lose this tired old argument?

Of course, you’re more than welcome to correct me. Please. I’d love to hear something new and original.


  1. other mike

    I was turned onto this site by a mutual friend, or a crackpot who claimed to know you. at any rate.. .

    haha, this is refreshing. I do believe you’re entirely correct factually, but you’re not getting the reasoning. Innovation isn’t a singular achievement, but collective innovation. One could argue someone was going to come up with those ideas, if not Apple or Xerox or *gasp* Microsoft.

    But that’s a little off subject, the reason Apple gets the accolades is that their version, their ripoff, their theft, is highly usable. I too owned one of those early innovative mp3 players, it was sh*t compared to my first iPod (an iRiver that balked at over long Nirvanna titles). Their innovative ‘genius’ is demonstrably not in raw new concept, but in usability. You must agree those early ‘innovative’ tablets (I owned an IBM x41 convertible hybrid), were basically half baked Microsoft experiments in search of a problem.

    Apple found the market with the iPad: a graduate college kid who needs to read PDFs, access his Kindle account, and surf the web. However, gods forbid I need to see flash videos, that is a bridge too far.

    I hope android does well, I have a droid incredible, it’s crap. Why? updates from on high take six months to propagate, and like those countless dell boxes sold world wide, it’s full of crapware I can’t uninstall. Sure I can root it, but is an average consumer expected to hack his own phone to love it first?

    The iPhone won’t have verizon, or at&t crapware. Why? Apple won’t allow them to ruin the usability.

    • mike

      “I was turned onto this site by a mutual friend, or a crackpot who claimed to know you…”

      I have no idea who you’re talking about.. 🙂

      “the reason Apple gets the accolades is that their version … is highly usable.”

      OK, to begin with, we have to define terms. Innovation. Innovation can be defined two ways. One, to introduce something new. Two, make changes in anything established.

      If Apple uses the second definition of “Innovation”, then yes, they are a very innovative company. That’s not saying much though. By that definition, if I were to part my hair on the right instead of the left, I’d be innovative.

      If Apple uses the first definition of “Innovation” (which their marketing department certainly does), then they are far from an innovative company. Improving an existing product already created by someone else, no matter how easy they make it, doesn’t qualify as being innovative.

      “Apple found the market with the iPad: a graduate college kid who needs to read PDFs, access his Kindle account, and surf the web.”

      Perfect market for the iPad, but the Kindle did all of this before the iPad hit the market. Up and coming Android tablets will do it even better as they’ll introduce true multitasking (not the pseudo-multitasking the iOS uses) and include Flash support.

      “The iPhone won’t have verizon, or at&t crapware. Why? Apple won’t allow them to ruin the usability.”

      This brings up an interesting point, and one that I think warrants a look.

      I find the “crapware” as annoying as the next guy, but it’s also a symbol of the freedom of the platform. Apple locks their devices down tighter than Fort Knox. This keeps the crapware off of the devices but also puts both users and telcos at the mercy of Apple. You can’t put anything on the device unless it gets Apple’s stamp of approval, and developers have no means of putting their software on the device without forking over 30% of their profits to Apple for the privilege. Cap that with the fact that if you do create a truly innovative product, Apple can “innovate” their own version of your software, put it in the App Store, and kick your version out of the store for competing with an Apple product. Really, compared to that, a couple of annoying icons really don’t bother me that much.

      • other mike

        a certain Mrs. Hall, haha

        Lets start off by saying we need android to keep Apple, the new 800lb consumer electronics/software gorilla, in check. But at the same time recognize that Android was created because of iOS devices.

        Have you ever used a Kindle? ha It only barely renders a plain vanilla PDF, and I’m an engineer, my PDFs have complicated multi-column formats with crazy vector images floating around. I don’t want to wait a minute for the poor thing to render a mangled page. No significantly cheaper, and better tablet, is out yet. Next year I’m sure the catchup phase will be over with. However I have classes in the meantime and a dissertation to write, which with dropbox and a 3rd party *.Doc writer I’m doing good so far (and can listen to my entire mp3 collection simultaneously, yep i’m an itunes whore). Last spring I stopped carrying 5 pounds of dead tree because of my iPad, no real competition existed at the time.

        I did buy my dad a Nook color with intentions to hack it when android 2.3 comes out.

        On the crapware front, man it’s bad, it’s not just an icon, the damn things run no matter what you do. It’s draining my battery. My phone is forced to run amazon Mp3, amazon store, some strange program called ‘streets’ that crashes when you try to switch to it, and of course, Verizon Navigation which is paltry compared to google maps. All of this draining a battery that I’m lucky to get 6 hours out of. Killing them in the task manger does nothing, they reopen after a few seconds. They’re daemons and you don’t have sudo privileges.

        I think my position is attempted pragmatism. My needs must be met, and I’m willing to spend $$ on it. Sure linux is awesome, but I prefer my mac for everyday use since the evolved-in-isolation Galapagos dev-tool world here is to my liking (though i do sometimes miss KDE’s Kate). Also Opera, my favorite webbrowser since 1999, is more stable on this platform for some reason.

        I love *nix, have worked with big boy stuff at IBM and At&t wireless once upon a lifetime ago (AIX, Solaris) and suspect we’ll be typing ‘ls’ into terminals as interstellar colonial ships reach another star. iOS and OSx are no exception, they’re just hypocritical deviants in a turtle neck.

        Look, if you part your hair leftward and do it with flair and have an excellent ad buy on the subject, you too will be called innovative. Is it vacuous? Sure. But if your idea theft is genuinely easier than its predecessors, then you deserve the economic benefits. It’s capitalism.

        • other mike

          As for the development issue, yeah it’s bad on the iOS front, but since Android some reform has happened, at the pace of a soviet satellite state, but it’s progress. 30% is pretty good, I was put into the right perspective by my sister, an artist. Often galleries and middlemen take upward of 60% of a sale. Is 30% a great deal for having zero hosting and distribution costs? Probably not, but lets hope competition drives that down.

          • mike

            Personally speaking, I think that 30% sucks. It’s the same rate that Google charges for it’s Android Market, but Google also doesn’t prevent developers from distributing their own applications, or even from utilizing an alternative Market. Apple gives you no choices, and really that’s Apple’s major failing.

        • mike

          “But at the same time recognize that Android was created because of iOS devices.”

          This is a commonly held misconception. Android was founded as it’s own company in either 2002 or 2003 (forgive the swiss cheese memory tonight), and purchased by Google in 2005. iOS hadn’t been announced until Android had been in development for many years. It could potentially be argued that the current interface for Android was inspired by the iOS interface, then you’d have to be more specific on which Android interface you’re talking about since they can vary depending on device. In reality, the Android interface metaphor more closely resembles a desktop computer than it does the iOS. Really the only thing they have in common is they both use a grid for displaying icons.

          “Have you ever used a Kindle?”

          Yes, and you’re right in all respects regarding it’s usability, but all the iPad did was did the same thing just better. Not innovation, just improving an existing technology.

          • other mike

            ahhh, sweet refreshing sense of agreement.

            Yeah, I know almost nothing about Android’s dev, and it’s hard for me to be the Mac apologist. Since I spend most my waking moments nose deep in some ssh terminal to my ubuntu servers, and their various VMs. In all honesty the world that Mac occupies is the baby land, mere plastic scooters while we in science and industry are crawling around terabyte RAID configurations and 12 core VM powered hydras (xen/vmware). This is what I’d rather be doing with my time.

            I’d rather not be arguing with my desktop’s hiccup involving ad-hoc sound drivers and jerry-rigging a pdf viewer out of a device meant to display the latest Danielle Steele. I’m willing to pay for re-branded ‘innovation’ that ‘just works.’ I have better things to do with my time.


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